Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Year: 2016
Platform: PlayStation 4
Genre: Action
Review Date: 8/20/16
Rating: ***

I've always enjoyed the "Lego Star Wars" games, but the formula is starting to wear thin. As with the other games in the series, you guide your adorable Lego mini-figures through Story Mode, which then opens up Free Play and other side missions. Apart from some minor UI tweaks (some good and some not so good), the presentation is identical to all previous Lego games. What's interesting this time around is that Story Mode is actually more fun than Free Play, which is a first. Since the game is based on a single movie, there's a lot of filler material added to extend the gameplay. This includes side stories that involve rescuing Admiral Ackbar, tracking down Lor San Tekka, and hunting rathtars, along with simple hub quests. The side stories are cute, but overly juvenile, and the hub quests are simply tedious and annoying. The quests also tend to be super short, and often times it takes longer to load them than to complete them.

As the first "Lego Star Wars" game to feature spoken dialog, I was extremely surprised to hear that all of the primary actors contributed new dialog just for the game. I don't think Harrison Ford has ever done any video game voice acting before, so that's a pretty big deal. Daisy Ridley's contributions are delightfully energetic, while the rest tends to fall a bit flat. As with all of the Lego games, the humor is quite enjoyable, and the game does a good job of poking fun at the movie and the "Star Wars" universe in general. There are several Indiana Jones gags thrown in for good measure, and I laughed out loud when Han Solo said "Remember, you don't have to wait for them to shoot first." In keeping with tradition, the game includes hot tub Stormtroopers and adds aerobics Stormtroopers to the mix. Seeing General Hux in a bright yellow unitard is pretty amusing.

Sadly, the game feels more tedious than fun, but maybe that was just my frame of mind at the time, or maybe I was expecting more from it. The flying missions are fun to watch, but frustrating to play because of the difficult controls. For whatever reasons, camera control is disabled during the flying missions, so there's no way to see what's around you or anticipate upcoming obstacles. Additionally, you have fixed guns, but a drifting reticle, so the only way to shoot enemies is to line up on a collision course with them. While this is probably physically more accurate, in practice it's difficult to pull off without colliding into your targets. And not surprisingly, the game is full of bugs. During a transition scene, Han Solo got stuck in a rock while running, which forced me to restart the game because he wouldn't die and I couldn't switch characters. I also got stuck in a shootout where the last target wouldn't die because he was infinitely cycling his death animation. That also forced a reboot. Another bug involved a water feature that only Admiral Ackbar could interact with, but he refused to, so I had to restart the level. Overall, Force enabled characters are finicky, and getting them to interact with objects requires patience and precision placement.

Presentation wise, the game is quite good and it's beautiful to look at. My only complaints involve the audio. Like previous Lego games, the audio isn't normalized and the levels are all over the place. Some lines are overly loud while others are barely audible, and sometimes the sound effects disappear altogether. Why is this such a prevalent problem in the industry? Does no one actually listen to the audio, because it's painfully obvious there are problems with it. The dialog can also be a bit grating at times, and the NPCs are incredibly annoying. It's worth getting the hub missions out of the way as soon as possible just to make them shut up. C-3PO is even more obnoxious than normal on the Millennium Falcon, as he's constantly trying to get your attention every 2-3 seconds. I have no idea how that made it through play-testing. It's nearly as annoying as Conan O'Brien and Bat-Mite in "Lego Batman 3" (2014). Overall, it's a marginally fun time waster and a good way to relax after a stressful day at work, but it seems to lack the freshness and magic of the earlier "Lego Star Wars" games. I kind of wish they'd drop the dialog and just go back to miming.