A long time ago, in a year far, far away (2005, to be exact), the world was introduced to a video game called LEGO Star Wars. Following the prequel films of the grand saga, LEGO Star Wars put a fun and silly feel to one of the most beloved fictional universes of all time. You could play as a wide array of fan-favorite characters, drop them into films and scenes they didn't originally appear in, and cause all kinds of hilarious mayhem. The game was a delight for both fans of LEGO and Star Wars, and it's responsible for turning developer TT Games into the juggernaut they are today.
While we've gone on to see TT Games adapt other properties into LEGO (Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, DC & Marvel), it took only a few minutes with LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens to realize how much of a homecoming this game is for them. There is a definite sense of confidence in this game, and you can also tell it's one the developers had an immense amount of fun creating. It also has the most attention to detail and respect for a franchise that I've ever seen from one of TT's LEGO games. As a life-long fan of Star Wars (I was practically born with a lightsaber in hand), I can't stress how much I appreciate this game and how much it blew me away.
While the core focus of the game's story revolves around a humorous retelling of the newest film in the series, it also hosts several smaller levels that fill in the 30-year gap between Episodes VI and VII. It was wonderful to see my favorite scenes from The Force Awakens come to life with LEGO, but it was awesome to see these smaller levels give backstory to side characters, expand the universes lore, and deliver some truly magnificent laughs.
Arguably my biggest takeaway from the game is its sense of humor.
TT Games have always prided themselves on their witty dialogue, silly visual gags, and the creative ways they tackle the more violent scenes from whichever franchise their adapting, but LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is on a whole new level. The writing in this game is clever, with a few downright brilliant moments of dialogue. One level in particular (a bonus one expanding on who Lor San Tekka is) had me literally laughing out loud. Combined with the best voice acting in a LEGO game to date (TT Games got the majority of the cast to come back and do new lines!), this is without a doubt TT Games funniest creation. There are a few parts where the audio rips from the film sound a little muffled, but the massive amount of new lines and jokes that are added make it forgivable.
Along with ramping up the writing, TT Games also tries playing with a few new mechanics this time around. There's now a few segments in the game that play like a cover-shooter, with you ducking behind walls and barriers, popping up to shoot at your enemies, and ducking before you get shot yourself. It's a cool idea, and it looks visually awesome, but there's many games that have done it better. They're also extremely easy. Most players will be able to make it through these areas without more than a scratch.
However, my favorite addition is the chaotic aerial fights.
Every Star Wars fan has dreamed of piloting the Millennium Falcon, or their own X-Wing fighter, and LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens lets you! Sure, there's been several other Star Wars games to grant this wish, but this game adds a couple neat twists. As you fly around in these massive battles, it really does feel like you're a badass pilot. You perform barrel rolls, U-Turns, and flips while flying around, which all have their own special purposes for surviving combat. With dozens of ships on screen at once, lasers flying in every direction, and ships exploding into balls of fire all around you, the game is surprisingly tense and exhilarating during dogfights, which is something I never thought I would say about a LEGO game. My only complaint here is that there isn't a brake, which led to a few moments where I accidentally crashed into allies or simply went Kamikaze on enemy Tie Fighters.
The same core mechanics of TT Games lineage is here as well.
You play through the different levels combining the abilities of your characters to solve puzzles, navigate the environment, and fight bad guys. Some characters can climb walls or jump to higher platforms, some can operate different doors and security panels, and Jedi and Sith characters can use the Force to manipulate LEGO bricks for a variety of different purposes. Falling into the rhythm of using your team of characters correctly is super fun, and as you unlock more and more characters (there's over 200 of them!) you can revisit levels in "Free Play" mode to find a bunch of unlockable goodies. This is the same core gameplay that TT Games has used since the original LEGO Star Wars in 2005, and it still stands up as a fun and engaging way to play through a game 11 years later.
If you decide to take a break from playing the story levels, you can also go out and explore multiple planets. Using a galaxy map oddly reminiscent of the one in Mass Effect, you can travel to different planets to take on side quests, compete in races, solve puzzles, and unlock even more characters. Even if you don't want to do these tasks, simply exploring the environments is fun too. I spent a lot of time riding my speeder bike through the sand dunes of Jakku, poking around the forests on Takodana, and destroying snowmen on Starkiller Base. This game might have more things to do than any other LEGO game, which is fine by me. The longer you can stay in this world, the better.
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a must-play!
This is a game that's impossible to play and not see the love and passion that developer TT Games has for Star Wars. There's a reason Star Wars is so beloved by so many, and TT Games understands this better than anybody. All of your favorite characters are here, the humor is incredibly on point, and it just does a terrific job of making you feel like you're actually in this universe. There's a few issues in the game mechanics and use of the films dialogue, but they're not distracting enough to ruin the experience. If you're a fan of Star Wars, you're going to absolutely love this game. Seeing your favorite scenes rebuilt in LEGO, and seeing new scenes expand on the lore is awesome. As both a fan of Star Wars and TT Games, I think this is by far their best game yet, and I can't wait to see what they do next.
- Zack Burrows