Everything comes full circle, and for Travellers Tales it’s fitting that they’re once again returning to the Star Wars universe. When the original Lego Star Wars first released in 2005 they couldn’t have anticipated that the positive reception and the popularity of both properties would carry them through the next eleven years, encompassing some of the most iconic movie properties of all time along the way. Now, following the arrival of a brand new Star Wars film, TT Games are hoping to reinvent their Lego games, injecting them with a few much-needed new ideas.
For a game based on The Force Awakens, you’re probably not expecting it to begin with the end of Return of the Jedi. However fighting alongside the Ewoks, taking out the Emperor and destroying the second Death Star provides the perfect bombastic opener to the game, and one that The Force Awakens alone simply couldn’t provide. It’s here that you get a run through nearly all of the key new additions to the well-ploughed Lego furrow, and while they’re hardly revisionist, they are both welcome and well implemented.
First up is the addition of multi-builds. One set of those dancing blocks can now turn into more than one item, with a flick of the analogue stick to the left or right cycling through the possibilities. In some cases you’ll need to use this to work through a multi-stage puzzle, smashing each build apart before moving onto another, while at other points it’ll open up different areas and their hidden items. It’s a nice twist on the classic formula, and in practice makes sections flow together much more naturally compared to the old way of simply smashing everything in sight to find the next build.
Another new addition is the inclusion of cover-based shooting. You can lock onto some barriers with a press of the X button, at which point the view drops behind your character’s shoulder and you can pop in and out of cover while you blast away at the opposing forces. It’s not suddenly going to require Gears of War-esque skills of you, but it is very different to the standard combat, which itself has maintained the flamboyant finishing moves first seen in Lego: Marvel’s Avengers.
Alongside linear flying sections, free-roaming flying areas are the next trick it has up its sleeve, and at times this is the closest we’ve got to the Gamecube’s Rogue Squadron games for many years. My only concern is that this indicates a moderate jump in difficulty that the very young are likely to have a hard time with, but with a parent on hand it shouldn’t cause too much of a problem.
Other smaller improvements include an immediate boost to the build speed, which in previous games has always been a red brick boon, but really it serves to streamline what is ultimately just standing still and holding the Circle button down.
Alongside the gameplay improvements the visuals are given a pleasing bump in quality, making this easily the best looking Lego game so far. Everything has a wonderful level of solidity, while the plastic characters gleam just as their real-life counterparts would – saying that, the Rathtars look better here than they did in the movie. There are also some well implemented depth of field effects that help this to feel like an extremely high quality release. It sounds like Star Wars too, and John William’s new pieces sit alongside the old classics with ease, even if they lack those nearly forty years of familiarity.
Platforming is still not always the Lego franchise’s strong point, with the set viewpoints resulting in the now-expected odd misplaced jump. It’s not as bad here as it has been in the past mind you, and it mostly tends to be during the Tomb Raider/Uncharted style traversals that things can go awry, but it’ll still cause you frustration at times.
That Return Of The Jedi opening is indicative that this is a slimmer narrative than many previous LEGO games, but TT Games do just enough here for this to feel like a fully fledged release, even if every single level does get its own opening crawl. The alternative, I assume, would have been to crunch Star Wars down to a LEGO Dimensions level pack, and with their average runtime of around an hour, fans would likely have been outraged. As with every LEGO release, you’ll find a bevy of characters to unlock and collectibles to find, and searching out every one of the 250 golden bricks should keep you happy for hours.
Thankfully, The Force Awakens narrative is just as magical here as it was seeing it on the big screen. I still cried out with joy when the Millenium Falcon appeared on Jakku, and remained emotional at the story’s climactic close. Star Wars provokes a certain reaction in a great many people, but TT Games have made sure that it’s backed up with a healthy injection of humour, rock-solid gameplay and visuals to match.
They also remain true to the plot, albeit with some of their typical child-friendly censoring, and when placed against Star Wars Battlefront and Disney Infinity’s The Force Awakens set, this is now easily the best place to take part in the Star Wars saga.
While some still bemoan the switch to using the movie’s voice tracks rather than relying on the often amusing silent slapstick, here it’s put to great use, and they’ve clearly worked on trying to make sure it sits at the same level as the rest of the audio. Extra voicework from Daisy Ridley and other cast members helps to ensure there’s no disconnect between the two, as well.
Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens is amongst the best games from either franchise. While the story of a single film has been noticeably stretched out, there’s still plenty of content here for fans to enjoy, and the new additions to the Lego formula help to keep things fresh despite so much familiarity.
Version Tested: PS4