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Lego Horizon Adventures will turn your kids into PlayStation fans

A Thunderjaw roars in Lego Horizon Adventures.
Sony Interactive Entertainment
Summer Gaming Marathon Feature Image
This story is part of our Summer Gaming Marathon series.

Of all the announcements featured at this year’s Summer Game Fest, Lego Horizon Adventures had to be the most surprising (unless you follow the video game rumor mill closely). The upcoming game takes the world of Horizon Zero Dawn and rebuilds it in a way that’s kid-friendly. Rather than dishing out intricate combat and a mature narrative, it’s a playful adventure that turns the open world of Horizon into a level-based sandbox.

Though the news may have left a few fans scratching their heads, the project was a no-brainer for Guerrilla. In fact, the studio saw a natural partnership between Horizon and Lego. Both properties dish out bright colors, lean on optimistic themes, and have inclusive fan bases. One may tell a dystopian story of a postapocalypse brought on by corporate greed, but Guerrilla believes the two ideas snap together like bricks.

While fans will ultimately be the judge of that, I did get to see that philosophy in action at this year’s Summer Game Fest. I went hands-on with Lego Horizon Adventures, getting a good feel for its humor, approachable combat, and co-op play that’s built for families. Guerrilla gave me a clear picture of why it believes Horizon will translate as a kid’s game — a decision that helped drive its surprise Nintendo Switch release.

Connecting parents and kids

As explained to me in an interview with James Windeler, narrative director at Guerrilla, the concept for a Horizon Lego game came together around the same time that the companies partnered to create their Lego Tallneck set (and yes, Lego Tallnecks will appear in the game). The two agreed that the brands were a great match and Lego Horizon Adventures was born. Windeler tells me that Guerrilla was especially excited about that partnership.

“We think it’s actually an obvious pairing in a lot of ways,” Windeler tells Digital Trends. “It really stems from Guerrilla’s passion for Legos over the years. We have a huge number of fans. But within the history of the studio, the story is that we prototyped the first machines in Horizon Zero Dawn with Duplo. There’s a connection there, but also a lot of the devs have grown up over the last 10 years making Horizon games. But in that time, they’ve had kids, and they want to make a game that they can play with their own children.”

Aloy runs alongside a Tallneck in Lego Horizon Adventures.
Sony Interactive Entertainment

If the project hasn’t clicked for you yet, that detail will likely be the missing piece. Lego Horizon Adventures feels like a game built for parents who love the series to share with their kids. It’s not a complicated, sprawling open-world game; it’s a lighthearted, level-based Lego game with simplified combat, a bit of brick building, and a whole lot of jokes poking fun at the Horizon series.

The story is partially a comedic reimagining of key Horizon Zero Dawn scenes and plot points combined with a new, lighter story. Windeler says that it’s not a retelling or a straight parody — though it does have a lot of fun making fun of itself. When Aloy gets her Focus, for instance, she excitedly bounds around the screen and brags about what a rare piece of tech she must have. Someone bursts her bubble by telling her that they just found a whole bag of them, joking about why all of the characters have them. I also got a laugh when I noticed that ledges are all built out of yellow bricks, which is a gag about Horizon’s eye-guiding paint splashes.

The voice cast seems all-in on the joke too. Many cast members from the Horizon games reprise their roles here, though in Lego-fied form. That includes Ashley Burch as Aloy, who I almost didn’t recognize at first. Her voice is much peppier here; she sounds like a character pulled straight from The Lego Movie. Windeler confirms that Sylens will return too, in what will be the character’s first appearance since voice actor Lance Reddick’s death in 2023. The role has been recast, but the team isn’t revealing info on that just yet.

Aloy builds a town in Lego Horizon Adventures.
Sony Interactive Entertainment

What I’m especially curious to see is how Lego Horizon Adventures will grapple with some of the series’ heavier themes. Both mainline Horizon games are fiercely political, carrying anticapitalistic themes and environmentalist messaging. That can get surprisingly dark — just look at the Faro’s Tomb mission in Horizon Forbidden West. Windeler says that while some heavy moments might not get recreated here, the game will still get at the heart of Horizon.

“Some of the themes that we think are extremely important to the franchise,” he says, “like Aloy’s search for her mother, was something we thought was universal and easy for a younger audience to connect to. Also, there’s a very strong ecological theme in the game. It’s obviously extremely simplified and we’ve presented the big bad as an enemy of nature. In those ways, we tried to maintain some of the spirit of the earlier games, which do talk about these ideas in a lot more detail, but it’s built into the central conflict of this game.”

Built for everyone

The more I played, the more it became apparent that kids are the primary audience here. In the two story quests I tried, I explored some linear levels, collected valuable studs, and took down some machines with Aloy’s bow. In between, I could head back to a hub area and add buildings or customize existing ones with parts by spending studs. I can grab new outfits for characters too, and that’ll include some crossovers with Lego brands like Ninjago and Lego City. Familiar Horizon elements return, like hiding in tall grass to sneak up on foes, but everything is a little simplified to make it easier for younger players to pick up.

Aloy and a friend fight in Lego Horizon Adventures.
Sony Interactive Entertainment

Take combat, for instance. I don’t have to craft arrows or carefully aim at robot parts to pick off parts. Instead, all I need to do is fire off arrows to take it down. I can use my Focus to detect weak points and aim at them for extra damage, but it’s mostly a one-button affair. I do occasionally pick up one-time use special attacks, get slightly tweaked weapons with limited uses, and I can throw exploding barrels at foes, but combat is on the shallow side to make it easier to pick up and play. Familiar Horizon gadgets like the Tripcaster appear, though more so as special items.

I can further feel the intended audience here when jumping into co-op play. Here, two players can play any mission together with a cast of playable characters like Varl. While those characters have different weapons, they seem to function about the same. A throwing spear is essentially the same thing as a bow. When running around, the camera always centers on player one. If the second player gets too far behind, they’ll be teleported forward. It’s a Nintendo-like design choice that assumes parents will play alongside their kids.

The Switch brings in a family-friendly audience.

At a few points during our conversation, Windeler comes back to the team’s desire to make a game they could play with their kids. He believes that there’s a real hunger for great experiences like that among parents more broadly, a thought that guides a lot of decisions in Lego Horizon Adventures. That extends to its surprising multiplatform release strategy, which will bring a first-party Sony PlayStation game to PC and even Nintendo Switch (sorry, Xbox owners).

“It’s connected to our broader goal of making this game for everybody,” Windeler says. “I can play this game on my couch with my wife at home on PS5. I can play with my hardcore Horizon friends on the internet with PC. But one of the things I’m most excited about is that I have these two nieces, 11 and 8, who I have not really had a lot of opportunities to play the games I have made with. This is definitely a game that appeals to a younger audience, and the Switch is a big part of that. The Switch brings in a family-friendly audience. The control scheme is designed to work on the smaller Joy-Con controllers. It’s part of getting as many people introduced to the characters as possible.”

I’m sure there will be skeptics out there who write Lego Horizon Adventures off as an incongruous IP mash-up. If you meet the developers where they’re coming from, though, it’s easy to find the childlike charm here. The small slice I played has me giggling at self-aware Horizon gags and enjoying some laid-back treasure hunting. For parents who played Horizon Zero Dawn before their kids were born, it’s a cute (and less bleak) way to share the series with them until they’re old enough to play the proper games. It’s the kind of game that might just usher in a new generation of PlayStation fans.

Lego Horizon Adventures launches later this year for PS5, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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