Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens (which will be referred to as TFA now, to save space) is hands-on down the best Lego game I’ve played in years. I’ll say that right out of the gate, to avoid any confusion. Lego Star Wars: TFA is fantastic. Interestingly though, Lego franchise games have been pretty dang good for a while now, but hasn’t become as widespread popular as I’d have hoped. Maybe it’s because of the hard to shake “childish” nature of the brand. Whatever the reason, Lego: TFA deserves a spot on your shelf, whether you’re five years old or fifty. As with most of my reviews, I’ll break down the game into its parts. I’ll cover story, presentation, graphics, and gameplay, so you can find out where the game succeeds and struggles. First up is story.
For the most part, Lego games did a decent job retelling or adapting the franchises they were adopting. In the beginning, Lego games were not voice acted, making the cut-scenes silly caricatures of real movie scenes. Lately however, they have shifted to full voice acting, and Lego: TFA is the payoff for that. The voice actors are believable in their roles (despite being actual toys), and it leads to some actually emotional story telling. Lego: TFA covers the entire new Star Wars: Episode VII film, as well as some classic stories as well. The combination of voice-acting and source material loyalty have given us our favorite scenes and places, retold in a heartfelt and fun way. The game is very good about letting you explore parts of the films that you were briefly teased with, providing some really great fanfare all throughout. The overarching story of Lego: TFA is simply that of the latest film, but there’s some “between the scenes” levels that really show off the developer Traveller’s Tales ability to adapt the brand. It’s true to the story, abides by Star Wars canon, and gives us fresh original content as well. It’s a solid win as far as the narrative goes.
Unfortunately, presentation has some blunders. It’s not that the presentation is inherently bad, more so its the lack of evolution that is disappointing. If you’ve played a Lego game ever, it’s essentially the same. The starting menus are the same, as well as the pause and character selection menus. There is the new addition of a large map to help guide you through the hub worlds, but this feels half-thought out. While it is useful and appreciated, there’s a lack of polish that leads to some frustrations when navigating large spaces. There’s some gameplay additions to help avoid this, but it would have been nice to utilize a fully functioning map system. Overall, presentation is minimal, but functional. There are some downsides, but they are ultimately forgivable.
Graphically, the game succeeds. Don’t get it twisted, the visuals here are not photo-realistic. Nor should they be in a game like this. There’s a happy medium between visual fidelity and the nostalgic charm we’ve come to love in the Lego games. There is a lot more normally rendered models, as opposed to the buildings made entirely of Lego bricks. This is both positive and negative. The more realistic tone of the landscapes make it easier to relate and enjoy the virtual space, but there was something very magical about seeing everything made of Lego bricks. With a game of this size, though, I can see where that would’ve taken some time. The character models look good, the visual effects are great, and the game very much feels like a Lego game. I can’t really ask for much more in a situation like this.
Finally, the meat of the game. The actual gameplay is what makes Lego: TFA stand far out from the other Lego entries. The base gameplay is still the same; you use different Lego characters for their unique abilities to solve simple puzzles and progress. You have slight combat, which is enjoyable and varied now, but it’s never truly the focus of on-foot missions (more on that later). The shining star of this entire package is the cooperative play. In past Lego entries, the second player might have felt like a bit of a bystander. In Lego: TFA, the game ensures that the other player feels useful and necessary. For solo players, this leads to some great puzzles that require switching between characters. Most notably different is the inclusion of multiple large hub worlds. Instead of the singular large world structure as featured in “Lego: The Movie Game” and “Lego: The Hobbit”, we’re treated to multiple planets based replicated from the films. The main storyline guides you through these planets, but at any time you can veer off and complete a slew of side-missions, and there is a lot of them. There’s multiple categories of side missions too, including: scavenger, bounty hunter, Resistance, First Order, droid, and the list continues. These provide a great amount of variety. The worlds themselves are also ripe with gold bricks to find, unlockable classic characters, and more. It truly feels like a mini Lego game within each world. There are two gameplay additions that I am split on. On the positive side, you have new spaceship battles. These feel great and exciting, and surpass the new StarFox game in terms of quality. On the other hand, you have small third person shooter sections, using a cover mechanic much like Gears of War. These feel out of place, and although fun at first, become repetitive and tedious. As a side note, there’s some extra missions that really flesh out these new gameplay additions.
Overall, Lego: TFA is an absolute pleasure to play. It’s rich with content, both on the main path and extras. There’s a combination of new and old characters and levels, so there’s something for every Star Wars fan. The gameplay is solid, with only slight missteps, and the feel of the game is decidedly Lego: Star Wars. It’s a great mixture of intuitive and interesting gameplay and nostalgia. Lego: TFA is a game you at least have to try, regardless of your interest in Star Wars or Lego games, purely due to the gaming fun that can be had.