With an ever-expanding array of movie tie-ins, the Lego gaming universe is massive, with everything from Harry Potter to Indiana Jones making an appearance in digital brick form.
Few, however, are as eagerly anticipated as the ongoing LEGO Star Wars franchise and the opportunity it provides established fans and newcomers alike with the chance to explore this much-loved universe.
It’s been five years since Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars came out with developers TT Games busy bringing a whole variety of other Lego-based characters to fans with as many as 14 Lego titles developed in the meantime.
“Daisy Ridley recorded new lines for us. That was a ridiculous thrill”
And while the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at cinemas was always likely to result in another Lego branded tie-in title, it’s fair to say that – like the jump in quality between Episode III and Episode VII in terms of the films themselves – it’s been worth the wait.
Meanwhile any potential #WheresRey controversy is also easily avoided with Rey playing a central role in the game as arguably one of the most agile playable characters.
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the biggest and best Lego Star Wars title yet with over 200 playable characters spread across 18 levels that take in 11 familiar terrains from the film along with seven brand new story levels.
There is also the small matter of some 40 playable vehicles and creatures with every from Luggabeasts to a certain highly modified YT-1300 freighter available.
“We’ve got the Millennium Falcon, which is super cool,” explains TT Games producer Tim Wileman.
“We’ve also got Kylo Ren’s shuttle and things like X-Wings and Tie Fighters. You’ll be able to take control of all of them in free play. The team have gone to great lengths to make them move and feel like they would do in the films.”
The upgrade in vehicle options ties in with the improved flight gameplay in The Force Awakens, which was something Wileman was keen to get right this time around.
“We had flight in the Clone Wars but it was quite linear and felt quite two dimensional. It wasn’t flight in the true sense of the word,” he said.
The result is a series of arena based flight sections where gamers can take control of some of the Star Wars universe’s most famous ships and engage in any number of half loops and barrel loops during dogfights as well as in a number of high-adrenaline pursuit sections.
Moreover, Wileman readily admits that much of what went into the game would not have been possible without the endorsement of Lucasfilm.
“In the movie, for example, there are only a couple of Tie Fighters but we were given artistic license to include a few more,” he said.
“That’s down to the brilliant relationship we have with Lucasfilm that goes back more than a decade now.”
Much of the Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens success also stems from the keen eye for detail witnessed throughout the game, which is something lead story designer Graham Goring readily acknowledges.
“It is by far and away our best-looking game ever down to things like the lighting,” he said.
“We’ve really had time to polish things up and add a lot of incidental detail too.”
Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens not only looks good though; it sounds good too with a variety of actors from the films even coming in to record new dialogue.
“We even had Daisy Ridley come in and record new lines and I cannot tell you what a ridiculous thrill that was,” Goring adds.
With any number of hidden easter eggs and mini-games also on offer throughout, this latest Lego Star Wars adventure maintains one of the key facets of the franchise to date – “replayability”.
Tied into that concept is the new and improved multi-builds function that sees players come across buildable brick-based elements as part of a series of puzzles designed to help them progress through the game.
This time round the concept has been taken to the next level though with these interactive Lego elements now capable of building anywhere up to three items that can help a player advance.
“It’s our way of mirroring what kids do in life – the tactility of Lego,” Wileman explains.
Perhaps the most notable new feature, however, comes with the new blaster battles, that see players adopt cover positions before popping out to eliminate advancing enemies in an aspect that serves as something of a throwback to the original Star Wars arcade light gun games of the 1990s.
Throw in some advanced AI that sees enemies reacting to your cover position with defences and weaponry alone and you have arguably one of the most appealing aspects of the new title for gamers of all ages.
“We’re really proud of this feature and it adds an extra layer of strategy to the game,” Wileman notes.
Crucially, the game also maintains the same sense of humour present in all of the titles to date with Kylo Ren reimagined as a difficult teenager living in a bedroom adorned with posters endorsing the dark side.
The result is a Lego title offering more variety, improved game play and some extra polish that is likely to make it a popular choice among gamers with a penchant for building blocks and Jedis alike
Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens officially launches on June 28th.
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.