LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a return to the beloved galaxy which is always in constant conflict between good and evil. This time you will be retold the story of the most recent film, The Force Awakens, and you'll be following the new characters Finn, Rey, and Poe as they team up with the well-known resistance fighters from previous instalments – Han, Leia, Chewbacca, et al – in order to take down the biggest threat to the galaxy so far, Kylo Ren. He plans to wipe out entire galaxies with the use of his new super weapon the Starkiller, and the only people that stand in his way are the resistance. So strap yourself into the Millennium Falcon and grab yourself some Wookie Cookie, 'cause this threatens to be one hell of an adventure.
Like the majority of LEGO games, the story is split into levels, each lasting about 30 minutes, and can be played with a friend from start to finish. The main difference here is that there are only 10 levels compared to the usual 15, meaning that the story will only last about five hours, however the length is certainly made up for in the quality of the cutscenes, gameplay, and the open areas. Each planet that you visit has an open area to explore in order to complete side quests, races, unlock new characters and vehicles, and pick up all of the usual LEGO collectibles by completing puzzles. These areas kept us returning to the game even after the story was completed, and we found them just as enjoyable as the levels themselves.
The story cutscenes are excellently crafted with upgraded visuals, a great sense of humour, and lines straight from the film – spoken by the actors themselves. The LEGO humour that we have come to love is spot on throughout the adventure – it's not overused as to hinder the story telling but rather used to enhance the rather slow sections. On many an occasion it had us chuckling away – particularly when it cuts to a shot of Kylo Ren in his bedroom with posters of Darth Vader on the walls, bedsheets with Vader's mask on them, and even Darth Vader slippers on his feet. Even when the famous LEGO pig, who makes an appearance in every LEGO title, pops up as one of the X-Wing pilots in a very crucial battle to destroy the Starkiller, we couldn't help but give a little snigger.
Multi-builds is the freshest new twist to the LEGO genre gameplay, and it switches things up in a very simple but fun way. When building objects, instead of just being able to create one thing to help you proceed, you can now choose between two or three, which often opens up multiple paths to travel. Sometimes both objects are required to be built in a certain order so you can progress; don't worry, though, if you build the wrong object first, it can easily be destroyed and rebuilt as the other. While this doesn't switch up the gameplay enormously, it augments a greater sense of freedom, and feels like a worthwhile evolution of the original system.
Multi-build isn't the only evolution that LEGO has gone through since its last title. Shoot-outs are parts of the game which switch to a third-person shooter for you to take down your enemies. As soon as you start the story, you're attacked by an army of Storm Troopers, and you're required to take cover while taking them down one by one with your laser blaster. The gameplay is switched up entirely, forcing you to stay behind cover or move to another covered area, all the while popping up every now and again to headshot a few troopers or throw a few of Chewy's special explosives. These sections provide a great shift in pace to the normally slow-puzzle solving areas, and really keep the action fun and enjoyable to play while at the same time balancing out the combat and puzzle sections as not to bore you with one in particular.
However, the flying missions are easily the most compelling part of the game, as you're taken off the ground and into space as you pilot the Millennium Falcon, an X-Wing, or a TIE Fighter in space battles – or race them through rings under a time limit. The controls are simple, making it much easier to pull off looping manoeuvres in order to lose your persistent pursuers and blast the dark side into dust. You're able to pick up missiles which can lock onto the nearest foe, or equally you can gun them down using the on-board turrets.
Alas, while Traveller's Tales has worked hard to freshen the gameplay up with the new shoot-outs, flying sections, and multi-builds, the character abilities still feel rather too familiar and last-gen. With the same abilities being used to solve the same types of puzzles, it all feels a bit samey. Also, with a roster of over 200 playable characters, there are far too many duplicates.
The biggest issue with the game remains an old one as well: the AI. As it's crucial in single player for the AI to work well, we were rather irritated when it didn't. Often the AI controlled player would get stuck on an object when trying to help us progress, and therefore require us to give them a little helping hand – okay, it was more a forceful punch but they had it coming. One of the levels we couldn't even finish because of the AI; we reached the end, only the AI was not present, and so the cutscene didn't trigger and we were forced to restart.
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is quite possibly the best LEGO game yet – but it still has a smattering of old issues. Its compelling story cinematics, laugh out loud humour and perfectly balanced mix of conundrums and combat make it an absolute blast to play. However, it still suffers from the occasional AI hiccup and could do with the character abilities being refreshed.