If there ever was a game destined to draw the attention of the mainstream – the geeks, the young and the old – this it. Its Lego, it’s Star Wars, and it’s a video game. Surely things cannot get better than this.
From the moment the game was announced it has received what I’d tentatively call the most hype ever for a kid’s game. I suppose I should make it clear right away that this isn’t a game with a lot of depth. This is platforming, coin collecting and poorly implemented mini-gaming fun obviously designed to attract the younger market. Yet despite all of this, I and every other hardcore gamer that I know have been unable to stop playing Lego Star Wars.
The gameplay is very repetitive and not that complex or involved, with simple controls and very basic puzzles. Thankfully this repetitiveness only becomes apparent in a few early levels and occasionally in the “hub” level (a beautifully done version of Dexter’s Diner). Most levels are different enough from each other in design and required play style that the player won’t really notice the repetition. With each level you play you unlock more characters and more levels and get more points to purchase further unlockables, and if you do well enough, you’ll unlock mini-kits and super-kit pieces. This might sound too involved for many, but this isn’t the only gameplay mode. Freeplay is the second part of gameplay, where you have the ability to play through any completed level, using any unlocked character. Now, aside from the obvious novelty value of running around Naboo killing Gungans with Yoda, freeplay is there so you can reach the parts of the level that you just couldn’t the first time through. Whether it was because you were lacking a blaster, a force user, a droid, or even Jar-Jar with his super-jump, freeplay is almost the only way to complete all but the mini-game levels. To say that this adds a great deal of replayability is an understatement ? replaying levels is the only way to finish this game for the completists.
Adding another player to this mix is great fun. Playing with a friend huddled around your monitor is excellent, with the second human player allowing the game to progress far more quickly and efficiently. Not to mention the fact that the occasional bit of Lego limb-removing between friends is cause for hilarity. Two-player freeplay becomes even more chaotic and amusing: Yoda and Palpatine teaming up? Hell yes. The unlockable features aren’t that astounding, but do add a layer of “mischievousness” to the game. Want to give Padme a mustache and huge blaster? You can, but it will cost you a lot of “studs” (as they are so termed in Lego Star Wars). “Stud” collecting is the center of this game, and though it may get tedious, it isn’t strictly necessary to complete levels (though, it does help if you want to unlock everything). Death doesn’t exist in this game either. You don’t run out of lives. You don’t lose. You just sound off a satisfying “POP,” as your Lego limbs fly off and a few studs are dropped as a penalty (though if you are quick, you can rapidly reclaim most if not all of them). This makes the game very forgiving for both kids and adults alike, and given the frustrating jumpy-jumpy sections that pop up occasionally to mock my lack of jumpy-jumpy skill I applaud the developers for that choice.
Graphically, Lego Star Wars is fairly simple on first impressions. Given that it’s Lego, this isn’t surprising. It was disappointing to see that the environments themselves aren’t constructed from those most noble of toy blocks, but I’m guessing that would have been a pretty big task for the studio to put together. Characters however, look spectacular, with each being a standard Lego man, with some occasional alterations. Somehow though, emotion and character have been granted to these Lego men. Legs bend enough that they move naturally, but not enough to make you think, “Hey! That’s not Lego.” Faces are just the standard Lego men painted face, but the first time you see Qui-Gon Jinn raise an eyebrow at Obi-Wan, you’ll understand that emotion doesn’t require the Source engine. Vehicles are wonderfully designed with most of them recognizable as faithful reproductions of the Lego kits that you’ve seen on shelves (or are sitting, assembled, on your own shelves). The Star Wars universe looks fantastic in Lego and there are some pretty nice touches in there, using a lot of a high-end graphics cards features.
In terms of sound, Lego Star Wars sounds just like Star Wars. This is true of any Star Wars game however; John William’s excellent scores are included to accentuate the lightsabers, blasters, ships, and creatures. All that’s lacking are voices – there is no speech in this game. Everything is said in a mumbling “Sims-esque” language, which is very convincingly done in each character’s vocal style. Add this to the emotions shown by the characters and the Lego actors are outdoing many of their cinematic counterparts.
Overall, Lego Star Wars can be seen as a game for kids, but one that adults, especially Star Wars fans, are going to love as well. It’s addictive, simple and fun. It’s pretty, it sounds excellent and it will run on almost any system that has played a game in the past four years. Forget Knights of the Old Republic II, Battlefront 2 or Revenge of the Sith; Lego is the Star Wars game that you must play.