by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Better late than never
Iíll mentioned this first... I really enjoyed The Force Awakens (the movie). OK, Iím a bit of a Star Wars fan, and yes, the plot was almost identical to A New Hope but with different characters, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. And I have enjoyed the Lego games developed by TT Games in the past, although I was a little let down by Lego Marvelís Avengers and its overuse of combat and underuse of puzzle elements. I was also a little concerned that this title has only just been released when the movie came out six months ago. But, with that in mind, I was ready to see what the latest Lego title would have in store.
The storyline closely follows the plotlines from The Force Awakens, but strangely begins at the concluding stages of Return of the Jedi as Luke battles with the Emperor, whilst Han, Leia and the cuddly Ewoks fight the imperial forces on Endor. From then on, we journey with Finn, Rey and BB-8 as they work their way towards the climactic battle on Starkiller Base. As with other Lego games, the developers have added their own humorous touches and played with some of the characters to keep the mood a bit more upbeat. All the major characters get their time in the sun, with the lead characters Rey, Finn and BB-8 getting the bulk of the screen time.
Gameplay and controls
As mentioned earlier, I found the most recent Lego game - Lego Marvelís Avengers - to be somewhat of a let-down, mainly due to the gameplay and combat. I can say that this seems to have been addressed in Lego Star Wars The Force Awakens, as the focus has again been shifted back to more of a puzzle game with some combat thrown in. And even the combat has some nice variations. You get the chance to pilot all sorts of the vehicles from the Star Wars universe, from AT-STís to X-Wings and even the iconic Millennium Falcon. The puzzles are fairly straightforward, but the developers have included a feature that has multiple uses for the constructed pieces. For instance, in one area, the broken pieces needed to be used as a springboard for one of the characters to jump up to a higher location. But those same pieces also needed to be used to build a winch in order to open a locked door. On occasions these pieces could be used in three devices, and this only adds to the thinking element of the game, as you work out which order things need to be built. Luckily, if you get somewhat stuck, there are some helpful audio hints from the characters which direct you to correct order in which you should build the contraptions.
I really enjoyed the fact that the developers have varied the control scheme, although that could partly be due to the increased puzzle solving (or decreased combat). Certain puzzles have characters rotating the left thumbstick in order to turn cogs or levers. Droids have a simple mini-game where they rotate their computer interface arms to unlock or activate panels. Even the combat is somewhat varied, with sections where the controlled characters hide behind a wall and can pop up and fire at those in their way. All the controls are simple to use, but the variation keeps the gameplay from becoming stale or overly repetitive. And, as mentioned, there is the opportunity to pilot some of the iconic spacecraft and land-based vehicles from the Star Wars Universe.
Even for a Lego game, a game that you would expect to be full of cubed shapes, the visuals are beautifully designed. Small details, such as puddles on the forest moon of Endor have been lovingly crafted. The desert sandscapes of Tatooine and Jakku to the wintery conditions at Starkiller base, all have been designed with a combination of Lego and more realistic looking backdrops that blend in wonderfully with the Lego theme. The mixture of indoor (such as inside Hanís freighter) and outdoor locations keep things fresh. Audio is superb too. All the main characters have been voiced by their on-screen actors, giving the game a sense of authenticity despite the comical and fun nature of the game. And the voice acting is first-rate. The sound effects are a combination of the usual Lego game sound effects mixed in with those from the Star Wars films.
As we have come accustomed to from Lego titles, there are loads of collectibles and characters to unlock. There are the usual gold bricks and the special blue bricks to collect, most of which require gamers to be quite destructive to the environment. There are also special Minikits that will often require characters to be unlocked and areas to be replayed in Free Play mode in order to reach a section that was previously inaccessible. There are even rare Carbonite bricks that will unlock classic Star Wars characters from the first couple of trilogies. Other collectibles include the characters from The Force Awakens - even minor characters, such as those in Mazís Castle, as well as the vehicles.
The trademark humour of the TT Games LEGO series is in full swing in this instalment. There are funny one liners, and some running gags (Finn always seems to have a toilet plunger or a broom handy - a joke that stems from the fact that he was basically a janitor for the First Order on Starkiller Base. Small details such as a tanned stormtrooper (with helmet still on) lazing in a beach chair on Tatooine and others running around in their shorts give the game a fun atmosphere. Even the darker scenes with the evil Snoke and Kylo Ren have been given a comical touch with the use of some slapstick and ice cream.
The Force is Strong
I have definitely found Lego Star Wars The Force Awakens much more enjoyable than the last Lego title. It could be partly due to an increased familiarity with the source material, but the variation in gameplay, and the increased focus on the puzzle and building elements have made the game so much more fun. The cutscenes and the humour that we have come to expect from the Lego titles is again apparent and complements the story wonderfully, giving Lego Star Wars The Force Awakens a fun and enjoyable atmosphere. Indeed, I had my kids laughing along at some of the jokes and scenes as they watched me play and then joined in for co-op. The controls are simple enough that even younger kids can work out how to play with the on-screen prompts. Fans of both the Star Wars movies and the Lego series of games will not be disappointed and those looking for a fun, easy to play title, should definitely consider this game.
Some great puzzles, interesting controls. Trademark humour.
I had to restart a chapter halfway through because BB8 got stuck in the ceiling of Han's freighter.