There has been an awakening... of bricks.
LEGO Games have a very distinct pattern or formula that they use, and Star Wars is a huge part of how they created that formula, being the first set of games in the long-running franchise legacy. It's no surprise then, that with a new Star Wars film, TT Games would release their first new Star Wars game since 2011's LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars. What is surprising is that it feels remarkably fresh.
With each game, TT Games has pushed their tech a little a further, getting a little more out of their engine, adjusting the animations of environmental effects and creatures, and LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is no exception. Textures look better than ever, the environments and lighting are crisper and more detailed than ever before, and they've taken their Star Wars detail work to a new level, with context clues for minigames, like using Rey's macrobinoculars, written in Basic symbols that hang above the air. By the way, Basic is the universal written and spoken language in the Star Wars universe that everyone uses; an angular, blocky text that you can see on devices, like the screen in Luke's X-Wing that translates R2-D2's warbles and beeps into language he can understand in The Empire Strikes Back.
Oh, the minigames! LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens moves away from the standard set of games that had been developing since The LEGO Movie Videogame of using 1980's arcade-style games for hacking (as seen most recently in LEGO Dimensions) to instead use a visual matching game designed on the port that droids plug into, along with a stylized Marco Polo/hot-cold game using the macrobinoculars to hone in on breakable walls. In perhaps another play towards classic gaming, BB-8 could spin-up like Sonic and attack enemies by zipping through them.
The biggest addition to gameplay is the use of multibuild choices in certain areas. Multibuild is a feature where you have the option of using the same bricks to build different items. In some areas it's not a matter of preference, but order, as you have to build different items from the same bricks in to clear an area puzzle. In other areas it's more variable, like in the game's new firefight modes where a massive number of enemies is firing on you, and you can build different sorts of cover to hide behind while the enemies rain blaster fire on you. In the firefight available during the demo, one of the multibuild options created a personal shield generator, straight out of Star Wars: Battlefront.
Where LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens really shines is in the crafted attention to detail and storytelling, both which go hand in hand. There's an intense commitment to authenticity to the Star Wars experience. Each level begins with the Star Wars opening crawl, which developers assured us was dead on to the films, everything moving at the right speed, with the right font, and the right text aspect ratio. In one section, after bashing some defunct panels in the downed Star Destroyer on Jakku, you could have Rey assemble them into the carapace of a "Gonk" droid, which if you put it on as a handy disguise, you could walk around, occasionally saying, "Gonk!"
Speaking of, in the Jakku section of the game we got to demo, there was additional dialogue recorded for the game by both Daisy Ridley and John Boyega (as well as the sounds of the adorable BB-8), both of them clearly in the spirit of the LEGO games. The traditional humor showed through, during the escape from Stormtroopers at Niima Outpost, where the Stormtroopers' vacations were interrupted by having to apprehend the heroes, their commander saying, "Get them! And pack up our camping gear!"
In what was the funniest moment, preceding this scene was a cinematic of a pensive Kylo Ren looking down at the LEGO helmet of Darth Vader—promising him that he'd finish what he started—only for the scene to go on revealing his teenage Darth Vader fanboy room, with an Andy Warhol poster of different brightly-colored Vader Helmets, a Darth Vader alarm clock, and Vader bedsheets. Later in the next scene, a Stormtrooper was shown at Niima Outpost buying a sombrero. Then in the escape level, you end up fighting the same Stormtrooper still wearing the same sombrero. Similarly, if you shoot the volleyball net where two Stormtroopers are playing, they'll angrily join the gunfight.
Confirmed by Lead Story Designer Graham Goring, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens is also more comprehensive than the film, drawing from the novelization and comics to add in more material preceding the events of the movie. This includes sections like an acid level where C3PO loses his arm and gets a new red one, how Han and Chewie capture the Rathtars, and further adventures for Poe Dameron.
Remembering the disempowered Rey from Disney Infinity, I asked whether Rey could use a lightsaber in the game. Goring responded that not only could Rey use a lightsaber, but any character could, as they'd expanded character customization for weapons for all the characters. This adds to the general replayability of the game, along with using or mastering the 40+ vehicles in the game (including jumping on mouse droids and zipping around on top of them) and completed collections of mini-kits results in them building microfighters, miniaturized versions of the space vehicles that can be used in the levels.
Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens will feature 11 film levels, 7 new story levels, and five new hubs: Jakku, Takodana, Starkiller Base, D'Qar, and the Millenium Falcon. It will release on all current consoles and handhelds on the 28th of June.