Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens review

The Force Awakens offers the aging Lego franchise a new hope

The Force Awakens' is Lego Star Wars at its brick-busting best.
The Force Awakens' is Lego Star Wars at its brick-busting best.
The Force Awakens' is Lego Star Wars at its brick-busting best.

Highs

  • Great story-expanding—canon!—content
  • Fun new blaster battles
  • Multi-Builds add depth, variety
  • Brimming with Star Wars fan-service

Lows

  • Lacks true innovation

Less than an hour into Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you’ll find yourself facing one of the First Order’s fearsome Flametroopers. Because this is the latest entry in the brick-based, family-friendly franchise, though, you don’t dispatch the blocky baddie with a blaster or lightsaber, but with, well … popcorn. That’s right: upon conjuring a giant tub of kernels, your fire-flinging foe will cook them just before his allies excitedly attempt to catch the freshly popped corn in their helmets. It’s a hilarious scene, and just one of many that unfold during both gameplay encounters and cut-scenes.

Of course, if you’ve played any previous Lego titles, you’re well aware of the series’ ability to parody popular properties—from “Harry Potter” and “The Hobbit” to Marvel’s Mightiest Heroes and even DC Comics’ brooding bat — with charm, personality, and style to spare.

A (good) disturbance in the Force

While this fun-poking portrayal of last year’s blockbuster does an especially good job of recreating memorable scenes that will stretch smiles across the faces of kids and adults alike, this latest Lego-fied romp taxes the thumbs as much as it tickles the funny bone. Where January’s Lego Marvel’s Avengers let fans down a bit with tedious gameplay and poor pacing, The Force Awakens refreshes the comfortably familiar formula in a variety of fun, welcome ways.

For starters, the game very fittingly retools the series’ ranged combat to fit the style of Star Wars’ action-ratcheting blaster battles. Utilizing an intuitive new cover system and cinematic camera, these exchanges bring an addictive, arcade-y layer to firefights. Scoring head-shots on Stormtroopers might not feel ground-breaking to a Gears of Wars fan, but it’s a significant upgrade for this series, one that has us hoping it eventually spawns a dedicated third-person shooter.

More impressive than reducing the First Order’s finest to a pile of bricks from behind Chewbacca’s Bowcaster, is the game’s new Multi-Build mechanic. As in previous entries, players destroy objects before re-assembling them into puzzle solutions or interactive items; this time, however, multiple objects can be built with the same heap of plastic. This could see the player deciphering what order to craft different builds to solve a puzzle, opening a previously inaccessible path, or discovering a secret collectible.

The fan-service is strong with this one

Speaking of digging up surprises, The Force Awakens is brimming with story-expanding content that’s well worth a look for fans of the galaxy far, far away—even if they typically don’t play Lego games. Unlockable content, as well as playable scenes woven into the main story campaign, interestingly build on a number of narrative elements from the film.

The Force Awakens is brimming with story-expanding content that’s well worth a look for fans of the galaxy far, far away.

The game begins by nicely bridging Return of the Jedi‘s Battle of Endor with The Force Awakens start, but then takes you through a director’s cut-like take of the latter film. From filling in back-story content — like how Han and Chewie hunted and captured the tentacled Rathtar creatures — to answering burning questions — such as how Max Van Sydo’s Lor San Tekka ended up with a map to Luke’s location — these playable missions alone are worth the price of admission for Star Wars geeks.

More than just fun padding, though, these narrative nuggets are actual canon. Given permission by Lucasfilm to expand these story bits into interactive missions, developer TT Game’s was not only granted access to the story, but also the film’s actors. For fans, this means enjoying all-new dialogue delivered by the likes of Harrison Ford and the rest of the core cast.

On top of building on the Lego game template with these awesome story additions and aforementioned gameplay tweaks, the title features retooled ship combat. Offering more freedom and fine-tuned mechanics, these high-flying segments feel fantastic, whether dog-fighting from behind the controls of an X-Wing or taking command of the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit.

Trading your blaster for the pilot’s seat also brings a nice change of pace to the puzzle-solving, brick-breaking play. Where some previous entries, like Marvel’s Avengers, suffered from sub-par pacing, The Force Awakens consistently keeps things fresh and doesn’t overstay its welcome. More than 200 unlockable characters, replay-boosting Free Play mode, couch co-op, and more collectibles than you can cram into the Falcon’s cargo hold round out this fan-pleasing package.

Conclusion

The Force Awakens isn’t the reboot or revolution many fans feel the franchise is due for. It’s still, at its colorful, toy-brick core, another familiar Lego game, albeit one that allows you to kick butt as BB-8. Thanks to its many tweaks, refinements, additions, and universe-expanding story elements, though, it’s easily the best entry in recent years, and one that Star Wars and Lego game fans alike should add to their library.

Reviewed on Xbox One with retail copy provided by publisher.

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