I have a complicated relationship with mobile gaming. I get a little too obsessed with whatever I start playing, only to get bored of the game after a few days and never launch it again. But it seems that one Apple Arcade app has successfully broken the cycle with an action-adventure title that has kept me continuously engaged by merging two of my favorite things: Lego and Star Wars.
Lego Star Wars: Castaways from Gameloft first launched in 2021, but it only landed on my radar a couple of weeks ago. The game takes place on an island planet designed entirely of Lego bricks, where you and other online players can level up and explore, or participate in small side quests by request of the locals. Otherwise, you spend your time transporting your character to iconic Star Wars scenes to repair corrupted simulations.
These in-game missions have the feel of other Lego Star Wars games such as Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, which I play occasionally on my Nintendo Switch. You shoot at random objects to collect coins (called databits), take down enemies, and revive as many times as you need to proceed. In the starfighter simulations, you fly through battle scenes to destroy TIE fighters and blow up targets. My favorite, obviously, is the Death Star trench run.
Yet Castaways offers a fresh way to revisit hallmark moments from the movies. By placing battle droids on an Imperial ship, I get to enjoy a mixed-up Star Wars universe you can’t find in any other game. Fixing the corrupted simulations means there is something where it shouldn’t be in the timeline, and it’s up to you to make things right to preserve history.
Along the way, there are plenty of easter eggs and hidden corners in the island. Despite having little to do with the main mission, I often found myself building sand castles, racing micro-fighters, chatting with the locals, shaking Lego bricks out of palm trees and kicking back on the beach.
What’s more, in other Lego Star Wars games, you’re more or less supposed to play as iconic characters. In Castaways, you’re at liberty to create your own mini-figure. Using coins I collected in the simulation missions, I upgraded my character — Vera Vordoc — with new helmets, outfits and more.
After playing for a few weeks now (mostly on long commutes) I’ve grown to feel a sense of escape on the island, plus a sense of belonging as I’ve leveled up to access conversations with more of the locals. It’s a world I look forward to jumping back into, even if I only have time for one mission.
The controls on the large screen of my iPhone 14 Pro Max are manageable, though if I were to play on my iPad or Apple TV, I’d probably look to get a real gaming controller. Since this is an Apple Arcade game, I’m able to pick up wherever I’ve left off between all my connected Apple devices.
Lego Star Wars: Castaways is free to Apple Arcade subscribers ($5/month or $50/year), and is part of a library of more than 200 games that can be played on iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple TV. In fact, 20 new games were recently added to Arcade, which is why I’ve been more eager to explore the membership-based gaming service. There are definitely some hidden gems like Castaways to enjoy, so if you haven’t taken advantage of the free month trial yet, there’s no better time.
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Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.