2011 was the last time we had a LEGO Star Wars game. That one was different. It featured a TV Series and not any of the films. It also expanded what LEGO Star Wars was about.
It had larger hubs, bigger battles, and a neat concept that made it feel as though you were really in large scale battles, which many fans dubbed LEGO Battlefront.
It also introduced a story switch mechanic, so multiple scenarios could play out at once with you able to switch between them on the fly. It is here then, that we get to this latest LEGO Star Wars game.
From the off you can see new things are coming with the upgraded HUD and start screen. Rather than just the three options of 'New Game', 'Load Game', and 'Options' (and 'Exit Game' if on PC) there is now a 'Continue Game' option right at the top (though of course it won't be visible on first starting the game up) and an option to jump straight to the Download Content shop.
For the HUD, the character icons are now contained within a circle, so the hearts you have are around the circle. It's only a slight change, but makes it look a little more refined.
Major new additions include Multi-Builds, which allow puzzles with just one set of buildable bricks. These are a neat way of adding new puzzles to the series in general. For instance, in the starting level on Jakku, you'll have a fire that needs to be put out with the water pump. Step one is fixing the wire. Build up on the left, jump on the switch to fill up, job done.
Once the water is in the container, it needs to be dragged over to the pump itself. Destroy what was built and rebuild those bricks in front. After using BB-8 on the constructed pad to bring the container to the pump, the pump needs to be activated. Destroy the bricks and rebuild on the right. Other times these Multi-Builds might lead to collectibles.
The other major addition is Blaster Battles. These battles are also spread out over levels to shake things up a bit. Here, a cover fire type game plays out. Hidden behind walls, you need to aim and fire, killing a certain amount of enemies to progress or destroying a cannon stopping you from progressing.
Other abilities come into play here as well, as you grapple plugs to pull things over, or use binoculars to find weaknesses in certain things. These are fun, and depending on whether you can avoid dying yourself, give stud rewards based on a medal system [0 deaths - gold, 1 death - silver, 2 deaths - bronze, 3+ - nothing].
The levels themselves are varied, even when based on the same planets. There are ten main levels, a prologue that takes place during the Battle of Endor from Return of the Jedi, an epilogue that sees Rey undertake the journey of climbing the passage to Luke, and six other levels.
These other levels are the more interesting of the lot, since most of them tell completely new stories, and two of them allow us to play as the villains. The cutscenes in all of these still retain the humour and charm of previous LEGO games and portray the story of The Force Awakens well.
It does feel at times though as if they were struggling to pad out the game with levels. Don't get me wrong, all the levels are fun, but with certain levels it feels like LEGO Harry Potter syndrome - where certain levels feel forced into the game just as padding.
That doesn't affect overall enjoyment though, and once the main levels are complete the whole 100%ing the game comes into play as more characters are unlocked for Free Mode plays and a lot more things can be accessed from the hubs.
In this game, there are five hubs. The smallest is the Millennium Falcon, with the largest being Starkiller Base, Jakku, and Takodana. D'Qar, the planet of the resistance base, is a middle ground.
In these hubs, numerous puzzles are around to get gold bricks. NPCs offer up numerous challenges to get more gold bricks. Races also return, sometimes within levels themselves. Within levels they'll net you a minikit. In the hubs they give a gold brick.
Another thing for collection around the hubs are Carbonite Bricks. These allow classic characters to be unlocked from across the Original and Prequel Trilogies, ranging from the popular (Episode IV Leia) to the obscure (A-Wing Pilot).
So even after all the levels are complete, there are still a large amount of things to collect. More experienced gamers will probably get them all within ten hours, depending on how many they'd collected during the main play.
The only thing I'd have to say is that it wouldn't be a LEGO game without the glitches. While none are game breaking, it can be a bit annoying when you have one minikit left to find in a level and the guide is telling you it's in a completely different place. Or characters getting stuck.
The music is great, as is the voice acting, with characters sounding exactly like they do in the film during the new dialogue that was recorded, even with those whose actors hadn't reprised their roles for the game.
There isn't much to say with LEGO games at this point, as they are mostly the same. It's just a case of exploring the new things within them. And I can say all those new features are good fun, and the returning ones from other games like the aforementioned races are implemented well here.
The game can be recommended for LEGO fans and Star Wars fans. Even those who like action/adventure games or collectathons. The game itself doesn't get on the levels of Harry Potter in terms of bad parts, and is a definite great game for the LEGO series.