A little bit of background. I've been playing MMO's since the early days of Everquest, and I'm a current WoW player. I've spent a lot of time in these virtual worlds, I've seen the good and the bad.
I also love Lego the toy, primarily because I have two children who spent countless hours crafting a huge assortment of Lego creations. I've been to the Lego theme park in California, and I've had a lot of fun with Lego Star Wars and Lego Indiana Jones.
So, let's just say I come into this with a little bit of experience with the source material.
I received a Lego Universe beta key about a month ago, but the Mac version wasn't ready, so I let it sit. Friday the Mac version opened up, and I installed the game.
The Look - If you're wondering about the graphics, just look at the console games. You feel like you're in the world of Lego Star Wars. If you like that game, there's a good chance you will like this, at least initially.
The Learning Curve - This is an all ages game, therefore expect a lot of help. Quest givers are like they are in every other game. Look for a ! over their head to pick up a quest, and then later look for the ? when it's time to turn it in. There's one interesting feature Lego has incorporated after you turn in a quest. The game will zoom out and it will give you a view of the location where you need to go. This is nice, but if you tend to pick up a lot of quests at once, you'll find this not as useful. After gathering 3 or 4 quests I tend to forget where the locations were. Maybe that's just me. A dot on a map is a much easier way to mark quest locations.
As for the starting area, you are given a series of skill challenges. How to jump, how to interact, and how to assemble things before you are turned loose into the real game. These are all very simple, but the tutorial is done well.
Once into the game you will travel around and smash things similar to the console games. Once smashed you can pick up pieces to add to your inventory, and the occasional coin, or three. Every once in a while you will get a weapon or an armor drop. You also pick up "lives" and "armor". The armor buff protects you from damage, whereas the lives tell you how much damage you can take before you die.
You also pick up imagination. This is very important because you need these charges in order to assemble things. You will build bridges, lifts and other things to help you traverse the world. Assembling these items is as simple as moving close to them and holding shift while your minifig builds them.
When you meet a hostile creature you simply click on them to hit them with your melee weapon. In the starting area this takes just one click, but as you get a few quests in you will have to hit them four or five times. I haven't seen any ranged attacks yet, hopefully this changes.
When you die, and you will, you respawn very close to where you died. There are never any long corpse runs.
Building - Early into the game you acquire a piece of property where you can build your home. This is where you use all the bricks and models you have gathered. This is a lot of fun, but slightly frustrating. You have very limited camera control, so it gets a bit frustrating while creating your structures. This experience could be improved a hundredfold with a better camera (think SIMS). Once your home is built you can open it up to just friends, or everyone in the game. This section reminds me a little bit of the Club Penguin housing, but with a much better building option.
Frustrations - One of the first "real" challenges is to climb to the top of the mountain, which is built like an obstacle course. This is a lot of fun as you make jumps, and figure out how to overcome lasers and giant fans. There is also an opportunity to race and earn rewards for making this climb in record time. Unfortunately it appears once you have conquered this, and gotten weary of it, you still have to do it over and over again as you travel. Maybe I'm missing something, and there is a portal or flight path that let's me skip the mountain climb. But for now I'm making the climb, again, and again, and again.
Overall - I've only spent a few hours in this game, and I have a lot to learn. I'm at the point where I probably need to actually scan the forums, or read the documentation(!), to see what I may be missing :)
I'll be back later with a much better review. My first impression is that Lego and NetDevil have crafted a winner. Hopefully the game is a hit so they can continue to expand and improve the Universe.