To no-one’s surprise, the cinematic juggernaut that was The Force Awakens has received the Lego game treatment, with Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens being a release as predictable as an eventual Halo 6 or Call of Duty: Whatever Post-Colon Title and Number We’re Up To Now. Their formula firmly established, the Lego film games have become a franchise almost like Madden or FIFA, churning out essentially the same game every year or so with a couple of tweaks and a new roster (of little plastic figures), and we can surely place a sure-fire bet on Episode VIII and IX titles popping up in a few years as well.
Predictable doesn’t mean bad, though. The formula endures because it’s by-and-large a winning one, simple enough for kids for pick up and have a low-pressure, kid-safe and fun runaround with, and yet also carrying enough appeal for adults to grab a controller and join them in blasting a few stormtroopers. True to form, LSWTFA packs enough goofy jokes, neat co-op ideas and cascading fountains of shiny, shiny Lego studs in to make it fun enough that you probably won’t much care that you’ve played it all before.
In what is a bit of a surprise move, the game actually picks up at the end of Return of the Jedi. Leia, Han and co are in action on the ground on the forest moon, Lando and Wedge are taking out the Death Star, and Luke is teaming up with Darth Vader (who goes a bit more actively light-side than we saw in the film) to defeat the Emperor. Providing a little bit of story context to the backdrop of the main feature, the prologue serves to demo three gameplay pillars: third-person shooting and melee action, arcade-style flying, and puzzle solving based around switching between characters and building handy contraptions out of Lego bricks.
When action actually gets to the film we came for, TT Games has stuck to its established method for turning a two-hour film into a nine or so hour campaign. That is, it employs plenty of dramatic license to extend every battle, and to turn 10 seconds of running from point A to point B on film into a 20 minute gunfight or epic puzzle to overcome in the game. (At one point Princess Leia and friends have to ponder over a complex locked door situation just to get into the room they want to go into in the Resistance base.) It’s all a bit silly, but serves to give you the feeling that you’re experiencing the film’s story but in a goofier (and kinder) alternate version of the Star Wars universe. This continues in the cutscenes, which lift dialogue audio directly from the film but recontextualise things with that goofy Lego brand humour that I can confirm still makes small people laugh out loud, and raises plenty of smiles amongst bigger people too.
The audio authenticity continues in-game as well, when after a little while it becomes apparent that that fantastic Daisy Ridley impersonator you’re listening to is actually Daisy Ridley. The gang’s all here, in fact – how anyone manoeuvred the notoriously crotchety old Harrison Ford into a voice booth to record additional dialogue for a Lego game is anyone’s guess, but there he apparently is, issuing cantankerous in-game hints to your seven-year-old. It’s a small touch, but one that does wonders for a properly Star Wars-y feel.
There’s a couple of additions to gameplay this time round. Occasionally the chaotic running-around-shooting action transitions into “Blaster Battles”, simplistic over-the-shoulder cover shooter sections that have to be cleared out before moving on. Elsewhere there are multi-build site options, where one pile of Lego bricks can be made into two or three different doohickeys, which can then be broken down and rebuilt as the alternative options as needed. Sometimes the game uses these simply as alternative solutions to the same problem (will you get past the flametroopers by building a heavy blaster emplacement to zap them, or a giant popcorn machine to use their love of salty snacks as a distraction?) while on other occasions the order of device construction and use is the key to progress.
Neither adds a huge amount to the usual formula, but rather a little bit of variety – the game’s (appropriately) kid-friendly difficulty levels of auto-aiming and endless lives make the cover shooting sections a bit of a doddle, but nonetheless they’re a welcome break to the usual run-around mayhem, and often have an inventive bit of destruction to conclude them.
The multi-build sites meanwhile are used to add a bit of complexity to puzzles, as well as the odd amusing visual. Puzzles often require plenty of character swapping as your party deploys its various individual abilities in combination with the available build options to achieve a squad goal. Finn has a grappling hook for pulling things, Rey can climb certain walls and use her staff as a vaulting bar, BB8 can power things up and activate specialised switches, and so on – go teamwork!
Levels are packed with the usual smorgasbord of secrets: areas that you’ll need to come back to in free play with the special abilities of certain characters to access, mini kits to collect, and tonnes and tonnes of smashable stuff. Score enough secrets and you’ll be able to access some of the most interesting stuff in the game for the proper Star Wars nerd – extra backstory-style missions (apparently granted the status of official canon!) detailing stuff like Han’s capture of the tentacley rathtars (“I used to have a bigger crew”), Poe Dameron’s daring rescue of Admiral Ackbar, and how C3PO got his red arm. It’s all interesting stuff if you’re a fan, but unfortunately hidden away behind quite a lot of grinding – perhaps because TT knows full well how obsessed Star Wars fan can be.
Put it all together and what you have is a very solid, reliable source of amusement – the series continuing its status as perhaps the most reliably fun co-op gaming option for a combo of grown-up and kid. It’s not a bold new direction in gaming, but hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Team your inner child up with an actual child of your acquaintance and go find (old) Luke Skywalker.