Horses can’t drive race cars; that would be ridiculous. Practically, a nightmare. Ethically, questionable. Lego 2K Drive doesn’t care. In the face of opposition, it declares a hearty, ‘Why not?‘ and it’s this philosophy that guides the over-the-top antics of this driving adventure, as you journey through gorgeous environments, pick up quests, and take on blistering races against a gamut of rivals – including a literal racing horse.
Lego 2K Drive is a game determined to be weird – and it’s this push for strange heights that elevates the racing action. While partially inspired by the open worlds of the Forza Horizon series, 2K Drive manages to carve out its own quirky sense of identity with a commitment to being childishly fun, funny, and very odd.
One of your main racing rivals is a horse? Why not. One racing biome is basically Transylvania, and your enemy is Dracula in a rocket-powered coffin? Why not. By the time you meet the game’s racing grandma and her dozens of cats, you know what you’re in for – and the game is all the better for it.
Bring me that Horizon
In a racing game market dominated by legacy heavy-hitters like Forza and Gran Turismo, Lego 2K Drive is a colourful blast of creative air. It skews more towards the children’s market than other adult-focussed racers, but provides a welcome balance of humour and solid, high-speed racing that will likely appeal to many.
Read: Lego 2K Drive lets you create the weirdest cars you can imagine
It’s more akin to Forza Horizon than it is to Mario Kart, in that you begin your adventure in a vast open world filled with characters to meet, races to discover, challenges to complete, and mini-games to bump through. The majority of the game’s impressively large story mode is hinged on races with rival players, who make themselves known as you speed your way through open fields and lakes, but you’re essentially in a hyper-coloured sandbox where you can do whatever you’d like.
On tall hills and around glittering wetlands, you’ll find traversal challenges to speed through, using your car’s multi-modal driving and gliding abilities. You’ll find strange aliens and robots in farm patches, which lead to mini-games where you’ll need to protect radio towers, or save towns from zombie creatures.
To overcome each quest thrown your way, you’ll need to master the game’s unique approach to driving – which is both familiar and lightly different. As in Mario Kart, each vehicle has drifting capabilities, which serve as an approachable way for you to take turns easily and smoothly in twisting races. There’s also a ‘quick turn’ control that dramatically aids the manoeuvrability of cars – and this combines with a hair-raising boost system for faster, high-octane races.
As you drive through each course and wilfully smash into objects, you’ll gain boost power which allows you to activate your blasting rockets. These can be used to gain great height in your adventures, shoot up mountains, cross rivers, and avoid obstacles along the way.
If you get too excited, high-flying antics will often fling you in the wrong direction – but that’s part of the thrill ride here. With a focus on looser physics, less realism, and the ability to smash through objects by slingshotting yourself with wild abandon, Lego 2K Drive provides a freer world to race in.
You might smush a few Lego people in your eagerness to go fast – but it’s okay. Give them a moment, and they’ll sit right back up.
Hit the road
You’ll start your quest in Lego 2K Drive as a rookie C-Class racer, and eventually level up with each completed challenge, race, and mini-game. These can be tackled in any order, and contribute to an overall score that determines race difficulty. Your quest may begin with open plains and breezy rivalries – but as you gather new abilities, the going gets much tougher.
In Prospecto Valley, for instance – one of the game’s early biomes – you’ll quickly find yourself needing to adapt new skills as your rival races are complicated by the existence of brambles off-track. If you’ve spent your time taking advantage of shortcuts and clever boosting tricks to overcome races, you’ll soon find your progress stunted by frustrating obstacles.
In other races, Lego 2K Drive will surprise you with increasingly complex tracks: some filled with sharks, others that lack destroyable items that contribute to the boost metre, and others that rely on drifting. Beyond differentiating each course, these welcome changes add complexity, and a need to constantly pivot.
You can’t rely on any one technique to get you through Lego 2K Drive, which makes each unlockable environment feel fresh. From Prospecto Valley’s farming fields to Big Butte County’s arid desert lands, across the tracks to the spooky realm of Hauntsborough, you’ll find new obstacles constantly in your way, as well as wild new abilities that’ll aid your path forward, like jet packs, rotor blades, and more.
Combined, these aid the forging of powerful racing weapons – custom cars using a hearty building mode, or prebuilt vehicles that are slowly unlocked – as you blast and stomp your way through well-designed, satisfying, and gorgeous tracks.
There’s gold over these hills
Where Lego 2K Drive dips in grandeur is in its devotion to microtransactions. While publisher 2K Games has become known for its microtransaction systems, which feature heavily in games like NBA 2K and WWE 2K, their appearance in Lego 2K Drive feels particularly egregious.
For one thing, this is a full-priced title, and one that is directly targeted at kids. Despite this, the game’s microtransaction store is loaded with high-priced items that feel designed to tempt young players, who may lack the skill or will to create their own custom Lego rides.
In active gameplay, you earn money by completing challenges in the game’s world – but these funds roll in very slowly, to the point where I couldn’t afford any of the higher-priced items (mostly cars and boats) at the end of the game’s story mode. Our pals over at Press Start Australia seemingly had the same problem – which suggests the game is reliant on players spending real-life money to unlock its highest-tier items.
For those who choose to do so, a special car or boat ride may justify this cost – but it does feel strange to ask players to fork out, when they’re already paying full price for a game and it’s difficult to earn these items in regular gameplay.
Update 17 May 2023: Ahead of launch, 2K Games has adjusted the Brickbux earn rate for all players, making higher-tier items easier to earn in challenges, races, and other mini-games. This should make your ride through the game smoother – although this adjustment was not available at the time of our review.
Any ride will get you through Lego 2K Drive, and you can certainly make your own way with a meticulously-created custom car using the game’s clever building mechanics, or by nabbing a new racer in regular gameplay, but the temptation will always be there, waiting on the title screen.
The end of the road
Despite this devotion to microtransactions – which, to be fair, can be completely avoided with no detriment to gameplay – Lego 2K Drive manages to demonstrate a real sense of personality in a genre that has long been controlled by big, prestigious names. With the talent of Visual Concepts behind the wheel, this adventure slides onto the scene as a fully-formed, and surprisingly beautiful journey – with plenty of opportunities to explore its Legofied world at length, in great races and rivalries.
At times, the game devolves into weirdness, but that’s part of its charm. As a colourful and creative entry in the racing game genre, it’s bursting with fresh ideas that keep its engine humming with every boost-powered turn.
Four Stars: ★★★★
Lego 2K Drive
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Windows PC, Nintendo Switch
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Games
Release Date: 19 May 2023
This review was originally published 16 May 2023. A copy of Lego 2K Drive for PlayStation 5 was provided for the purposes of this review.
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