It’s hard to believe that the entire LEGO videogame series was created over a decade ago by developers Traveller's Tales - and that it started here, with the Star Wars franchise shortly after Episode III screened in theatres. It was a turning point for LEGO, bringing the toy line of bricks and minifigs to life while retelling the new trilogy of Star Wars movies - all without dialogue, and purely via facial expressions, slapstick humour and cinematics.
Nowadays there are nearly twenty LEGO videogames, from Harry Potter through to Marvel Avengers, with the later titles adding in voice and online content. In recent years the series has come under fire for rehashing the same gameplay formula, and I thought the same after playing the most recent Jurassic World LEGO video game. However I’m pleased to say that The Force Awakens is one of the most enjoyable LEGO games I’ve played in recent memory.
A lot of this comes down to the fact that it’s set around Episode VII - a film which, against all odds, managed to recreate the magic of the original trilogy. The Force Awakens gave us new characters, revisited plot-lines and most importantly, captured that sense of excitement and child-like awe of the first time you saw Star Wars.
But the LEGO video game surprisingly goes a lot further than the cinematic experience. It adds in extra storylines that never appeared in the movie and thanks to the fact that the actors from The Force Awakens have all lent their voices to the game, spins an even deeper narrative to some of the characters. In particular, Han Solo, which is a real treat considering how the film ends for him.
To do this, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens even re-visits classic Star Wars scenes outside of the latest movie. For example, the opening level takes place on Endor, the moon planet of the Ewoks as seen in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. This might sound strange at first, but it’s in fact a clever way to remind us of a younger Han Solo and Leia, before the dark events of The Force Awakens.
As mentioned, nearly all of the actors from the movie have contributed to LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Harrison Ford really seems to enjoy revisiting Han Solo’s character (thanks to an amusing script). Fans of the LEGO games will know that a lot of the appeal to these games is the charm and humour that come with them, and for a Star Wars fan - The Force Awakens is one of the funniest so far.
For example, Kylo Ren’s emo-teenager vibe is gorgeously poked at with a scene where you are walking around his bedroom and everything in it, from posters to the duvet cover, is Darth Vader themed. Just rolling around as the adorable BB-8, and solving a few puzzles which require him to operate hamster wheel devices is fun - complete with his squeaks and beeps. For Star Wars fans it’s almost laugh out loud from start to finish, and some of the funniest moments happen during the end credits of the game.
For those who haven’t played one of the eighteen LEGO games before, the gameplay is simple. Most of the action takes place as a platformer, where you take control of one of the dozens of characters included in the game and smash, jump and puzzle solve your way through scenes from the movie - while unlocking the millions of brick-related collectibles that taunt you every second of the way.
Like any title in the series, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens has a metric plastic sh*t ton of characters to unlock and play. Franchise newcomers such as Rey, Finn, Captain Phasma, and General Hux appear obviously, but so do classics like Palpatine, Boba Fett, Queen Amidala, and Greedo. Each character has their own set of skills that can help you explore each hub world and unlock their many collectibles, making it a replayable game if you’re an obsessive compulsive hoarder.
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens does add a slightly new mechanic to the tried and true gameplay; players can now occasionally take cover behind preset objects or structures. When in this mode, the camera moves behind your character so that you can pop-up and shoot at enemies with an over-the-shoulder crosshair. As with previous titles, the game also mixes up the action by letting you fly or drive vehicles.
I’m assuming that anyone reading this review will have seen The Force Awakens, but if not - avoid this paragraph as there is a minor spoiler. One of the best scenes in the movie is seeing a squadron of X-Wings skimming the water as they come to the rescue of a base under attack from The New Order. Here you get to pilot Poe Dameron’s X-Wing (in glorious LEGO form of course) in a basic, but still entertaining dog fight level filled with Tie Fighters.
Like previous LEGO games, it shines as a multiplayer title. Players both young and old will get a kick out of this, and adult fans of Star Wars will certainly appreciate all the fanfare and inside jokes that date right back to the original trilogy. It offers local two player co-op play thanks to split-screen multiplayer and the friendly difficulty, infinite lives and laugh-out loud moments generates some good old fashioned family fun.
The Force Awakens is one of the best LEGO video games so far, purely because of the subject matter. It’s hard to play this game with fresh eyes, after all the LEGO games to date - but if this is your first interactive LEGO experience, you won’t be disappointed. For those who have played previous games, at least the developers have tweaked a couple of aspects of the gameplay, and the idea of having to build and choose from different brick-related puzzle solutions adds complexity to the formula. But it’s really the extended story and the characters from The Force Awakens that makes this worth the price of admission.