Publisher: Traveller's Tales
Developer: Eidos Interactive
Release Date: March 29, 2005
Traditionally, Star Wars based games have taken themselves and the subject matter rather seriously. From the space-based flight simulators of X-Wing and TIE Fighter to the first person action of Jedi Knight or the more recent and gritty Republic Commando, Star Wars games have, by and large, been all about creating a serious experience in George Lucas' universe.
I knew this was going to be a different kind of Star Wars game when in the very first room of the game I used The Force to make a bunch of chairs line-dance to the famous Cantina song.
Your reaction to that line should give you a good impression of how well Lego Star Wars will work for you. While it can technically be played simply as a straightforward action platformer and you could presumably just race through the levels of Lego Star Wars light saber-slashing wildly at anything that moves, using your Jedi powers to deflect blaster bolts and all the usual things we come to expect from Jedi, this game becomes a lot more engaging when you openly embrace the fact that it's goofy as heck. It's not real sorry about it, either, and I frankly can't think of a reason it should be. It lost all claim to being a serious title when it put brightly smiling yellow-headed Lego people in the lead roles.
Lego Star Wars will roughly follow the plotlines of the new movie trilogy, the Episode 1-3 block. For a lot of people who aren't Evil Internet Pirates (or, more plausibly, who haven't gone to see a movie in the theater in a while), this will be their first look at anything related to Episode 3. Before I started playing with it, I thought that might be the biggest draw this game had to offer.
Instead, I was surprised and rather pleased to find that Lego Star Wars, while it is a game that's clearly suited strongly to the "ages six to eight and up" crowd, is a good bit of fun even for the older player. With a younger sibling or the like and the co-op mode, you can have a good time, and if no one's looking, you can get away with playing it even on your own. Go ahead. No one's gonna tell.
So what are the gameplay modes like? The preview build contains one level, the daring escape Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon make from the Trade Federation ship at the start of Episode 1, and you play it in two ways. In the standard game mode, you follow the movie storyline, with a few little twists and deviations for comedy or gameplay value. (For example, I neither remember the part where the Republic pilots literally get their spaceship shot out from under them and hovered in the air blinking before dropping like a, well, brick or the part where Obi-Wan darted off into a side room mid-escape to activate a button-pushing puzzle and grab some secrets.) You're not going to be following along movie-perfect with the films here. What you're trying to do is collect little Lego pegs for some reason, and they come flying out of everywhere as you travel the corridors of the ship. It remains unclear what their purpose is, either for just keeping track of your score or for purchasing secrets in some shop later in the full game.
You're always going to have two characters on the screen, even if you're only playing the single-player mode, and you can toggle between them at a touch of a button. Fighting through the game as a Jedi lets you experience one of the coolest things about Lego Star Wars, which is the fact that the entire world is made entirely of Lego blocks. Yeah, that's hardly a shocking revelation, but it takes on a new significance when you discover that the Force can yank those Lego structures apart and rebuild them. Suddenly, what was a door becomes a staircase, or what was a loose jumble of blocks is reconfigured into a bridge spanning a gap.
The other mode available is "Free" mode, which lets you play with this game like a kid playing with action figures. If you decide you're tired of playing with the Qui-Gon character, you can tap a button and swap him out for someone else. This mode seems more for fun, as it makes puzzles simple (Need a droid to open that door? Tap the "change" button until you have one.) and combat a snap. (Fighting something that needs more punch? Surely someone in your bag of tricks has a high-powered blaster.) With the full game including more than 30 characters, it's pretty clear that this mode could be amusing for a while. Just in the build, we got the two Jedi, some droids, a few characters I don't know who pack blasters, Young Anakin, and Jar Jar. Jar Jar, for the record, doesn't appear to have any abilities besides the power to jump high, but it is fun to parade around as him, even more so if you're parading him straight into a patrol of war droids. "Oh no! Meesa gonna die!" Bwahahaha.
So how are the graphics in Lego Star Wars?
Well, they're kind of blocky.
My editor is now on her way to kill me in my sleep. Ahem.
The world in Lego Star Wars are made entirely of Lego blocks. I can say that, but it doesn't really convey the realization you get that, if you could study the rooms of the game from different angles, you could probably build these sets right in your living room. Of course, it'd take more blocks than anyone could afford, and half of them would end up in the vacuum cleaner bag, so it's just as well if you don't try. For the most part, everything looks like it's made of plastic and that's a good thing, bright and shiny. It matches well with the visual aesthetic of the futuristic world of Star Wars. The Jedi capes flow like real cloth and the light sabers strike an interesting visual that I can only describe as "plastic neon tubes." My main objection is that occasionally people like Lego Jar Jar don't quite look right, because of the inherent coloration and scale of Lego characters. That's a nitpick, though.
Audio just plain sounds like Star Wars. While the credits don't list it, I would theorize that Traveller's Tales got access to the Skywalker Sound audio vaults, with all that that implies. The music is, of course, the classic John Williams score and all the swooshy swishy light saber sound effects and the crisp chirp of blaster fire are in place.
Lego Star Wars isn't perfect, and I do have some doubts. The preview build was both short and easy, and if there's not a lot of variety in gameplay, this could be pushed back down to "kid game" level. The thing is that right now it's a really awesome kid game. If I had this when I was a kid I would have spent way less time building malnourished rainbow-striped buildings and more time blowing up Legos with blaster shots. I also note that the short trailers that play before and after the preview show some space levels and some driving levels, and I'm worried about how those will control. On the whole, these are mild complaints and I'm honestly looking forward to how things will turn out when this sees release. Quite an achievement for a bunch of blocks.
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