Video Games Review: Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens (PS4, 2016)

I feel like I owe The Force Awakens a pretty significant debt. It’s not only brought the Star Wars franchise back to life in the post-prequels era but now it’s returning the license to the Lego series to lift them out of their slump following Lego Marvel’s Avengers. This new entry in the Lego series is amongst the its very best — fun and funny, smartly paced and demonstrating a clear desire to bring something new to the series.

Lego Marvel’s Avengers found its biggest stumbling block in its jumbled and disorienting plotting and conveyance. Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens takes a far more straightforward approach — follow the plot of the film and throw in a handful of fresh levels, jokes and sequences.

The game begins in the final moments of Return of the Jedi with Han, Leia and Chewie on the moon of Endor, Luke facing off against the Emperor and Lando high above in the Battle of Endor. It then quickly moves ahead into the new era and it’s here that TT Games really turn  on the charm and bring a smile to even the most jaded Star Wars fans. Maz Kanada’s castle is faithfully rendered as it was in the film and you are able to explore it at your leisure, listening to the various aliens and creatures chattering to themselves as they relax. The film’s heavier, more spoileriffic elements are handled in a way that is faithful but still with good humour.

As is the standard with Lego games, the campaign can be replayed multiple times with different characters so players can scour each level for collectibles. There were a few especially overused puzzles — by the time I finished the campaign I was sick to death of having Finn align the head and body of a First Order stormtrooper to pass through locked doors.

The game also treads pretty familiar territory with its game loop of “destroy everything, build new things and collect all the other things,” but Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens also works hard to include some new moments — for example, the new cover-based shooting gallery sections play like a Fisher-Price version of Gears of War. These moments serve to break up the otherwise pretty familiar gameplay and are a refreshing change of pace.

The other section that drew wild approval in our house was the dogfighting. It’s saying something when a Lego Star Wars game has better aerial combat than Star Fox Zero, the latest in a series dedicated to exactly this. You’ll fend off TIEs on Jakku in the Millenium Falcon and pilot Poe’s X-Wing on Takodana. Brilliant, and made me long for a return to the Rogue Squadron franchise.

Where Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens is in the connective tissue of its hub worlds. They’re not intuitively connected and take a surprisingly long time to load as you travel between them. It won’t be enough to drive you away from the game in frustration but it definitely slows your exploration roll considerably.

Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a sharp return to form after a surprise bum note in Lego Marvel’s Avengers. It’s cute, funny and treats the film with utter reverence, it introduces some cool new mechanics and even provides a few hidden missions to fill in the timeline gaps in the film’s narrative. The whole family will love this one. May the Force be with you.

Score: 8.0 out of 10
Highlights: The best Lego game in years
Lowlights: Some long loads when passing between hub worlds; Occasionally repetitive puzzle design
Developer: TT Games
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: June 28, 2016
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Wii U, Windows PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, iOS, Android

Reviewed on PlayStation 4.