2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a brilliant addition to the Star Wars franchise. The movie brought with it a whole new generation of fans, and the world sat up and took note of its stars, the talented Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac.
You would expect these same new fans of the hit franchise to go crazy at the chance to play inevitable the Lego video game adaptation, which was released about a month ago. You’d think they’d jump at the chance to control their heroes Rey, Finn and Poe.
Which is why it was such an odd choice to have Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens begin with a prologue that wasn’t from the movie at all, but instead The Battle of Endor – the final scene from Episode VI, Return of the Jedi. That’s right, you start off by controlling Leia, Han, Chewie, the droids and a whole bunch of supporting characters, even Wicket the Ewok. The purpose of the prologue allows you to familiarise yourself with both the tried and tested Lego gameplay, as well as several new gameplay features which I’ll talk about later. These were introduced via puzzles that required a little brain matter to solve without being a frustrating mess. It was definitely a fun romp – I’ll admit getting to wreak havoc with an AT-ST was incredibly cathartic.
But after I finished playing the prologue, I found myself wondering if it would confuse complete newcomers to the Star Wars franchise. After all, who was this game supposed to be designed for? Lego video games have generally been enjoyed by all ages, but in this case, having the prologue begin on Endor, when even the movie itself didn’t see the need to recap any plot from it’s predecessors, felt like the game was pandering to older fans, at the expense of new ones.
But of course, that being said, the rest of the game is rather enjoyable and follows the movie’s plot faithfully. That is, of course, if you’re used to the odd sense of humour of the Lego video game franchise. Maybe I’m just a cynical old fart, but I really found it very disconcerting to have Lego’s trademark slapstick gags all over the movie’s darker scenes.
For example, the movie begins with a Jakku vilage being attacked by the First Order, led by Kylo Ren, who gives the order to massacre its inhabitants. In the first chapter of the game, you control Poe and BB-8 as you try to defend the village from the attack, except that to do so, you pretty much have to destroy everything in sight. This creates the extremely odd situation where Poe and BB-8 (alone or with a second player) are busy destroying the village even before the First Order Stormtroopers get there. And to add insult to injury, the slapstick gags include using BB-8 as a basketball and a bowling ball. I couldn’t help but feel it was a really odd scene to add levity to.
But really, maybe it’s just me.
There’s a lot to be said about the gameplay here, and it’s where Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens truly shines. Having to use BB-8 in several of the earlier missions really helped me appreciate what a unique experience it was playing as the droid. BB-8 is, in my opinion, the star of the game. Not only does being able to accelerate while rolling around make moving from one point to another so much easier, but BB-8’s ability to be launched up to a separate platform makes for several unique puzzles.
Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens also introduces three new gameplay elements to the Lego video game franchise. There are new cover shooter elements, spaceship battles and the ability to build multiple items from a single pile of bricks.
I thought the Gears of War-type cover shooter gameplay was a little extraneous. Sure, it breaks up the monotony of smashing everything you see, or solving the same type of puzzle multiple times, but without a real sense of danger – since you can never really ‘die’ in Lego games – the cover shooter mini-game didn’t really do much for me.
Now, on the other hand, Star Wars has put its name on many excellent space combat sims. It’s great to see the Lego game paying homage to that legacy with a simplified but no less enjoyable version which you get to play on certain levels. Unlike the cover shooter, spaceship battles are definitely a great gameplay addition to this game, but I don’t think too many other Lego franchises would benefit from it.
Finally, the ability to built multiple items from the same bunch of bricks is such a Lego thing to do that it makes you wonder why it’s taken so long to be implemented in a Lego video game. In Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you can use the same stack of bricks to build two to three alternative items, making for much deeper puzzles. While an absolutely brilliant concept, it’s somewhat held back by the fact that it’s figuring out such puzzles are often a matter of trial and error, since you never really know which to option to build first. You end up working one half of the puzzle only to realise that you should’ve done the other half first. A small setback, to be sure, but over multiple puzzles, it can get a little frustrating. Still, it’s a brilliant concept and one that should be implemented in all future Lego games.
So while I’m not too amused by Lego’s slapstick gag humour punctuating the narrative of the plot, I’m definitely a fan of the game’s truly unique gameplay. If you like Lego video games, you definitely want to add this to your collection, and if you’ve never played a Lego video game before, this should be your introduction to the franchise.