A step up from the last few Lego games, The Force Awakens is a welcome return to form for the franchise
Available formats: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Traveller’s Tales has been making Lego games for 11 years now – there are kids in school today who haven’t known a time without them. If you showed them a pile of real Lego bricks would they know what to do with them, or would they search desperately for the self-assembly button? A daft question, maybe, but these are daft games – plastic parodies of cherished films. The Lego games began in the Star Wars universe, of course, so there has been much anticipation about TT Games’ grand return to this world. Thankfully, it’s been worth the wait.
For a series that’s often accused of simply re-skinning those first Star Wars games with whatever blockbuster heroes happen to be in the cinema that summer, there’s a nice selection of new ideas. Star Wars classic blaster battles are better captured with the introduction of some basic cover shooting mechanics. While a little clunky, it’s great to see your little Lego characters duck behind cover from incoming fire, having to dispatch enemy foes one by one. It’s a great new addition and is something to build on in future Lego games.
The introduction of space combat is where Lego Star Wars really shines, as you skim through Jakku’s abandoned Star Destroyers or step into Poe’s X-Wing cockpit to show off his ace pilot skills. It’s simple and more child-friendly than a proper space combat sim, but still looks and feels thrilling. Local co-op adds a lot here, too. With one player flying the Millennium Falcon, and the other aiming its weapons, it is incredible fun to take on the First Order. It makes Star Wars Battlefront’s aerial battles look tame by comparison.
There’s also a new multi-build mechanic, where you can choose which objects you want to build from one pile of bricks. Do you want your enemies to be distracted by a towering popcorn machine, or do you want to blast them to bits with a high powered blaster emplacement? It’s your call. These multi-builds are often needed in a certain order to solve certain puzzles, but there’s little direction on what you need to build first. These simple sequencing puzzles won’t trouble the adult mind, but could throw younger gamers.
At the other end of the scale, the destruction proves as compelling as ever. Shattering brick-built structures and objects for a show of studs is helped by a generous stud multiplier, tied to chaining enemy kills in quick succession. It’s not the first time Traveller’s’ Tales has used stud multipliers, but due to the large amount of combat in the story it’s a better fit here than in other Lego games. Watching your stud counter fill up towards the much coveted ‘True Jedi’ 100% completion is as addictive as ever.
For a game built out of virtual plastic, it’s amazing how much of an authentic Star Wars experience it is. The world feels alive, with bustling spaceports and military bases, along with a brilliant range of character emotions both in-game and in cutscenes. It’s a believable and well-thought out Lego universe and is a testament to the hard work that’s clearly been put into it. It’s also rich with sight gags and in-jokes, and while the Lego slapstick caters for a younger audience, I still laughed on occasion.
Audio plays a big part in its authenticity. John Williams’ masterful soundtrack resonates here and fits perfectly with what you’re doing in-game. Hearing Rey’s Theme as you wander Jakku with BB8 is unforgettable and adds to the overall feeling that you’re playing a big role in guiding these characters through their journeys. The new dialogue recorded for the game is also great, with Harrison Ford and friends offering their voices to add more believability to the game.
Much of this dialogue is tied into all-new stories, set on the fringes of the film itself. New adventure levels explore some of the backstory of the film, including how Lor San Tekka arrived on Jakku with the map to Luke Skywalker, and how Han and Chewie captured the Rathtars. These were very enjoyable to play through, and all together give it a much more rounded experience, further expanding your ever-growing Star Wars knowledge.
On top of this, Lego Star Wars is packed with ideas to hold your interest well after the game’s 7 hour-ish main story. You can start your hunt for the elusive gold bricks (which unlock the new adventure levels), along with trying to complete your virtual Lego character collection of over 200 mini-figures, too. As always, a bunch of characters have been forced in to make up the numbers, but it’s always nice to see a varied character list, each with their own unique abilities and combat styles.
For all the excellent work, a few old Lego game hitches raise their heads. While this isn’t a challenging game by any means, it is let down by poor signposting. Far too often you’ll find yourself wondering how to solve a needlessly tricky puzzle, with the odd hints that flash up on screen only providing the most basic of information. It’s a given that you’ll get frustrated on at least a few occasions during your first playthrough, which could easily be solved with the occasional nudges in the right direction.
And yet again, a Lego game is marred by a handful of irritating bugs on release. Far too many times I didn’t earn certain trophies for completing a level, causing me to play through the 20 odd minute chapter again in an effort to get it. Sometimes you’ll have to get rid of a certain enemy to progress, too, and at least on one occasion he didn’t spawn and I was left twiddling my thumbs wondering what to do next. As you can’t just reload the last checkpoint, you’re forced to replay the level from scratch, all while keeping your fingers crossed that the issue doesn’t rear its head again.
All things considered, if you’re a parent looking for something fun and family friendly to play with your kids, Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens should be at the top of your child’s birthday list. With some really inspired levels, new, never-before-seen content and some great co-op mechanics, it’s high time you make your return to the Lego universe.