Game Description: LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy is a comical take on the Star Wars Trilogy, the movies that revolutionized pop culture forever. LEGO Star Wars II follows the Rebel Alliance's battle to dismantle the Galactic Empire and rebuild a galaxy in pieces. From Darth Vader's pursuit of Princess Leia aboard her Blockade Runner to a showdown on the reconstructed Death Star, the game includes the family-friendly LEGO action, puzzles and humor that earned the original LEGO Star Wars such popularity and acclaim. Drop-in/drop-out feature enables friends to join easily and engage in multi-player action.
Okay, in my defense, I didn't realize that it was a children's game. I can't say whether it's a testament to Lego's enduring popularity as the world's greatest toy, or my own fundamental lack of maturity, but when I first looked at the box on the videogame store shelf, it didn't occur to me that Lego Star Wars could have possibly been made for anyone other than me specifically. Sure, all of the game's marketing, and even its manual, seems to be suggesting that this is aimed at children, but the game itself certainly doesn't feel like it. No, this feels like the ultimate Star Wars experience, made by obsessive fans that happened upon the revolutionary discovery that the only true way to express the majesty of Star Wars was through the intricate simplicity of Lego.
Lego Star Wars is primarily a 3rd-person brawler, where players run a variety of characters around levels themed after the three prequel Star Wars films, shooting at enemies with blasters and cutting them into pieces with light sabers. The main difference between this and all other Star Wars actions games, naturally, is the fact that nearly everything in the game world is constructed out of Legos. The second difference is that unlike most other Star Wars games, this one is actually a whole lot of fun.
The game is charmingly easy to jump into and play, probably by virtue of it being intended for eight year olds. The control scheme is so simple it could have been mapped onto an NES controller. Little more is asked from the player than to push in the direction of the enemy, jump over the occasional chasm, then press the attack button until that opponent has been reduced to component parts. The developers were obviously aware that some people just aren't good at jumping in three dimensions, so they removed death from the game. That's right—there are no lives, no continues, no restarting—it's just plain impossible to die in Lego Star Wars. Falling off a cliff or taking an excessive amount of damage is punished only by a loss of bolts (the currency of the game; they're used to unlock playable characters and various cheats), and even that isn't excessively punitive, as any bolts lost in death can be recovered by the partner character, assuming the game is being played in co-op mode. And the co-op mode is where the game really shines.
While all of the levels can be enjoyed in single player mode—the partner A.I. is extremely good at helping the player open all the necessary doors and flip all the two-person switches—the game was clearly meant to be played in cooperative mode. Primarily this is because of the sheer number of enemies players are asked to fight in each level. Two people can deal with the onslaught much better than one, because partner AI characters can't actually do damage to opponents. More importantly, it's just a great game to share with other people. I don't know many people who don't enjoy Star Wars, and this is by far the easiest that bisecting things with a light saber has ever been, making this one of the best games I've ever encountered for luring non-gamers into picking up a controller. The non-punitive nature of death in the game means that as long as one of the players is reasonably competent, levels can be beaten irregardless of the second player's skill level. Heck, even if my partner decided to cut me into little pieces, we can fight as long as we want and then pick up the level again whenever we've gotten the violence out of our systems. Since the game offers true drop-in/drop-out gameplay, the second player can even quit playing during especially difficult sections of the game, then jump back in when things have cooled down a bit.
All of the core Jedi powers are available here: jumping high, pushing things around, deflecting blaster bolts back at their shooters—which is easier and more fun here than it's ever been before. But the game's greatest innovation is the reimagining of 'The Force' as a primarily creative power. Since almost everything in the game is made out of Lego, instead of just moving things around, Jedi characters are actually able to take items apart and reassemble them in a new form somewhere else. This is a remarkably smooth mechanic, mostly because the game does most of the work for the player. Instead of having to manually toss things around a la Psi Ops, any items that can be manipulated using the Force are highlighted, and a simple button-press by a Force-using character makes them use the item in whatever way it can be used. The first time I tore a grate off the wall using the Force, then watched the pieces fly through the air and reassemble as a staircase, I knew that my fantasy life had been permanently rewritten. That's right, if given the choice, I would much rather be a Lego Jedi than a normal one.
The game isn't perfect however. It's broken down into three movies, with five or six chapters taking place in each. Unfortunately, one level per film is devoted to a flying sequence that's markedly less fun than the fighting levels, mostly because the game loses the Lego thread almost completely during them. While flying a pod racer or clone gunship, the game feels less like a Lego-themed game and more like flying a Lego-themed ship in a regular game. Another problem is that the game's simplistic fighting mechanic, while great for cutting through waves of clones and robots, just isn't complex enough in-depth enough to allow for satisfying swordfights. Most of the time actually hitting my opponent felt more like luck than skill. The game's designers seem to recognize this, and most of the game's boss battles focus more on using environmental weapons against the boss than actually fighting them with light sabers. This does make the two straight swordfights in the game pretty tedious though, and the final fight in the game between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader doesn't allow players to continue, making it incredibly difficult to beat unless a second player controlling Anakin is willing to take a dive (into the lava).
Even with those minor problems, this is a fantastic game. I don't know if it can be scientifically quantified, but there's something about the interchangeability of Legos that keeps even the stupidest character from coming off too badly here. I didn't mind the Jar-Jar presence at all, nor that of the otherwise loathsome child Anakin. Even the Lego version of General Grievous, so ridiculous in the Clone Wars cartoon, and so useless in the film, is actually quite cool here. He gets to actually fight Obi-Wan instead of just being murdered by him, and he's quite a blast to play when unlocked. The game's only major problem is that it's about the three worst Star Wars movies, and it's such a good game that, playing it before the film's release, it actually managed to convince me that Revenge of the Sith was going to be good. Of course, it wasn't, but playing the game again after seeing it, I found that, incredibly, my estimation of the game hadn't lessened any by association, as I'd feared it would.
This is clearly a game made by huge Star Wars fans, for huge Star Wars fans. Beyond that, though, it's one of the greatest casual games I've ever seen. It's not the longest game, and it's not the most complex game, but it succeeds at almost everything it sets out to do—which puts it head and shoulders above most other games out there, Star Wars-related or not.
After blasting through all three "films" in the Lego Star Wars game, I walked away from the experience feeling that these stubby, super-deformed and cartoony characters had just provided me with more entertainment and a deeper sense of satisfaction than George Lucas and the entire Skywalker Ranch could manage with their insanely powerful computer graphics and hundreds of millions of dollars.
Make no mistake—I consider myself a Star Wars fan, but I have very little love for the last three feature films. Soulless, stiff, and with an overriding focus on special effects, the magic of the Force has been stripped away on the big screen. Because of this problem, I was extremely surprised at how well this quirky little game managed to redefine the mockeries that are episodes 1, 2, and 3 into something worth spending time on.
Everything in Lego Star Wars is just so damn cute and friendly and that it's impossible not to like it, and by ripping out all of the unnecessary eye candy and insipid dialogue, the developers manage to condense the essence of the three films into one solid day of completely enjoyable gaming. However, while I do recommend the game, there were a few aspects that made me score it lower than Dan did.
My biggest complaint is that the developers obviously knew that the average player could rip through the entire disc in one day or less. As an attempt to extend playtime, there are peripheral objectives to complete. The one that got my goat required collecting 10 items in each level, necessitating exploration and thorough coverage of the landscape. While this doesn't seem any different than a lot of other games, the kicker is that most of these items can't be found with the characters available during the first time through the area. Repetition is not something I ever enjoy, and the fact that each level had to be played at least twice in order to unlock everything was pretty annoying.
The other big knock to the score was that the loose combat and enemies laid out in certain areas didn't seem very well-thought out. The problem isn't major, but there are times when there are too many enemies, and it's just about impossible to avoid exploding into a little pile of Lego pieces. I suppose this is nitpicking since the game is quite possibly the most forgiving in terms of dying and continuing that I have ever played, but I'm not a critic for nothing.
Those gripes aside, Lego Star Wars is a pretty fantastic little project as long as it's taken as both an homage and as a game that's aimed at and very welcoming of younger players. However, I would be willing to bet that people who are not kids or Star Wars fans will get significantly less mileage out of it, for sure.
In any case, it's funny how rearranging Lego blocks with the power of the Force feels like such a natural fit, but the developers are clearly on to something here. Lego Star Wars is easily one of the best games in the franchise to be released over the last few years, and quite possibly one of the best ever. Now, if only they would do the same thing with episodes 4, 5, and 6…
According to ESRB, this game contains: Violence
Parents: go out and buy this game for your children immediately. If they like Star Wars, they'll love this. Even if they don't like Star Wars, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better children's game anywhere.
Star Wars fans have no excuse for not buying this. It captures the spirit of Star Wars better than any other Star Wars game I've ever played (which is all of them).
Star Wars fans who hated the prequel trilogy still have to go out and buy the game, and here's why: The game's secret, unlockable level basically promises that if this game sells well enough, they'll make a sequel based on the original trilogy. So what are you waiting for?
Deaf and Hard of Hearing gamers are fine. All of the storytelling is done through silent, broadly comedic versions of scenes from the films, so there's no dialogue to subtitle, and no audio cues of note.