With a new (well, it's more than six months old now but you get what we mean) Star Wars movie on the silver screen, a new Lego game to land alongside it was always bound to happen. Lego Star Wars was the first game to come out of TT Games' now proud tradition of turning beloved movie franchises into lovable and silly adaptations with little plastic figures, and now, several years later, it's time for the awesome The Force Awakens to get the Lego treatment. We're going to assume that you're familiar with how the previous Lego games play and function (because, seriously - who isn't?) for this review. And so the first question on the agenda (as it is every time we get one of these games): has anything changed since the last time we last saw it?
We can with confidence say that if you were hoping for earth shattering changes and innovations, you'll walk away from this disappointed. It features the same slapstick humour, the same "kick-and-punch-everything-you-see" mentality, the same kind of character specific puzzles, and almost the same combat system. The foundations have endured, because of course there's some small tweaks and adjustments that have been made to some of the established mechanics, just like how EA changes minor aspects of their sports series every year. There's enormous differences between the original Lego Star Wars and this game, but it's easy to forget that when you consider how many Lego games have come and gone between then and now.
Besides the small tweaks to pre-existing gameplay features, Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens introduces two new mechanics that shake this up a bit. In previous games there were plenty of stacks of dismantled lego blocks that you could use to build things like platforms and vehicles that you needed to progress. This time, however, you can build different things with the same blocks. In other words, you'll need to know what to build first to solve a specific puzzle, then dismantle what you've got in order to build the next thing. This adds a new layer to the puzzle solving aspect of the game and it's an welcome change.
Another new addition to the gameplay toolset is that for some battle scenes the camera will be placed over the shoulder of your character, enabling some cover-based shooting akin to Gears of War. When this happens it's on the player to shoot a certain amount of enemies with your blaster before moving on. There's also a points system in place that rewards you with extra cash to buy more characters with when you do a good job of avoiding getting blasted yourself.
Other than that it feels mostly the same. You'll demolish everything you come across, assemble the pieces of lego that you find, give some storm troopers a good whacking, and solve puzzles as you go. It's not hard or challenging, then again - we're not exactly the target audience. Beyond the ground battles with lightsabers and blasters, from time to time you'll get to pilot ST-AT's and other vehicles. On some levels you'll control flying vessels like the classic Millennium Falcon and the occational X-Wing. These sections may be simple in their design (you just turn and shoot) but they are fun in an arcade-y way.
The game follows the plot of the movie faithfully so if you haven't seen The Force Awakens (why wouldn't you have seen The Force Awakens?) and don't want to get the story spoiled it may be wise to put playing this on hold until you have. As always, though, you can expect the characteristic Lego humour (and we reckon this one's absolutely hilarious). We loved seeing our favourite scenes play out with plastic figures in place of the actual actors, and the devs poke fun at everything. It was the small touches, like the fact that Kylo Ren has bed covers with grandpa Vader on, that made us howl with laughter (and when Han Solo uses phrases like "wookie-cookie" we had to stop playing and have a breather).
Beyond the story of the movie, Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens also manages to add some back story to characters like Poe Dameron, and it does this in an elegant way. There's a bunch of different missions like these and if you feel like the special features on the The Force Awakens Blu-ray didn't quench your thirst for Star Wars lore, there is a lot to dive into here. The love that the development team has for the source material shows.
All of the dialogue you hear in the cutscenes is directly copied from the movie. Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, Carrie Fisher and company play their parts really well (again) and it's an extremely nice detail that makes this feel all the more like the official game of the movie. On top of all that you can add the fantastic score with grand orchestral pieces from the master John Williams.
The graphics are smooth, colourful, full of quirky effects and stuffed with detail. Particular praise should go on the environments, which are carefully modelled after the film and it's easy to feel at home. The character animations are of high quality and they express themselves efficiently during cutscenes.
If you're not already tired of the concept you're practically guaranteed to have a good time with Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Doubly so if you have someone with you on the couch to share the adventure with. That there still is no support for online co-op, which is something we'll never understand, and when it's all said and done the game may come across a tad too familiar. But then again, we don't know what could have been done to spice it up. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There's a lot to do here, with over two hundred characters to unlock for the player who likes that sort of thing, and of course the fan service is strong with this one.