Many of us, especially around here, have had a fairly long history with LEGO games, and an even longer history with Star Wars, so you could say expectations were high for LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga.
Characters each have different abilities, depending on their type, and the variety brings in the sort of range of gameplay we've seen across countless LEGO games all in one.
It can prove frustrating at times to keep straight exactly what tool is needed to deal with each different coloured glow, but once you've got the hang of it (or refreshed your memory), you settle into the experience quite easily.
The puzzles themselves aren't massively challenging, though you aren't always given a huge amount of direction, a lot of the challenge is piecing visual cues together to work out the way to go.
Combat isn't too tough either, especially if you've got one of the many lightsaber-weilding characters along for the ride, as between the sabers themselves and force powers, your characters will make quick work of most enemies.
If you do find you need a bit of extra oomph though, there is a rudimentary upgrade system, which lets you level up running speed or build time for LEGO, though most won't be necessary unless you're gunning for 100% completion.
there's always something new to discover whenever you are wandering around hub worlds, inevitably smashing everything in sight...
Speaking of, there is an awful lot of "stuff" in this game. Collectables are nothing new of course, but here the total number of Kyber Bricks alone numbers at over 1,000, on top of multiple part minikits per level, hidden costumes, characters and ships as well as cheat codes to unlock huge stud multipliers.
It's dizzying at times, though it means there's always something new to discover whenever you are wandering around hub worlds, inevitably smashing everything in sight.
The experience is always endearing and wholesome, with even the darker moments of the story poked fun at or even played for laughs.
Between gameplay sections you'll see cutscenes – so far, so normal. However with so much story to get through, these sequences can feel very rushed, with entire plot points or conversations truncating minutes into mere seconds. If this is your first introduction to the story then you'd more than likely struggle, which might be the case for some younger fans.
For most though, it's a well-known story, meaning it doesn't pose too much of a narrative stumbling block, it just means at times you can feel a bit of cutscene whiplash.
The voice acting is, for the most part, on point. Qui-Gon Jin has a bit of a Sean Connery twang, but some of the actors doing impressions of the original performers do a great job – particularly Rey. Others go in a different direction, which also works, as we've seen in the Holiday Christmas Special, from which many of the performers reprise these roles. Finally you have Anthony Daniels and a handful of other originals, so in all it feels like a really mixed bag.
John William's iconic score is included in its full majesty, and the sound design is, as usual, pulled straight out of the film universe, as are all of the location and character designs – many of which boast an impressive amount of scale, which is especially apparent when you're just bumbling about, exploring.
Space is less of a compelling setting, with many space sections already well-trodden more effectively in everything from the recent Squadrons all the way back to the original Rogue Squadron series. It all has the feeling of filler rather than having a real significant point to it.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga feels very comprehensive, and with it being the team's umpteenth trip to a galaxy far, far away – though the first in a few years – you'd certainly hope so, but perhaps this should be the swansong for the entire franchise in a way. (Besides further Mandalorian expansions anyway.)
The experience is fun and quite therapeutic, with tons of options of things to do and explore. What's more, the game offers a rare opportunity at some very engaging and varied splitscreen play, which is a huge thumbs up.
For those already itching to jump back into the LEGO Star Wars world, this is a no-brainer, but equally, despite its drawbacks, it's a great introduction into the genre and the galaxy overall.
Sometimes you need a video game to inject some joy into your life, and that applies especially in 2020. Enter PHOGS!, the charming puzzle game about exploring with a double-headed dog in search of bone-shaped treats.
PHOGS! is easy to pick up and play and the gradual introduction of different challenges and mechanics is steady, drawing you in and having you eager to lap up just one more level.
The PHOGS (a merging of the words physics and dogs, as seen within the gameplay) exude character as you move them around. If you lazily control a single head at a time, for example, you’ll see the trailing head quickly drop off to sleep. That same level of characterisation extends to the NPCs as well, with our particular favourite being an octopus chef who's increasingly pleased with how his mountaintop soup is turning out, thanks to your help.
The game’s music has enthusiasm and beaming positivity to match, but at times relies too heavily on a short, repeated phrase that can start to grate. Fortunately each level has a new tune, meaning such earworms are fairly short-lived.
PHOGS! is an experience we’ve been hearing about for a long time, and it's a pleasure to finally have our paws on it. The sheer delight at successfully getting Red and Blue to the friendly patchwork-style snake which safeguards the end of each level can’t be overstated. It’s easy to pick up and play and the gradual introduction of different challenges and mechanics is steady, drawing you in and having you eager to lap up just one more level.
Coming into the festive season, a family PHOGS! session sounds far more appealing than a six-hour argument over Monopoly. It’s also just as fun to watch as it is to play, for any technologically-opposed family members. Coatsink and Bit Loom Games have taken a simple concept and really nailed it. If you’re in the mood for some gaming joy this Christmas, PHOGS! undoubtedly fits the bill.