The LEGO series of games by Traveler's Tales has a unique place in gaming. While the challenge is made for a much younger audience, it is the charm and humor of the LEGO games that makes these titles appealing to all ages. Having played my first LEGO game last year, LEGO Jurassic World, the silliness and humor more than made up for the lack of challenge. Just in time for the slow summer months, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens brings many of the same gameplay elements and humor from previous LEGO games that will be no doubt familiar to series fans. Add in a few extra gameplay elements and LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens becomes a great experience whether you are a 7-year old or a 31 (going on 32) year-old gamer.
Most of the same hooks from previous LEGO games are here, you break blocks, collect studs, switch between characters to solve puzzles, and so on. The game's tutorial stage based on the Battle of Endor will get those not up to speed caught up very quickly. You will be switching characters quite often to complete certain goals and puzzles to progress. This may seem like a tired mechanic, but the gameplay feels fresh when you have to constantly switch to other characters. Puzzles are focused on using one or two characters' abilities that must be used in sequence to advance. Rey is agile which allows her to access out of reach areas others could not. While she is able to wall run in certain areas, sometimes you need the strength of a mighty Wookie. Chewbacca is useful for pulling heavy objects or levers that might coincide with a particular puzzle. These two are just some of the many examples through LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
New to this LEGO game is the ability to rebuild certain objects. In past games, breaking particular structures would allow you to rebuild an alternate structure or a useful object that allowed players to progress. Here, some of these building portions are illuminated with an orange glow, indicating that there is more than one thing that can be built. Initially, this mechanic seems sort of overplayed more as a "left or right" choice. Soon enough, however, progression relies on building, breaking down, and rebuilding in a different spot. Sometimes, the choice to build has no reflection on the problem at hand, but rather helping players nab an out of reach collectible. This is a new mechanic that feels it should have been added years ago as it creates a little diversity in building objects. Not that the multiple building/rebuilding is not welcomed, it is just a mechanic that makes the gameplay feel fresh and enjoyable. Rather than breaking everything in sight, building an object, and advancing, situations arise where you must think on how to solve the problem.
Happening about once a level is shoot-and-cover sequences that bring more action to the LEGO games. These sections are perhaps the most fun in the game, with easy controls and fun shooting and cover mechanics. Part of these sections remind me a bit of cover based games such as Gears of War while mixing in a bit of a "light gun" element when an exclamation point pops up on the enemy that will fire at you next. Spicing up the cover based sections are the unique character abilities that are sometimes used. Mixing shooting with block pulling or thermal detonators proves to be a fun mashup.
Dogfighting sequences are present at the appropriate time and they are most welcome. As with the rest of the game, flying around and shooting other ships down is not really difficult. Where the fun factor comes in is how enjoyable these ships are to control and use. Doing techniques such as barrel rolls, loops, and U-turns are insanely easy to use. While these sections might not be up to the challenge of Rogue Squadron, the fun factor certainly is. Whether you are flying the Millenium Falcon or Poe Dameron's X-Wing, dogfighting is easy to get into and hard to put down.
The levels are what you would expect from a LEGO game. Scenes from the movie are extended into longer gameplay sequences that still carry the story along at a considerable pace. Some levels will switch between two different scenes within the movie such as Rey escaping her cell on the Starkiller base with Poe Dameron leading the ariel attack. The pacing feels great and you never feel as if you are in one place for too long. You might wonder how Tt could fit the entire movie into a gameplay experience that is worth the price of admission. Smartly, the developer has added bonus levels that fill in some of the backstories around certain characters. Just how do Han and Chewie manage to capture the Rathars? Play and find out.
Don't forget about the presentation
Scenes are played out in typical LEGO fashion with bits of humor thrown in everywhere. The charm never seems to grow old and even though the game is intended for younger audiences, there are moments where even adults will get a chuckle. All the major story beats are handled quite well, including that one BIG scene (you know which one I'm talking about).
Something that Tt has fixed from previous LEGO games is the audio used from movies. There is certainly plenty of dialog pulled straight from The Force Awakens but good editing has made this seem less obvious than before. Sure there are a couple of spots where you might really notice the ripped dialog, but for the most part, the transition is above average. The cast from the movie is also here to provide extra lines for the gameplay portions which have mostly good results. Daisy Ridley and Oscar Issac play their parts pretty well while Harrison Ford (yes he is actually here) seems bored half the time. Although hearing Mr. Ford mentioned Wookie cookies cracks me up every time.
Not that LEGO games have been a powerhouse in the graphics department, the graphics here in The Force Awakens are quite good. New lighting and reflections give a nice, polished look to the game that is a great surprise. LEGO games have never looked better.
There are few negative things to say about this title, other than a few issues I personally encountered that other may not. If you are playing The Force Unleashed on consoles, these things likely do not apply to you. But if you are playing on PC, these might be an annoyance. Multi-tasking between playing games and surfing the internet is not too uncommon for gamers, but you might think twice before doing it here. Every time that I Alt+Tab'd out of the game, my screen resolution would go back to the default 1280x720. I multitask a lot and while I normally have very little problems when going back and forth between game and desktop, the issue here was quite annoying.
Another problem I encountered was that of certain options not being saved, mainly the invert flight controls option. There are two ways you can change the controls, either by going directly to the main options screen or, during flight sequences, pause the game and the option to switch is right there. It did not matter where I changed the flight controls as the game does not save the option once the sequence is done. Are these issues game breaking? No, but that does not stop them from being annoying. While these are quite tame compared to the issues I experience in the PC version of LEGO Jurassic World (screen resolution), these are simple problems that should have been fixed before being released.
Few issues aside, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a great experience for all ages. While keeping things in perspective, this is still a LEGO game. The difficulty is quite easy and the gameplay is quite simple when you break it down. However, adding in the new dogfight and shooting sequences, this is a LEGO game that breaks the mold from previous entries. A lot of fan service has gone in here with hidden characters, back story missions, and humor that makes fun of various things in the Star Wars universe. LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an easy recommendation for all ages along with fans of LEGO and Star Wars alike.
+Humor and gameplay
+Dogfights are fun and easy to control
- Challenge is still lacking
- PC centric problems
Hours played: 13+ on PC
Available on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PC, Wii U, 3DS.