Lego 2K Drive puts Mario Kart to shame with its flair and originality

 A Lego car makes an impressive jump
A Lego car makes an impressive jump

Lego 2K Drive has a lot of heart. The bright, appealing menus, gently amusing dialogue, and faithful recreation of the Lego building experience all give the title a palpable sense of warmth and wholesomeness. However, once I hit the track, I came to realize something else, something possibly more important: Lego 2K Drive has guts, too.

What do I mean by this? Well, if you laid the human gut, end to end, you’d find a very long, very complex network of organs, full of hidden functions and surprisingly efficient systems. Lego 2K Drive is a family-friendly game, but don’t let that fool you; there’s a lot going on under the hood.

In the first 5 minutes, the game introduces you to drifting. As with [Mario Kart 8], drifting is an absolutely essential part of any driver’s arsenal. However, Lego 2K Drive goes further. Drift and you’ll fill your boost meter. At this point you have two choices: use it little but often, or save it up. To make matters more complicated, if you boost for long enough, you’ll enter a special state where you’ll not only get extra speed, you’ll also be able to smash rival vehicles aside with ease. Reminiscent of Burnout: Paradise, these mechanics are right at home in Lego 2K Drive.

All of these mechanics tether beautifully to the frenetic races themselves. They’re close-run things, even against the AI, which is surprisingly competent. Against the backdrop of powerups and racers jockeying for positions, even Lego 2K Drive’s boost system invites critical moments of split-second decision-making.

Brick by brick

Building in Lego 2K Drive
Building in Lego 2K Drive

As well as deftly refining existing kart racing mechanics, Lego 2K Drive turns the status quo on its head by actively encouraging players to wreak havok and destruction by colliding with obstacles.

Let me explain. In Lego 2K Drive, your car is made of bricks. Take damage from a power up or take a nasty hit from a larger vehicle and plastic will cascade off of your vehicle, the process announced by the pleasing clicking sound beloved by Lego fans worldwide. Take too much damage, and your car will burst into a flaming wreckage, illuminated by fiery Lego blocks until you respawn.

Racing in Lego 2K Drive takes wherewithal and daring

Recovery in Lego 2K Drive takes wherewithal and daring. In order to replenish your bricks, you’ll need to smash into parts of the scenery. If you’re racing on a farm, drifting through a fence will allow you to steal some of those precious bricks for yourself, ensuring that the environment’s loss is your gain.

It seems counterintuitive for a racing title to incentivize destruction, but, in Lego 2K Drive, it gleefully reinforces the childlike whimsy at the heart of the game. After a few races, you’ll find yourself going out of your way to cause havoc so as to rebuild your vehicle of choice. Fortunately, such is Lego 2K Drive’s attention to sound and visual design that the tactical necessity of this brick-based destruction not only fails to overshadow the primal glee that comes from knocking over someone’s mailbox, it adds to it. Lego 2K Drive encourages you to feel clever and silly at the same time.

Visit scenic Bricklandia

Lego 2K Drive
Lego 2K Drive

As much as I enjoy the likes of Mario Kart 8, I often come away from its characters and environments with a sense of sterility. The tracks are self-contained affairs, framed with neat lines and geometric turns.

Lego 2K Drive is more chaotic, inviting imaginative solutions to the trials it offers. Every one of Lego 2K Drive’s courses is framed as part of the wider open-world environment of Bricklandia, which is ripe for exploration and full of challenges. The approach is more reminiscent of Forza Horizon 5 than Mario Kart 8, and the game is far better for it.

Lego bricks click and clack pleasingly as you collide with them in the open world. Horns blare, engines roar and kaleidoscopic colors fill your screen.

Lego bricks click and clack pleasingly as you collide with them in the open world

On top of all this, Lego 2K Drive boasts its own building mode, where you’re given access to your choice of chassis, a library of Lego bricks and as much time as you need to craft the ride of your dreams. The vast majority of the time, the building systems are intuitive, allowing you to cycle through bricks and colors with ease. Place a brick, and you’ll be rewarded with a pleasing clacking sound as if you were crafting a Lego creation with your own two hands.

The environments are simple, but far from barren. In all of its aspects, Lego 2K Drive is a charming and vivid adventure. By way of comparison, Mario Kart 8 is a wonderful title, but, no matter how much time I spend with it, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m a guest in Nintendo’s world, welcome only at their convenience. Lego 2K Drive offers you enough creativity and agency to give its players a sense of ownership over the world. The bricks, cars and boats are all yours to play with – a fact the game celebrates at every turn.