LEGO and Star Wars: these are just two of my favourite things. I have to be honest, though, as this is somehow the first LEGO Star Wars game I’ve played despite the fact the first game in the series launched on more than a decade ago now. Notably, that too was developed by UK’s Traveller’s Tales who, from 2009, have been focusing exclusively on LEGO-based franchise tie-ins. In all, Traveller’s Tales have developed 4 Star Wars games before this latest instalment.
Based on my previous experience with LEGO-based games from Traveller’s Tales, such as LEGO Batman and the “LEGO Movie” LEGO tie-in, I was expecting to enjoy LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That is partly because of the Star Wars theme and party because I knew that LEGO games are fun and accessible and aren’t overly taxing. I certainly wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I was surprised at just how much I enjoyed the game.
When I first launched the game, initially I thought I had the wrong one. The game starts with the Battle of Endor, so I was a little confused at first. Nevertheless, that turned out to be just a prologue that gets you back into the swing of things. Kind of like the whole Force Awakens movie. The story of the game more-or-less follows that of The Force Awakens movie. There are no surprises there. However, TT Games uses their creative license well in their level design to flesh out the experience into extended action sequences interspersed with puzzles. The pacing of the game is well-balanced.
The action sequences are also easy enough for young children to get through (I tested with a four and half-year-old). If you lose all your hearts and die, you throw out some “studs” (single-stud circular LEGO pieces), and you respawn, at which point you can reclaim some of your lost studs. There isn’t any real penalty for young players. The studs are used to unlock bonuses in the game, but those bonuses aren’t required to enjoy or complete the game either. That being said, some of those bonuses are useful, such as the stud magnet which means you can collect more studs easier because you don’t have to get as close to pick them up. Other bonuses are less useful but still fun, such as the squeaky voices or wacky lightsabers. Either way, you won’t miss them if you lose your studs regularly. The studs are easy enough to collect, too. They are effectively limitless. More on that later.
Some of the action sequences are set up as a cover-based blaster battle in a classic Star Wars way. With these, you often have to solve a puzzle or two to progress. These sections are a nice diversion from the standard gameplay and are not too long so as to get tedious. The puzzles in the game, on the other hand, are not overly complicated, and it’s clear the game was designed so that children can enjoy it too. You are given hints in the form of rays of glowing light or sparkling particles as to what part of the scenery you can interact with to progress. Puzzles often include destroying a part of the scenery and re-building it as is often the case in LEGO-based games. Each build often has two or more options. Sometimes those options net you secrets and collectables. Other times you have to build each of the options in conjunction with other actions in the game in the right order to solve a puzzle.
Adults won’t be overly challenged by any of the puzzles, but they can still be rewarding to complete. Furthermore, there is a depth to the game that goes beyond simply completing the story. That depth centres around collecting red, gold and carbonite bricks. Red bricks are usually in hard to reach places. Gold bricks are awarded for completing challenges in a level or finding Minikits. Challenges can include shooting a particular number of Mynocks or building LEGO models that are hidden throughout the level. You never know what the challenges might be until you stumble across one, so the game encourages you to play around and explore. Inevitably, you’ll miss some and want to go back. And some parts of levels require you to return in free-play because parts of levels are accessible only by specific characters.
In-between the story chapter missions you can also travel to the planets you’ve already been to and land there. These are hubs where you can find side missions to do. There are X-wing dog-fighting mini-games which include air gate race challenges as well as more drawn out missions to engage in, such as Poe’s rescue of a dignitary from a Star Destroyer via a garbage compactor. You can also replay the story missions or play the story missions in a free-play mode to complete those challenges you missed.
The hubs encourage you to explore and uncover secrets, usually by smashing things. There are plenty of studs to collect that you can then spend on the unlocks mentioned earlier. You can also smash some machinery to get studs and rebuild the debris into droids which you then “shake down” for more studs. If you have the time, whenever you return to a hub, all the destroyable items are back again, and you can collect more studs. You can do this as often as you like it seems, so all the unlocks are within your grasp. There are other collectables such as carbonite bricks, which are quite difficult to locate. You’ll need to come back to the hubs with different characters that you’ve unlocked through gameplay to reach them.
Beyond the chasing of secrets and unlocks, adults and children will enjoy the humour on offer. Some jokes may go over the kids’ heads, so they are clearly aimed at adults. LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as you can imagine, is littered with references to other Star Wars films, not just The Force Awakens. It’s full of parody and does not take the franchise too seriously while still being respectful. The dialogue is often funny, and there is also a lot of slapstick humour throughout. Stormtroopers enjoying a spa, working out at the gym, playing soccer and sometimes drawing a banana instead of a blaster. The game is absolutely full of such humour and silliness. There is plenty to discover, and it is this level of detail in the humour that makes this game great.
TT Games are adept at navigating the paradox that is using colourful plastic LEGO toys to render a realistic and gritty environment and story. They’ve nailed the visuals of The Force Awakens despite the characters, vehicles and the destructible, interactive parts of the scenery being made of LEGO. The level of detail is amazing, too. The various LEGO machinery looks like it would actually function if it were made of real-life LEGO. The game also features bright, colourful and contrasting lighting. Blaster fire and light sabres all look like you’d expect them to and they sound just right as well. Particles fly, explosions explode, and there are satisfying sounds of destruction as you bash your way through the levels and look for those studs.
There are some issues with the game which I have to call out, however. Firstly, it’s still possible to get literally stuck. Your character will get stuck in some awkward location and end up in an endless animation loop. This bug occurs less often than in other LEGO games from TT Games, but it still happens, and that’s disappointing. That also leads me to the next major issue: there’s no way to save mid-level. If you encounter the bug mentioned above, you have to quit and start the level again.
The levels are fairly lengthy, and it would be nice if you could save partway through, especially for a game aimed at children. I believe there’s a place for the challenge of not being able to save mid-level (I refer to a game such as Shovel Knight), but when the game has unlimited retries with very little penalty, there is no reason for not allowing you to stop playing at any point and come back to it later. You also can’t skip the introductory sequence. When you first launch a game, I get that the publisher and developer want to introduce you to their brand. Being a Star Wars game, it’s also important to start with the well known Star Wars introduction. However, next time you start the game or want to load a different save slot, you should just be able to jump straight to the menu to load your game.
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a fun, humorous and rewarding game to play through. You already know the story, so the developers focused on making this a fun game in its own right. It looks beautiful and somehow perfectly blends the plastic toys of LEGO with the aesthetic of Star Wars: The Force Awakens with a huge level of detail. It’s a great game to play with your kids as they will enjoy it without being frustrated. It’s also a great game to play as an adult with plenty to keep you busy and that trademark LEGO and Star Wars humour. If you’re looking for a game that isn’t too taxing but still a lot of fun, this one suits perfectly. It’s just a shame for the time-poor that you can’t save mid-level or skip the intro every time you start the game. If you’re a fan of either Star Wars or LEGO, you’ll love this game.