Lego: The Force Awakens builds on movie's backstory, brick by brick
Review: Last year's long-awaited release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens went way beyond the world of film; it became a genuine cultural phenomenon on a global scale.
Smashing pretty much every box office record along the way, it also managed to cleanse the palette after a triple whammy of disappointing prequels, delivering an experience that satisfied fans and critics alike.
Of course, being a Star Wars film, it brought with it a flood of merchandise, from lunchboxes to lingerie. Strangely though, there was a puzzling lack of video game tie-in.
This is incredibly unusual - practically every sequel and spin-off in the series' 30-year history has gone hand-in-hand with a officially branded game. Even the 1978 original spawned a memorable sit-down X Wing arcade cabinet.
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Even though EA's first person shooter Star Wars: Battlefield was rushed to market to ride the coat-tails of the film's release, it was based entirely on the original trilogy and didn't include any content from the latest movie.
It's taken six months to get anything remotely resembling a Force Awakens game on the shelves, and although some may have been disappointed to learn that it's a yet another Lego title, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that this is one of the best Star Wars games ever made.
On the surface, it follows the standard Lego: Star Wars formula: Smash your way around familiar locations from the film, solve puzzles by building cute little Lego models, collect minifigs and vehicle kits, and chuckle at the tongue-in-cheek humour that pokes fun at the movie's story and characters.
What makes this game uniquely interesting is the fact that it actually expands on the narrative, filling in plot holes that were left open to interpretation and fleshing out characters that were only featured briefly in the film.
Ever wondered how Han and Chewie ended up filling the Millennium Falcon's cargo hold with man-eating Rathtars, why CP-30 was sporting that unexplained red arm or what those shady characters were up to in Maz Kanata's bar? All this, and more is revealed as the game pans out. Think of it as an interactive version of a director's commentary or blu-ray deleted scenes package.
TT Fusion's head of design Mike Taylor told gameinformer that the developers were given the green light to expand and explore aspects of the film that were not fully addressed on screen.
"The thing with The Force Awakens is that we've had the privilege of being able to create some additional content," he said.
"Some additional levels that take place before the events of The Force Awakens and allow us to explore some of the backstory of the characters.
"We've covered some pretty significant events that happen before the film that give people more information about why certain things in The Force Awakens happened and why certain characters have ended up where they are," Taylor said.
If that wasn't enough, the game also features hours of new voice acting from Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and many other members of the Force Awakens' main cast.
Hollywood stars lending their voices to game tie-ins is nothing new, but in the past some actors have been guilty of "phoning it in" with lazy or unenthusiastic performances. That couldn't be further from the truth here - the writing is on a par with anything from the film and it's clear that the actors are enjoying themselves and having fun with a light-hearted take on the script.
Harrison Ford, in particular, knocks it out of the park, delivering his lines with gusto as an unexpected bonus to anyone who thought they'd seen the last of Han Solo.
The humour, for the most part, hits the mark too, with plenty of running jokes and nods to Star Wars tropes and trivia. It's hard to keep a straight face when you see Kylo Ren's sleeping quarters filled with Darth Vader posters, lampshades and slippers or discover that the stormtroopers are even more hapless than they are portrayed on screen.
All this fan service is all well and good, but without a solid game to build it on, it could have easily fallen flat. While Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens isn't going to win any awards for originality, it's still an enjoyable experience. It's more of the same, but you get the feeling that that's completely intentional, serving up exactly the brand of block-building fun that the series has become famous for.
As you'd expect, each character has their own unique abilities that must be efficiently utilised to solve a range of puzzles. Switching between them is vital, with the emphasis firmly on teamwork and co-operation, particularly when playing local co-op multiplayer.
There are a few new additions, most notably the introduction of cover-based shooting sections where your characters are required to duck behind a conveniently placed wall and pop their blocky heads above the parapets to take out enemies.
Another new feature is the concept of using individual piles of bricks for multiple functions. In previous Lego games, stumbling upon a brick pile simply required you to hold a button to assemble them and instantly progress.
This time round, each set of bricks may have two, three or four possible uses. It's up to you to decide which one needs building first, before smashing your creation to make way for a new assembly which allows you to progress.
There are also an incredible amount of unlockable secrets and bonus content. Each level contains secret bricks and minikits, and replaying each level with new characters is actively encouraged for those intent on reaching the elusive 100 per cent completion mark.
If there's any criticism to be made, it would be with the flying and vehicle levels. Even the mighty Millenium Falcon feels floaty and wobbly to control and with no real way to fail these sections, there's no tension, risk, or reward.
It goes without saying that if you don't care for the previous Lego Star Wars games, you're unlikely to be converted to the light side of the force here, but fans of the franchise will be right at home.
Overall, Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens is decent game, taken to the next level by the amount of extra content, exclusive revelations and unapologetic fan service that it delivers. If you're a Star Wars fan, it's well worth checking out.
Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), All other consoles, PC, iOS
Publisher: Warner Bros Games
Developer: TT Fusion