Lego games just don’t give a damn.
They’re the regular antidote to a gaming scene obsessed with realism and mechanical complexity. It's hard not to have fun with a franchise so uniquely whimsical and carefree in a market of solemn-faced manshoots and gritty sci-fi universes. All they ask is that you have a giggle, smashing brick-things to make more brick-things - and in Star Wars, Lego may have found its perfect partner.
The action-packed films are dramatic but jolly at their core, making them perfect fodder to embrace the gentle mockery that always comes from Lego’s forays into the gaming world. The Force Awakens takes this sound relationship and rolls with it, without deviating from the path laid out by its predecessors.
It's more of what we’ve come to expect from a Lego game: gentle platforming, interspersed with simple logic puzzles and slapstick combat. You’ll run around a Star Destroyer, shimmy along a platform or two, and then knock about some First Order forces for funsies.
USE THE FARCE
You might think you're "too old for Lego games". You're wrong. They've got an irreverent charm that'll keep you coming back time and time again.
Case in point: TT Games manages to pick up on the more ridiculous moments in cinema, that might otherwise have gone unnoticed, and capitalising on them for maximum finger-pointing and japery.
The Lego version of the scene initially shown in the trailer for The Force Awakens, where a squad of First Order stormtroopers are stood in a flickering, dimly-lit dropship, managed to draw guttural laughter from me when the scene pans over to a single trooper, frantically flipping the lightswitch up and down.
It’s a solid point: why are the lights going on and off on a futuristic spaceship that can travel fast enough to turn the stars into bright blurs? It’s silly, and the writers at TT can see it’s silly. Full marks to the studio here.
IT'S A COVER UP
It's not just Lego Marvel Avengers with a Star Wars-themed skin, though - there have been a few changes to the typical Lego game structure.
This time, it's cover shooting, which peppers a lot of the story mode's levels. These scripted sequences pin you down behind protective obstacles until you blast through whatever's blocking your way.
Cover shooting works, but only just. Combat in Lego games is usually joyfully simple and silly, but this extra element just feels like a chore.
Sometimes you'll have to identify a particularly strong enemy's weak point from above cover before you can start whittling down their health, which not only makes no sense (where did those stormtroopers learn to aim?) but drags each sequence out beyond its welcome.
Much like the game’s platforming, which is a kind of weird approximation of more complex games, cover shooting has been done better elsewhere. A Lego game was never going to out-roadie run Gears of War, was it?
Made for Assembly
Mixing up the puzzle mechanics is a much more welcome change, especially as it matches perfectly with the spirit of Lego. Brick piles used to let you build one creation at a time, but now you've got several choices.
It's simple enough for little kids to solve, but satisfying enough for big kids to feel like they've done more than press X to continue. Should I make the pump first? Or should I construct the bowl to collect the water?
At their most basic, Lego puzzles have always been little more than ‘find this to do this to then do that’. Adding multiple options will make you stop and think, if only for a few seconds. It's not a massive, game-changing step, but it is progress.
LEIA TWO PRESS START
Other tweaks are smaller, but have a big impact on how you play. Swapping characters at the right moment has always crucial in Lego games, but it's a lot smoother now with the new option wheel.
Now there's no more trying to take BB-8 for a swim (unsuccessfully) any more - you can switch out to Admiral Ackbar in a flash. Bumbling about as C3PO might be fun for a few minutes, but when the action hots up it's great to be able to instantly take control of Poe or Finn and dish out some blaster-based justice.
Some long-standing irks remain, though. Awkward camera angles and viewpoints that get obscured by the scenery happen far too often; dynamic cameras are a thing, TT Games, let's embrace them.
Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens verdict
Lego games are a guilty pleasure, one I'll always enjoy on a rainy afternoon. Lego The Force Awakens is perfect for popping on when my brain is it’s missing that magic mix of witty repartee and farting stormtroopers.
I just can’t bring myself to love this latest instalment. I end up wishing these family-friendly games would deliver more. More of what, I’m not exactly sure - maybe more complexity, or more focus.
It's missing that magic ingredient that a franchise loses when it continues farming the same concepts again and again. The small tweaks just aren't enough to mix things up for anyone that's already played the old versions to death.
Buying your first Lego game? Buy it, play it, love it. We'll even believe you if you say it's for your kids. If you’ve had one too many bricks already, there's not much here beyond what you've experienced before.