Best known for working on the publisher’s WWE and NBA games, Visual Concepts has found itself behind the wheel of 2K’s latest licensed experiment. Lego 2K Drive is a high-octane competitive racer full of destructible brick-y environments to crash through and a kid-friendly narrative full of fourth-wall-breaking fun.
The game’s best feature is Bricklandia, the playful Lego landscape in which 2K Drive is set. It’s a world begging to be dismantled by the brunt of your screeching tires and custom boat masts. Accelerating across the open-world playmat (that a human would never want to step on) is a thrilling experience, made better by the carefully animated auto-morphing ability. As you cross different terrain, from road to off-road and on water, players automatically switch between vehicles to fit the context.
Tires and water noodles frame the world’s vistas and act as charming obstacles, and it’s this blend of real-world objects with Lego constructs that amplifies the delightful toy box atmosphere. As a budding racer dropped into this striking open world, you tackle an onslaught of revheads, claiming their flags to ascend to the honor of Sky Cup Champion. Mohawked egomaniac Shadow Z serves as your rival in this endeavor, popping up from time to time to remind you of how mean-spirited he is.
To even get close to taking him on, you must explore Bricklandia in search of rival speedsters, each with their own unique driving skills they exercise in instanced Mario Kart-style races. From an actual horse to an alien in a suit, they make for a charming ensemble and provide new cars and perks to play with, as well as Brickbux, with which you can buy new machines and parts. You can also build your own vehicles brick-by-brick at the garage, which let me create some truly cursed rides. While the building system isn’t the most intuitive, it does feel like an appropriate nod to Lego’s humble brick-building origins.
Across Bricklandia’s varied biomes, you also encounter On-The-Go Events, ambient missions that you can drop in and out of for pockets of absurd fun, such as jumping over houses or drifting through a minefield. Conquering the criteria to earn XP and resources feels like getting your license in Gran Turismo on a schoolyard sugar high.
Lego 2K Drive’s constant barrage of dialogue kept me giggling throughout, though the intensity of some missions, like the less-interesting wave-defense or NPC rescue expeditions, left me unable to focus on the jokes. This was always disappointing, given the evident talent of the writers and voice actors, who provide an effective satire of conventional racing games.
Bashing and smashing your way through the map is easy junk food fun, but the must-win races can be punishing due to some devastating pickups and brutal slow down when you veer off track. Some of the open-world missions require you to drive with dexterity and attempt deft movements while herding rockets or smashing through tiny robot invaders, which can lead to frustration, where I often felt too fast for my own good. While I relished how it got my heart pounding, I was left longing for a more low-key approach to exploration.
While it is a little buggy, another delightful surprise was Lego 2K Drive’s couch co-op, which allows you and a partner to peel through the open world together, pooling XP as you go. I found myself getting in the way of bombs or smashing into targets for my partner to make sure one of us got the top spot. Notably, this feature made the dreary defend and rescue missions much more palatable thanks to the collaborative nature of the gameplay.
Unfortunately, the elephant in the room, or in this case, a monkey, is the game’s storefront, Unkie’s Emporium, introduced during the tutorial by its eponymous primate mechanic. Here, you can purchase premium currency with real money that can be exchanged to access cars and characters previously locked behind a costly Brickbux wall. Of course, you could earn all these items by grinding, but the temptation lingers, which is troubling for a game so clearly geared toward younger audiences.
Lego 2K Drive builds an incredibly inviting world where speed and silliness reign supreme as you race and morph across its delightfully destructible setting. Despite some frustrating mission design and a smattering of bugs, Lego 2K Drive quickly won me over with its absurd narrative full of irreverent dialogue and moreish open-world challenges. If only the specter of microtransactions didn’t loom so large in this kid-friendly game, it would make for an even smoother ride.