Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens hands on and Q&A. Lego gaming beefed up with blaster fights and space battles

Plus we find out how to handle death in a game for the under 10s

So, Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Game: the hands-on review-cum-interview.

Now, Star Wars is a quite popular series of films. Lego? That's got a few fans. Gaming certainly remains a thing. But put the triumvirate together and you have some kind of super-concentrated form of pop cultural juice, the three parts combining to form a mega event bigger than the sum of its parts, like that robot ship thing in Power Rangers (which is also quite a hit, we hear, but has no part to play here).

We had a bit of a play, found we were crap at it, so spoke to its Lead Story Designer instead.

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It's fair to say that Lego games hit a winning formula with the original Lego Star Wars back in 2005, and have seen little reason to deviate from it since. It's platform-based fun for kids aged six and up, with bricks to smash apart, other bricks to build, puzzles, fights, and nobody ever really dying, because that would just be disturbing.

However, TT Games' The Force Awakens not only ups the ante in terms of graphics (on Xbox One and PS4, at any rate) and witty details, but also by adding more 'grown up' blaster battles and space dogfights. The latter, parents of a certain vintage will be pleased to hear, are quite reminiscent of Star Fox on the SNES.

We didn't get to see the blaster battles at yesterday's demo in the plush surrounds of the Bulgari Hotel, Knightsbridge, but they were described as "intense", with numerous enemies, plenty of interactive scenery, a cover system and dynamic camera moves. If they're similarly as kinetic as the dogfights they should be far too much fun to waste on kids.

Another major innovation is the ability to construct multiple objects from special Lego piles found in the game. Traditionally, you've only been able to construct one item from each. This means puzzles can be more sophisticated and the game less linear, especially when you add in the new flying and pew-pew elements.

As ever with Lego games, play is simple enough for a six-year-old to understand. Unfortunately, I'm not a six-year-old, so I found it quite hard, but the cross-generational appeal of the title is hard to argue with.

Meet the maker

Graham Goring is Lead Story Designer at TT Games and his quirky humour informs the feel of the game a lot.He explained the appeal of the games, not that you needed to be told.

"It's kids playing with their parents. It's a real privilege to be involved in something that people will look back on and think, 'that was a treasured memory from my childhood'."

Also interesting is the way the games deal with the more adult subject matter, including death, found in the games' source material. "Our cut scene guys have got very good at managing to service narrative by taking a character out of it, that honours the plot but doesn't scar the kiddiwinks. You don't really want children going, 'What's patricide, daddy?'"

And anyway, "They're Lego people. You can pull their heads off and not feel bad about it. Whereas if you do that with a human, ooh! You never hear the end of it."

Being told about the plot of the film in order to make the game is definitely a double-edged sword, however.

"Some of the writers were really hoping they'd be working on a cut scene in which characters were filing their tax returns or something. Anything that doesn't give away the plot. Because they wanted to see the film fresh, same as anyone else."

Keeping your mouth shut about a film's narrative is not as hard as you might think. It's just an inherent part of making these games, which Graham is used to having done nothing but Lego games for the past eight years.

"For a start, people really don't like spoilers… But luckily, they'd fire me into the sun if I did reveal anything, so it doesn't really come up."

As with other Lego film tie-ins, many of the Force Awakens cast came in to record dialogue for the game. "I love the recording sessions," says Graham. "I get to be a backseat director and also might sometimes - ahem - get a few items of memorabilia signed."

But what if an actor says no?

"I think people will be very surprised at the voice cast for this game… But if someone won't do it, we go for a soundalike. There are certain people who are effectively the 'approved' soundalike for particular actors. I've worked with THE Samuel L Jackson soundalike."

Out June 28 on Xbox 360 and One, PS3 and 4, Wii U, 3DS, PS Vita, PC, and for all we know, PC Engine, Neo Geo and Apple Pippin. Here's the trailer!

Duncan Bell
Duncan Bell

Duncan has been writing about tech for almost 15 years and fitness ever since he became middle aged and realised he could no longer rely solely on his boyish good looks. He used to be on telly loads, but an unfortunate incident put a stop to that, so he now largely contents himself with telling people, "I used to be on the TV, you know."
Pre-lockdown Duncan was widely regarded as the best-dressed man ever to work for T3 – admittedly not saying much. Post-lockdown he is looking forward to wearing clothes other than shorts and hoodies again very soon, assuming he can still fit into them. He currently writes about cycling, fitness tech that isn’t too heavy, and all things kitchen and home related.