SFcrowsnest

Lego Star Wars – The Force Awakens (PS4 Review).

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, someone thought it would be a great idea to take Lego characters and make them retell the stories of the ‘Star Wars’ films in a computer game that would appeal to children and adults alike. These people were richly rewarded for their idea as the game proved popular thanks to its focusing on puzzle solving, collecting and discovering secrets instead of forcing the player to tackle increasingly difficult game play. Now with two direct sequels and a myriad of other franchises, some of which I mention and review here: http://sfcrowsnest.org.uk/lego-marvel-avengers-ps4-game-review/, the people behind the ‘Lego’ games go back to where it started as ‘The Force Awakens’ gets the ‘brick’ treatment.

‘Lego Star Wars – The Force Awakens’ opens with a prologue that is essentially the conclusion of ‘Return Of The Jedi’. This section, set on Endor, is quite a canny way of introducing the player to the game. Not only does it work as a typical game ‘opening tutorial’, it also shows just how far the Lego games have progressed since ‘Lego Star Wars’ first appeared. Instead of the dialogue free cut scenes that were initially a trademark of the franchise, we now have the movie dialogue to keep the plot rolling along. In a mark of how closely publisher Traveller’s Tales have worked with Disney on the game, not only is their plenty of dialogue taken directly from ‘The Force Awakens’, the majority of the cast also provide plenty of extra lines for the game itself. Whoever had to go and record Harrison Ford using the phrase ‘Wookie Cookies’ must have gone home a happy person that day.

The very basic gameplay is the same as the Lego games have always been. You utilise characters of varying abilities to solve puzzles, many of which involve building Lego blocks, to advance to new chapters in the story. As you unlock more characters and abilities, you can revisit levels you’ve beaten to find hidden secrets and special bonuses. Get more of the bonuses, often in the form of a Lego Gold Brick, and you can open new levels as well as head towards the mythical ‘100 percent’ completion.

‘The Force Awakens’ brings some new elements to the fore. You can now build multiple Lego objects out of one pile of bricks, requiring a little more lateral thinking on some stages. Also, levels are now peppered with the occasional ‘blaster battle’ which brings the game more into the realm of the first person shooter as you pick off numerous targets while strategically hidden by some handy piece of scenery. This adds a little more in the way of combat to ‘The Force Awakens’. Indeed, while the Lego games have always been about fun rather than genuine challenge, ‘The Force Awakens’ has slightly ramped up the stakes of combat. The boss fights, while still relatively simple, have a higher degree of complexity than usual and generally enemies are a bit harder to break apart. There are also a number of flying missions where every ‘Star Wars’ fan, even if they’ve played some of the numerous ‘Star Wars’ games before, will still get that little bit a thrill when you get to pilot the Millennium Falcon

The game’s story unsurprisingly follows that of the film very closely. You get to run around Jakku as Rey, fly an X-Wing as Poe Dameron and go to Starkiller Base where that – spoiler alert – really sad thing that made many a grown man cry happens. The numerous cut scenes utilising the film’s dialogue give everything a more child friendly Lego twist, even the aforementioned ‘sad scene’ is dealt with so as not to be too traumatic. For example, Kylo Ren’s worship of Darth Vader is interpreted as teen-ager’s crush on a boy band, hence he now has posters all over his bedroom wall and Darth Vader slippers.

Everything is geared towards fun, alongside there being plenty of in-jokes for the fans. These include the opportunity to play as JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy with one hidden area being a film set complete with green screen and an allusion to the rumour that one Stormtrooper is played by a certain Daniel Craig.

Of most interest to fans will be the bonus missions which Disney claim are canonical. These include Poe Dameron rescuing Admiral Ackbar from the clutches of the First Order, a level that looks at how Lor San Tekka (Max Von Sydow) made it to Jakku in the first place and one that explores how Han and Chewie first rounded up those rather scary Rathtar beasts. As fun as it all is, it’s also genuinely fascinating how it fleshes out some elements of the current Star Wars universe. It’s even a lot kinder to Captain Phasma than ‘The Force Awakens’ film was, as it gives her much more to do. There are also a lot more stories promised, including the story of how Poe Dameron made it from Jakku back to the Rebel Base, in future downloadable content.

There are a few complaints here and there. After slogging through the game to get 100% completion, there isn’t really much to reward you for doing so. I wasn’t expecting to get a medal in a ceremony in front of the rest of the Rebellion, but something would have been nice. As you get closer to collecting everything, it does start to become slightly repetitive. But this is mainly fun all the way, respectful to its source material while also building, no pun intended, upon it and also enhancing the gameplay just enough to make sure that it stands out from other Lego franchise games. Given its canon status, it’s also a pretty essential purchase for the hardcore fan. Now: can we have a Lego Doctor Who please?

Laurence Boyce

September 2016

(pub: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. PS4 video game. Price: £25.00 (UK). ASIN: B01BD3O6HA)

check out website: www.warnerbros.com/studio/divisions/home-entertainment/warner-bros-interactive-entertainment