The Force is Wide Awake in the Latest Lego Game
It was my 3-year old son’s infatuation with dinosaurs that prompted his endeavor into the world of video games. A few Lego Jurassic World gameplay videos on YouTube, and suddenly my child was begging to play. A proud day for this gaming dad, to say the least. And what better series to help him adapt to the complex schematics of an Xbox One controller than Lego? The instructions are well delivered, the death penalty virtually non-existent, and the cooperative play allows you to advance at any pace. With Lego Jurassic World just recently 100% completed, the launch of Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens was rather serendipitous. It also presented a great opportunity to gauge its appeal on two age groups separated by over three decades.
There was little worry about my son’s transition into a different Lego game. As anticipated, the general gameplay blueprint translates easily in to every new Lego-branded title. Taking highlighted characters from condensed scenes of the movie, the levels consist of smashing every painstakingly designed Lego environment, building puzzle-solving structures out of those broken down pieces, and amassing a fortune of studs, all while enjoying a paradoxical recreation of a relatively serious movie. Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits all the major plot points, from Rey and Finn’s scramble through the markets of the Niima Outpost on the desert planet Jakku, to the infiltration and sabotage of the Starkiller facility.
Of course, there are innumerable deviations from the original script. Some provide a reward for explorers, with cheat unlocking red bricks and vehicle building minikits to collect, while others simply provide extra chuckles along the way. The biggest addition are the new scenes that fill in some gaps in the thirty-year void between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens . Given virtual carte blanche to mold obscure backstories sprinkled throughout the movie, these full-length levels are white truffles for every Star Wars buff. They go from revealing how Lor San Tekka came to possess of Luke Skywalker’s location to showing Han Solo’s interesting acquisition of rathtars and relationship with the Guavian Death Gang. The only downside is that accessing these exclusive stages requires you to spend a hefty amount of leg work collecting gold bricks – the currency to unlock them. You essentially need to complete a sizeable portion of the game, replay already cleared levels in the unrestricted Free Play mode, and scour the free roaming hub zones to build your tally of gilded blocks. It’s a steep entrance fee, but fortunately Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens is pleasant and simple enough that retracing your blocky footprints doesn’t feel like a chore.
Besides, with no character restrictions in the Free Play Mode, who wouldn’t want to see Darth Vader take on his own grandson or see a Rankor lay waste to the Millennium Falcon? There are plenty of ways to make your own fun. My son particularly enjoyed seeing BB-8 steering Rey’s speeder while chasing down a luggabeast on Jakku… for an hour straight! I, meanwhile, was off doing more constructive exploring, searching the Imperial wreckage for collectibles, but I was always able to quickly return to his side for help when he needed it.
As is usually the case with Lego games, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is best experienced with a partner. Given the rudimentary skill required, a younger sidekick will likely keep you entertained should the challenge prove too menial. Each character has his or her own stock of skills, and many puzzles require the combined use of two characters to advance. The new Multi-Build system was designed to provide multiple avenues with a single set of buildable pieces. However, building a structure only to tear it down and build it again seems like an unnecessary extra step, though the instances that require a particular order to be built add a slight twinge of extra thought to the challenge. Also, there were several instances where the highlighted build area would be out of the camera’s sight, causing confusion and delay.
The camera also posed some not-so user-friendly issues during the nontraditional sections of Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens . The arena and on-rails air and space combat, though thrilling, were a pandemonium of moving parts and sluggish turning controls. My 3-year old, who insisted on being the pilot, crashed poor Poe Dameron so many times, Poe’ll likely be downgraded from the Rebel Alliance’s top pilot. The game also introduces cover based blaster battles a la Gears of War , which again are intense and thrilling sections, but locks on to enemies far too easily to amount to little more than a cinematic spectacle.
Apart from these few grievances I have thrust upon the camera, the rest of its maneuverability is flawless. Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens sports a dynamic split-screen when playing in local co-op, with the break line adjusting seamlessly as you move further from your partner and disappearing completely when in close proximity. This should be the standard for every couch co-op game. It is simply glorious. Lego games have also moved to the forefront of in-game cinematics, with the camera pivoting gracefully to showcase every scripted moment.
High marks also go the visuals, with both original and pre-fabricated design pieces paying perfect tribute to the source material. And, if you can stay your block smashing fingers for a few moments, every location is teeming with gorgeous details and bits of humor, like Stormtroopers playing beach volleyball and sunbathing on Jakku in nothing but their helmets. The animations are top notch, with each brick-by-brick Lego build and background action deserving applause to the production team at TT Games.
Then, of course you have the music and sound effects, permanently ingrained in the hippocampus of every Star Wars fan and resonating pitch perfect in Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens . Apart from wandering the relatively calm free-roam hubs, every scene in the campaign contains a multitude of sounds pulled from the Star Wars soundboard. The voiced script, both original lines and those edited from the film, are even integrated beautifully into the fold. This was a relief, considering how poor the voice editing was in Lego Jurassic World .
Lego branded video games veer little from their gameplay formula with each new entry, so to say that Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens is one that should not be overlooked is a credit to the quality and faithfulness the developer delivered. The newly added elements are hit-or-miss, but the appeal easily spans generations, as is evident by the enjoyment both my son and I are having adventuring in a galaxy far, far way.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
Though surface appearances may seem rehashed, details from each Star Wars locale are authentic and animations are near flawless. 4.2 Control
Rudimentary by design, the controls are accessible to gamers of all ages. The camera, however, shifts from being awesome to alienating, depending on its use. 4.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The iconic Star Wars sounds are crisp and clear. The voice acting, both from the edited movie files to the original recordings, is also superbly integrated. 4.3 Play Value
Between the campaign and extra adventures beyond the story, every hour invested will feel well spent. However, some of the extras take time to unlock. 4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best