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Lego Star Wars: The Video Game

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Traveller's Tales
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Action/ Platformer

Graphics & Sound:

In the 30-year history of the gaming industry, there have been both Star Wars games and Lego games. Star Wars games have ranged from “not-so-good” to “great” while Lego games have usually just been... well, to be nice... “really, really bad”. This makes the prospect of a Lego-based Star Wars game a dicey prospect. However, this didn’t stop Traveller’s Tales from doing just that; and the results aren’t as bad as both licenses would have predicted. In fact, the game is actually a nice nostalgic return to old-style mechanics and genuinely fun gameplay.

Remember those really cool product posters that came with Lego products when you were a kid? You remember the type: “real” looking backgrounds where Lego vehicles and figures went about their daily work. Lego Star Wars: The Video Game feels like a moving Lego catalog image. Environments are detailed and look like they came out of a standard Star Wars game rather than a Lego-based one. These environments provide a suitable playground for vehicles and figures that are 100% Lego. Figures animate with the stiff fluidness you’d expect from a toy, and vehicles are brick-for-brick representations of the “Star Wars” Lego line. Some elements in the background are made of bricks as well, which is usually an indication that you can interact with it, either by blowing it up or manipulating through the Force.

With the exceptions of Force Commander and, in some respects, Galaxies, sound has never been a problem in Star Wars games. Such is the case with the Lego-related game. All of the music comes directly from Skywalker Sound itself, so it’s about as authentic as “Star Wars” sounds can get. John Williams’ soundtrack is also here in full force. Unfortunately, all of the music is either from already released sources, so those hoping for a sneak peek of the “Episode III” soundtrack will come away disappointed.


Gameplay:

Lego Star Wars: The Video Game features one play style that is split up into two major modes: Story and Free Play. Story mode takes you through all three movies of the prequel trilogy and touches on some of the major elements of the trilogy. If you’re trying to keep yourself spoiler-free until May, it might be a good idea to either just play through the first two episodes and wait, or not even consider a purchase until the third movie comes out. A few elements aren’t delved into too deeply, but it’s enough to give the plot away.

Most levels are platforming areas that require both quick fingers and some problem-solving to complete. Each episode also contains at least one non-platforming area. In “Phantom Menace,” you race in the Boonta Eve Classic, while in “Attack of the Clones,” you pilot a Republic Gunship. I only wish there were more of these types of areas in the game since they’re actually pretty enjoyable, especially the opening sequence from “Revenge of the Sith.”

Although presented in a more comical way, the levels stay true to the story and don’t try to add in elements (something the SNES Star Wars games were famous for). At the same time, the story completely skips other elements of the story, giving the narrative a broken feel. It could be argued that elements like Anakin’s “aggressive negotiations” with the Tuskens or turn to the Dark Side might be a little too much for the game’s target audience, yet the game is also based on the audience already knowing these things happen. I could see leaving some of the darker “Episode III” elements out, but there are still some areas that would have made for great kid-friendly levels. For example, Anakin blowing up the Trade Federation cruiser or the bounty hunter chase from “Attack of the Clones” would have made for great levels. Adding these scenes would have helped to make the story more cohesive and would have given the game more length. As it stands, Story mode can be completed in a matter of hours. However, completing this mode is only the first step.

Free Play is where the game’s “play” element comes into place. After completing a level in Story mode, you can go back and play through it again, this time with your choice of characters. Who you use in Free Play mode is ultimately up to personal decision, allowing you to play with your favorite characters when you want. Once you have your main character, you’re assigned a “team” of characters that help you unlock the level’s secrets. Free Play mode involves going through previous levels and collecting a set amount of pegs and mini-kits, which allow you to build and collect mini-kits of several “Star Wars” vehicles.

Free Play adds a nice chunk of replay time to the game, which is great considering the relatively short length of Story mode. It’s only real failing is something that affects the entire game; once you’ve done everything there is to do, there’s really no reason to go back and do it again. As much as I enjoyed the game, I just didn’t find it compelling enough to play multiple times.

The real fun in both Free Play and Story mode is that a second player can join in at any time and take over the role as the second character. If your friend suddenly has to leave, they can pop out of the game just as easily as they joined, giving control back to the A.I. A player-controlled side-kick is preferable to the A.I.-run version since the latter isn’t much help. Characters with guns are usually a little more helpful and actually shoot in the direction of enemies, but for the most part they play a very defensive game.


Difficulty:

There’s no way to really “lose” in Lego Star Wars. Once your life runs out, you fall apart, lose a few pegs, and return to life. The forgiving gameplay helps lend the game towards a younger audience, but will make for a very easy experience for anyone older than 10. The real challenge comes from collecting pegs and mini-kits.

Collecting a certain number of pegs in each level unlocks pieces to a super kit, which unlocks a very special challenge later in the game. The number needed ramps up as you progress through the game, adding a nice challenge curve. Finding all ten mini-kits is an even more difficult challenge than collecting pegs. It’s usually easy to find eight or nine kits, but there’s always that one kit you’ll find yourself replaying levels multiple times in order to find. Much of this difficulty stems from the game’s fixed camera, so the harder to find ones are usually in the most obvious places, only off-camera.


Game Mechanics:

Lego Star Wars boasts 50 unlockable characters that you can play with. The number may sound daunting, but in reality, it’s not. All 50 characters can be split into four different archetypes, each with similar skills and abilities.

First are the Jedi, which include multiple versions of key characters like Anakin and Obi-wan, as well as B-team all-stars like Kit Fisto. Jedi can manipulate objects in levels and “build” objects with The Force. Sith function similar to Jedi, but come with the added bonus of being able to manipulate “dark” objects as well as normal items.

A majority of the non-Force users fit into the “ranged” category. These include Padme, Chewbacca, and various Battle Droids and Clone Troopers. In addition to packing heat, ranged characters can also use grappling hooks to reach higher areas. Droids, like R2-D2 and C-3PO, are your basic utility characters and are able to open certain doors. Rounding out the character types are what I would call the “useless,” or “limited use,” characters like Chancellor Palpatine and Jar-Jar. Some characters can’t do anything while others, like Jar-Jar, can at least jump higher than other characters. You’ll also come across hybrid characters, like General Grevious, who have both combat skills and high-jump abilities (making some of the limited use characters obsolete).

Lego Star Wars captures the feeling that LucasArts was trying to get with its Episode I release, Jedi Power Battles. It manages to stick with the general plot of the prequel trilogy, while bringing in some of the “fun” elements that were found in the SNES Star Wars games. It also manages to bring back two-player co-op action, something that has been sorely missed in this generation of games. The game is on the short side, so it’s probably more of a rental than a purchase (although “Star Wars” fans will probably want to add this to their collection anyway). Also, the Lego style of the game may seem too kiddy for some, but sometimes it’s fun to be a kid again.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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