Full disclosure: I’ve had an up and down relationship with LEGO games in the past, from the dizzying heights of LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars to the general mediocrity of the likes of Batman 3: Beyond Gotham and Marvel’s Avengers, so I went into this title with a fair amount of apprehension.
You won’t find complex character progression here, or gameplay with a lot of depth or variety, but what it does it does well, and the ability to take something so popular and make it even more enjoyable is no small feat.
The tried-and-tested building mechanic is back and now has an element of variety to it, as piles of bricks can now often be thrown together into one of two or three LEGO creations, then broken down and rebuilt again, adding a new level of difficulty to some of the puzzles as you try to work out which to make first. On top of that there are arcade-style shooting sections, reminiscent of some of the most well-loved on-rail shooters of the past - even as the first one began it was hard to shake fond memories of Time Crisis 2.
The game isn’t perfect however, as you still find yourself running into puzzle elements which require more luck than skill, as you wander around the map destroying as much as possible, hoping to come across something of use. It would be interesting to see more situations where destroying everything in site had some consequences, but even as you scamper about destroying chairs and tables in Maz Kanata’s cantina no one bats an eyelid. The puzzles can cause frustration for those impatient to move on, but more often than not this time TT get’s the balance of difficulty just right, so that the game is accessible to children but still good fun for adults.
As ever, it’s in splitscreen where the game really goes above and beyond, with many of the aforementioned puzzles requiring constant character-swapping when played solo. The character roster is still filled with plenty of unknowns (such as all the individual members of the Guavian Death Gang), but it’s uplifting to see characters portrayed so faithfully throughout, not to mention controlling BB-8 is a constant joy.
The game manages to build on the strength of the original trilogy as well - just as the film it is based on did - by hitting you with an unexpected Prologue mission which recaps the end of Return of the Jedi, including taking on the Emperor and the assault on the base on Endor and even the Death Star itself. It’s an ingenious way to introduce players to all the new mechanics they will need throughout the game through the lens of something familiar. It feels like these are ideas which the developers couldn’t include when they covered the original trilogy in the past (depressingly, now a decade ago).
In short this game is one of simple pleasures. You won’t find complex character progression here, or gameplay with a lot of depth or variety, but what it does it does well, and the ability to take something so popular and make it even more enjoyable is no small feat. If you have any love for the LEGO games then this is an essential purchase, but anyone with even a passing interest in The Force Awakens should give it some time too. If nothing else, it’s a more rapid and engaging way to watch the film.