Publisher: Traveller's Tales
Developer: Eidos Interactive
Release Date: March 29, 2005
In the wake of the upcoming Star Wars: Episode III movie and game, you may you may rightfully be asking yourself:
Is Lego Star Wars for you? Heck, is it for anyone? What's the deal with it, anyway? Why did they bother? Why is it here? Why are any of us here? What is the meaning of life?
Good questions. In response to (most of) them, I present one more:
"Have you ever watched a Star Wars prequel movie?"
If your answer is yes, then you should play Lego Star Wars.
Never has a title game taken "Fun For All Ages" this far. Oh, the game may be marketed to children, and even the instruction book talks to the kiddies, but don't be fooled. This is a game that the entire family can easily enjoy without having that awful "un-coolness" stigma that most "family" video games have attached to them. Star Wars, after all, is one of the few things this world has that bridges generation gaps with ease, and it's easy to see that Traveller's Tales knew this when crafting this title.
Lego Star Wars is both what you would expect and what you never thought would happen. It's a hack-and-slash adventure game set in the worlds of the first three Star Wars prequel movies, with a twist: everything is made out of Lego blocks.
Yes, Lego blocks. Those little snap-together building blocks we all used to play with, and that have actually been used in Star Wars model kits for years now. Also, when I say everything is made of Lego blocks, I indeed mean everything.The characters, the scenery… I think even the lightsabers were based off of Lego set-manufactured pieces. The only things in this game that don't have their roots in a cardboard box are the blaster shots and the Force.
The game is incredibly easy to get into; much like the beat-'em-ups of old, a second player can join in at any time. (Why this is touted as some sort of innovative feature on the back of the box is beyond this old-head, but I digress.) One button attacks, one button jumps, one switches characters (more on this later), and one button activates special abilities if your chosen character has any. That's it. All that's required to play is an analog stick, those four buttons, and your wits.
The game has players free-roam through stages (though corridors often mark your path). There's no free camera, but the in-game camera is intelligent enough for you not to need one. Gameplay is usually your standard adventure fare; you and your team run around destroying everything in your path, and while doing so, must use all of your special powers to solve puzzles, fulfill various objectives, and make it to the end of the stage. There are times when your party can consist of six characters onscreen, all at once, with humans controlling up to two of them, and the others being controlled by surprisingly responsive AI. Players can switch between these characters at will to control their abilities themselves.
The experience can admittedly get a tad formulaic at times, but there's just enough humor and puzzling to keep things fresh. There are also stages that aren't just hack-and-slash; Episode One contains a playable version of the famous pod race, for example, and Episode Three opens with a space battle of epic proportions. Feel free to add to this a cast of tens, allowing you to play as bit characters and key story figures during normal sequences. You can also cycle through over 40 characters in free stage play (please note: Darth Maul vs. Darth Maul is possible), unlock extra weapons, and special powers. Hidden items and currency scattered throughout the stages make this possible, and all of these things in combination will ensure that you will be spending a good long time unlocking and enjoying all of the game's hidden surprises.
As mentioned before, the entire game is made of Lego blocks, and amazingly high-resolution blocks at that. On top of this, the designers of the graphics engine seriously know their Legos. There are many sequences when such creations are taken apart or put back together, meticulously, block by block, as if by a real person. The characters move as if they're made of plastic as well, but with just enough flexibility to be interesting.
It seems that for any Star Wars game to be a success in the sounds department, one simply needs to borrow from the stock stable of Star Wars songs and symphonies, and add the staple sound effects from the series. People have been doing this since the beginning of time for a reason — because it works.. Lego Star Wars is no different. You may be playing as and fighting against and navigating environments all made up of the blocks you used to tinker with as a kid, but your ears will be picking up authentic, nitty-gritty Star Wars through and through, from the first lightsaber swing to the last theme song.
Lego Star Wars is one of those games that needs to be played by everyone in their lifetime, if only for five minutes, just to see it in action. It's packed with loads of humor, decent gameplay, and probably more Star Wars fan service than any game bearing the franchise's name to date. As a bonus, if you've got a young'un in the house, this is a perfect purchase for them, and then some. Few games are able to get by through sheer force of charm; this is one of them.
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