LEGO 2K Drive Review (Switch Online Store)
The problem with kart racers on the Nintendo Switch is, well, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. It’s the best and it’s not close. Thus, the task of developers is not to create clones, but to diversify. LEGO 2K Drive is making a heroic effort to stand out, making extensive use of its title license to provide players with a largely successful arcade racing experience. Unfortunately, while the core gameplay is enjoyable, there are a couple of drawbacks that keep it from overtaking the competition.
The main attraction for most will be the game’s story mode. Here you are introduced to Bricklandia, a plastic place populated by race-obsessed Lego minifigures with silly names. Whether they’re friends or foes, the cast is charming thanks to a wonderfully humorous script that perfectly captures the chaotic tone of the movies and other games. This playful story is all about racing across the various regions of Brickland to qualify for the Sky Cup Grand Prix.
Set across four open-world maps, the story mode has your hand in for the first hour or so as you learn the basics, but you can soon start exploring at your own pace. The first map is relatively small, but the three big ones are pretty big, and each has its fair share of races, collectibles, quests, and other events to unlock. Some of these optional objectives are better than others – the mini-games aren’t particularly exciting – but there’s enough to be found on these open-world maps to justify their existence, and it’s fun to just fly around freely.
This is because the driving itself is extremely arcade-like. You can drift for miles with barely a loss of speed, and quick turns and jumps give you great maneuverability. What’s more, Lego 2K Drive is doing its best to lift the restrictions. As you drive, your vehicle automatically switches between street car, SUV and boat based on the terrain, meaning you can go almost anywhere without slowing down. On top of that, many of the Lego objects and props scattered throughout each map can be broken without penalty; in fact, it’s encouraged, as it replenishes both your boost meter and your car’s health.
This is good for the races themselves. Mario Kart fans will be familiar with racing as the tracks are littered with power-ups and weapons, many of which are similar to those found in Nintendo racing games. However, there are also more ingenious ones, such as a machine gun that throws fruit, and another that turns your target’s wheels into squares. The races are quite frantic and often quite close – overall they are a decent amount of fun. The tracks are based on open world locations and feature shortcuts and strange environmental hazards to deal with. Outside of the story mode, you can play these races individually or as part of a series of cups, which are basically the same as the Mario Kart Grand Prix.
No matter how you play Lego 2K Drive, the Switch version’s performance and visuals are pretty disappointing. It runs at a very low resolution, which gives the entire game a very fuzzy image quality. On top of that, there are noticeable pop-ups, odd split-second freezes, and some rather lengthy loading times. The frame rate is capped at 30, but we also noticed the occasional dip below that when things got too busy. None of these issues are so egregious that it’s unplayable – as mentioned, it’s a lot of fun – but it’s a pity that this version of the game couldn’t have been optimized better.
As you progress, you’ll start unlocking new vehicles that you can equip individually, or you can even create sets from your favorites. On top of that, you will also be rewarded with perks that can increase the performance of your vehicles and boats or provide passive buffs. It’s a bit overkill in a game like this, but it works well enough.
If you’re not a fan of any of your machines, you can build your own in ultra-reliable build mode. At any time, you can enter the garage and modify your cars, build unlocked cars by following the instructions, or create your own creations completely from scratch. The controls here can be a little fiddly, but you’re provided with plenty of Lego pieces to play with and you can build more or less anything you can imagine. This is an amazingly deep tool that can produce impressive results. One of the main downsides is that you cannot currently share your creations online with other players. This seems like a missed opportunity, but we hope that the feature of viewing other people’s vehicles will appear in the game later.
For those less inclined to build their own rides, you’ll have to be content with what you unlock in story mode, or you can head to Unkie’s Emporium to buy new cars and boats with your hard-earned Brickbux. While you Maybe ignore this shop for the most part, the rate at which you earn this in-game currency is pretty slow. Winning Story Mode races will earn you a few hundred, while winning Online races will reward you with only five. There are other ways to get Brickbux, but even after a few hours of play, you may not have enough to buy a new car in the store. Unfortunately, Brickbux’s slow speed is likely intentional, pushing players towards microtransactions where you can spend real money to buy more. It’s pretty frustrating to see this practice in a game so heavily geared towards kids.
Lego 2K Drive is a racing game that almost hits its full potential but hits a few random bricks along the way. Basic driving feels good, there’s a lot to do in story mode, and the creation tools are really impressive. However, it is let down by technical flaws, lack of exchange options, and somewhat dubious monetization. The basics of a really great arcade racing game are here, but this Switch version’s poor optimization and some design choices mean it’s unlikely to outrun the competition.