The basic premise here is pretty close to Command and Conquer. You take control of your LEGO characters to command them in various tasks around the game map. The map is fogged, and a few clear aims are given so you know what you are doing: fairly typical RTS stuff.
So you start off in LEGO Castle, taking control of your king and a few basic troops (guardsmen, archers, knights) as well as builders who create your base. Like C&C, you collect resources to give you the money to put up more buildings, defences and as levels progress, give you more options to create troops and vehicles.
Alongside the actual aims of the level, there are also bricks you can pickup as you roam around, which will allow you to unlock extras in the game. Some of these bricks are hidden in woods (in the Castle levels), which would have to be chopped down to reach them. It takes a fair amount of roaming to collect all the hidden extras, and there's a fair chance you won't bother, choosing to skip on in levels, rather than free roam.
Control is based around stylus highlighting and directing your LEGO troops. You can move them around or send them off to attack an enemy and so on. There are more advanced options such as a force attack, to fell trees, which they would otherwise just stand and look at. You can also get them to patrol an area, or stand their ground in defence, rather than running off after any enemy that shows themselves.
AI is always an issue in this sort of game and unfortunately it is something of an irritation here. Select a collection of men and send them to a location and you might find that half of them don't arrive, especially if they have to walk around a particular impassable object. They’ll find they can't progress, so they'll stop.
The same problem can apply on bridges, when you want to send your troops over to set-up a defensive bridgehead and move more men in behind, you might find some of your cavalry stops on the bridge, and the army backs-up, unable to pass.
We are also not totally sold on the caps placed on available characters, although it does mean you have think a little harder. Usually victory can be yours through a simple formula or combining all your men and all your vehicles and roaming around destroying things, but you'll have to do that in stages because you can't highlight everyone and send them off all in one go.
This might be something to do with available processing power more than anything else, as in some epic moments we did see the odd stutter as a massive battle pulled itself through a sticky patch.
But the game moves along at a fair lick, with just about enough variety to keep things engaging. The format of levels is usually pretty similar: go here, find this, destroy these things. Each storyline has a good and bad side too, so you get a chance to play with all the different characters, once you complete the first Act of each story.
Gameplay is fun and with levels taking about 20 minutes or so each, this isn't something you pick-up and play for a few minutes here and there. Equally, it won't take you too long to get through the game, with the difficultly set pretty low, although we found a few levels where our poor strategy led to a last minute defeat.
There are also a Free Play option and Multiplayer options, allowing you to battle it out in a head-to-head with various different types of battle available. It extends the life of the game and gives a chance to get away from the story mode if you find it getting a little stale.
The comparison to Command & Conquer is fair as the game plays out in the same real time strategy manner as the early C&C games did. Things have been simplified to make it DS friendly, and on the whole, it runs smoothly.
Control can be a little iffy at times and the same screen real estate means you'll spend some time navigating the map, but aside from the irritation of a few AI quirks, LEGO Battles is an engaging and fun title on the DS, with just enough variety to keep things interesting.