Not by accident, the LEGO Star Wars video games are a lot like the physical LEGO Star Wars sets: expensive, nostalgia-tugging exercises in snuggling down with the iconic parts of our favourite adventures – and we all love them for it.
LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is a whistle-stop tour through all 9 core films in the legendary series, pulling together nearly 400 characters and more mechanics than a pod racing pit-bay to create a galaxy’s worth of vibrant, interactive sandboxes to explore.
It’s another in the long line of LEGO extended universe movies and games that manages to have a lot of appeal for both kids and grown-ups with a mixture of an almost perfect vibe recreation of the series it’s tying into and, ironically, a really loose story structure.
As an adult that knows the end of all the stories, it would be easy to skim The Skywalker Saga without really paying much attention, but it's skit-style reinterpretation of scenes – often done in just a few seconds – is so fast and goofy and genuinely funny that you’re hooked into seeing how they’re going to lampoon the next part.
But this works doubly well for kids since it's more grounded in the moment-to-moment gags than anything else, making it easy to drop in and out of and enjoy rather than demanding undivided attention.
The main jarring parts come from the sound-alike voice acting, which can be a little uneven in places, and where some characters have their famous lines paraphrased by different characters. Like it’s Emperor Palpatine that ‘reveals themselves to the Jedi’ on Tatooine in The Phantom Menace rather than Darth Maul, which can feel a bit weird when you get the sense they’re gearing up for the big memes and it’s just brushed past or skipped entirely.
However, hating sand that’s coarse and rough and irritating and gets everywhere gets a lot of mileage (as does the cantina theme) so if you’re allergic to memes that are nearing legal drinking age then be prepared, but if you’re looking for an official Star Wars property that acknowledges its place in online buffoonery, this is it.
With that said, the selection of what is and isn’t included is generally good: the lightning pace helps some of the weaker films focus on their action set pieces – we’re looking at you Attack of the Clones – and strip out the dumber and more controversial parts so there’s not even a whiff of midichlorians.
Although, on the topic of notable omissions, it really sucks that in a collection that should be celebrated for its completeness, the most popular current properties are carved off for premium DLC.
That The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda cost an extra £2.50 is sure to disappoint some new Star Wars fans and bemuse more than a few parents.
On the other brick, the combat refresh means this LEGO Star Wars plays better than it ever has: rather than mash a single button for every type of attack, you can now use all of the face buttons to create melee combos and blasters have a more shooter-like over-the-shoulder perspective.
This is a game primarily designed for children after all, so it’s all very floaty and assisted, but the screen-accurate sound effects and visuals do a lot of the heavy lifting to make fights exciting.
But just like the story sections, everything barrels along at such a fast pace that nothing outstays its welcome, transitioning between a frankly boggling amount of different mechanics for each different type of character.
Astromechs like R2D2 and BB-8 can grapple to high places or interact with special kinds of locks, some kinds of aliens can only be understood by multilingual protocol droids like C-3PO, whereas Force-sensitive characters can move objects, trick dim-witted NPCs into opening doors for them, or carve a hole through solid walls with their lightsabers.
Each different kind of character has their own unique uses on a team, and the majority of secrets and diversions within any given level are only accessible on a subsequent playthrough where your whole roster is unlocked and available to use.
So while you can burn through the basic storylines of each Episode in 90 minutes or so, there are literally thousands of collectibles to hunt down – most of which involve solving environmental puzzles to snag, so there’s a hefty amount of curated content on offer.
Then there’s a whole host of space battles to be had orbiting the various planets of the galaxy, as well as the terrestrial vehicle missions where you pilot everything from Anakin’s podracer to the Millennium Falcon.
The sheer amount of different systems means that some are inevitably better than others – the aforementioned podracing sequence feels a little bit on rails for instance – but again, any pain points are almost over before they start.
Really, LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is all the action from the Star Wars series, swaddled in the slapstick silliness LEGO has become known for in entertainment. While it’s not a 1-to-1 retelling and your favourite moment might have been left in the toy chest, it’s a knowing showcase of Star Wars’ place in pop culture – memes and all – in a deep, but accessible package.