Fully voiced characters; minigames are short but decent
Incredibly repetitious gameplay; horrid load times; messy game design; lack of minigames
Go ahead, laugh. I know you probably think it’s ridiculous that I’m reviewing a game that’s marketed towards little girls, and you may think that I may not be fit for playing LEGO Friends in the first place. However, I encourage you not to dismiss this review, especially if you are planning on getting this game for someone you know. I assure you, I’ve played a lot of games that have been geared toward a younger crowd before, and it’s widely clear that some of these games are a lot better than others. Take Cooking Mama, for example. Cooking Mama is a game that is marketed toward young girls, but it holds its own as a quality experience. Sure, it isn’t the next game of the year, but it’s clear that the game holds some merit in terms of its design. At the other end of the spectrum, you have games that are completely horrible and aren’t worth anyone’s time at all. LEGO Friends is one of those games.
Again, I feel the need to stress that I am not knocking this game because it’s not within my demographic. LEGO Friends is just badly designed, and there is no getting around that. This bad design is widely apparent as soon as you turn the game on and encounter your first loading screen. Every time you enter one of the game’s five different areas of the city, there is a loading screen that could last up to 30 full seconds, depending on the game’s loaded assets and use of automatic saving. It’s a really long time frame, but under normal circumstances I may be inclined to let this slide. After all, you should only have to wait for one loading screen to appreciate an area of the game, right? Wrong!
Every single building or area within a part of the city needs to load as well. Picture this scenario: You start up LEGO Friends, and let the game load a neighborhood for 30 seconds. When it finishes, you go inside a dog house to dress up your pet, which takes 15 seconds to load all of the accessories. But, by exiting the dog house, you have to wait another 30 seconds for the neighborhood to reload itself. Your next objective is to go inside your cousin’s house, which is a few feet away. But, by going inside the house, you have to wait 30 seconds for the game to load all of the assets of the house! Once inside the house, your cousin asks you to dress up in a separate room, which takes 15 seconds to load all of the clothing. But, when you leave the dressing room, it takes another 30 seconds to reload the house! Oh, but I’m not done yet! You still have to leave the house to explore the rest of the city! It takes 30 seconds to reload the outside world, and it takes you another 30 seconds to move to the next part of the city to explore. That’s roughly three and a half minutes of loading time combined! Seriously, loading times haven’t been this bad since Sonic ’06!
I was desperately hoping that the gameplay would actually be worth all of this waiting, but I can’t say I was shocked to discover that the game is the most monotonous thing I have ever played. If you were expecting LEGO Friends to be a game in which you hang out with virtual friends to have fun, then you’d be surprised to find out that such a thing is a complete rarity. The vast majority of this game involves being used by the people you meet to do tasks that they cannot bother to do themselves. Your so-called friends will ask you to do things, such as hang up posters and take pictures for them, while they just stand in place and choose to not follow you around. All you get in return for practically being enslaved by these people is a chance at earning what the game calls true friendship with that specific character, which is the main objective of the game. I can understand if the game asked me to perform a few favors for these people, but I can’t stand doing this for the whole game. I don’t know about you guys, but if I met someone that just bossed me around upon meeting them, I would never suck up to them and try to be their friend.
I was unsurprised when I found out that doing tasks for these people was incredibly dull and repetitive. There was one instance where one of my in-game friends asked me to get a carrot for an animal. I was directed to a juice bar to find out about them, but they didn’t have any carrots left. So, she asked me to go to the farmer to get them instead. I went to the farmer, but the farmer would not grant me access to her farm unless I got her lemonade. So, I had to pick a lemon somewhere and go back to the fruit bar to make lemonade myself. Once I made the lemonade, I brought it to the farmer and retrieved the carrot to bring back to my friend. This is what most of the entire game plays like! An arrow points you in the right direction throughout the whole way, but it’s still a ridiculous fetch quest. I don’t see how following an arrow to find a spot to press the A button on multiple occasions could be even remotely fun. You are able to take control of your pets during your fetch quests for special abilities, such as digging as a dog to find something you may need, but it never really adds anything substantial to the experience.
Speaking of the pets, I’ve been prevented from reaching true friendship from two of the game’s five characters because of them. There’s one instance where I need to be a cat to jump high and reach someone’s tools, but when I stand in the designated spot, the game never lets me reach them no matter how hard I try. There’s also another segment where I’m supposed to control a hedgehog to lure someone to a group of people. Yet, the game never tells me where this person is and the arrow refuses to pop up and show me where to go. I’ve tried everything I can to progress, but I can’t figure it out, leading me to believe that the game’s design is just a complete mess.
There are a few minigames that may be perceived as fun, but they only last for a short period of time. This is a shame, because the minigames remain the only part of LEGO Friends that could have been fun. The soccer and dance minigames are a perfect example of what the game should have focused on. They’re not challenging or long, but they offer interactivity between you and other people in the universe, while also providing a much needed element of variety to the overall experience. They’re obviously not the best minigames I’ve ever played, but they at least let me hang out with people as advertised instead of blindly doing favors for them all the time. I could definitely see someone younger getting genuine enjoyment out of minigames like these. However, minigames are not the core component of LEGO Friends and make up for a very small amount of the overall experience, meaning that it’s not enough to save the game from being completely awful. There also aren’t enough of them, and the few ones that do exist are rehashed heavily in an attempt to give the game a longer life.
All I see in LEGO Friends is a plethora of problems. Sure, the presentation is okay and the game even has full voice acting, but this is complete crap no matter how you dress it up. It’s possible that some young girl may eke enjoyment out of it and not notice any of its flaws, but there are so many better games that this hypothetical girl could experience on Nintendo 3DS. Nintendo is widely known for being a family-friendly company, so there are plenty of other games marketed towards this target audience that are miles ahead of this game in terms of quality. Do not buy LEGO Friends. Do not pass go. Do not collect 200 dollars.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.