Publisher: Traveller's Tales
Developer: Eidos Interactive
Release Date: April 5, 2005
I remember having every Lego model from the original Star Wars trilogy back in the '70s and '80s. Considering the fans who have made Lego models of the hypothetical "Missing Letters" fighters and the many of us who made Lego light sabers, the mixture of Legos and Star Wars in a game was assured.
Marketed as a kid's game, Lego Star Wars is essentially an action/adventure title that mixes hard combat and humor to appeal to adults At its core, Lego Star Wars is about collecting studs, the little cap Lego pieces. These are the "currency" of the game, allowing for purchase of new characters and cheats. Studs in Lego Star Wars' case are what scatter when an object is broken or when an enemy is defeated. Each stud has a different point value; for example, a blue stud is worth 1,000 credits, gold is worth 100 credits, and a silver stud is worth 10. Credits will vary, depending on how many objects have been broken, how many battles have been won, and how many times the player has been hit. Studs also help to fill the True Jedi Status Meter, which unlocks extra pieces of a Lego model.
Small plastic canisters need to be fetched in Lego Star Wars in order to unlock all of its secrets, and 10 canisters must be retrieved before a Lego Mini-kit Vehicle is available in the parking lot behind Dexter's place. Unlocking these vehicles gives a huge credit bonus in the process, but getting these credit bonuses are difficult. Although this is a "children's title," an adult may have difficulty while trying to locate some of these canisters; some missions must be completed multiple times to get the canisters. Free play mode allows the player to use the appropriate characters on levels which the campaign mode does not provide them. For example, in the first mission, only a protocol droid that is displayed on a particular door's panel can unlock it. This interesting way of backtracking and making secondary characters in the game useful is a great way to make a game replayable.
Combat has been kept simple with the standard ground and jump attacks. Each character has a defensive component if they have an offensive component, but some secondary characters have no offensive firepower and therefore must be protected by the others. The Jedi can obviously tear through a level, but do not expect astrodroids to do anything but squeak when blaster fire fills the air. Characters with the means can use Force powers to their advantage as well, causing Battle Droids to fly back and crumble under the powers of the Force. In addition, objects can be put back together again to help solve one of the game's simple puzzles using the Force. Insidiously, some puzzles require certain characters to access certain background objects that are only available to them if they are on the Dark Side. Aside from the normal fighting of easy-to-beat enemy after enemy, there are boss battles that ramp up the difficulty a bit.
Perhaps the best part of the gameplay is how scenes from the movies have been transferred into Lego style cut scenes. The story is based directly off the movies (I, II, III, and a hidden IV), but there is a healthy injection of comedy mixed in. Expect much of it to be tongue-in-cheek because we are talking about plastic building blocks here.
The control set could not be simpler for Lego Star Wars. The X button is for attacks, which take on that pre-programmed combo form when the button is pressed in succession. The A button is for jumping and can be quickly double-tapped for sky-high leaps. Mid-air attacks can be performed straight down either in a stabbing fashion or at an angle in a sweeping attack. Holding in X will hold a defensive stance, while tapping X in accordance to blaster fire will block the beams right back at your enemy. The Force is controlled via the B button and the thumbstick; holding B will start the Force process, and the stick can then be used to move the hovering object around the map. Holding in B will also unleash a Force Push on certain enemies. The few vehicles in the game are as simple as characters to control: the left stick moves the craft, and the X button fires a weapon.
Perhaps the best feature of the title is the ability for a second player to drop in or out of the gameplay anytime he/she chooses. A player will instantly enter the game when a second controller is plugged and start is pushed. Selecting "Drop Out" from the pause menu will return the second character to AI mode. When in AI mode, the computer-controlled character can be commanded at any time by standing near and pressing Y.
Lego Star Wars does a fantastic job of representing both entities in a way that is accessible for children. This title is even fun enough to play through for adults due to its hilarious cut scenes, respectable controls and interesting goals from mission to mission. The two-player drop in/drop out format is perfect for parent and child, and it even works well with two older kids just looking for another way to experience Star Wars. However, in an attempt to simplify things for the younger player, a major gameplay flaw developed that hurts this game from being great. This is a third-person adventure with no form of camera control, which wouldn't be bad if so much of the action did not occur on varying vertical planes. You're not able to look up, so sometimes the player has to be lucky when jumping in order to grab some studs or maybe even the all-important canister …
The graphics and audio portions of the Lego Star Wars game are excellent. The sensation of a plastic, blocky universe has been pulled off with ease due to the usage of colors, and character modeling that has been kept faithful to the actual Lego toy inspirations. Backgrounds are a mix of real space and plastic block, and are rendered and designed quite well. Animations are as expected for such disproportionate figures (the waddle is in full effect) but also look strikingly fluid and lively at times for hunks of plastic. Facial details are so simple but highly expressive, which can best be seen in the hilarious cut scenes.
The soundtrack comes from the orchestral arrangements in the movies, which is about the best in the industry. Some of the classic orchestral scores of the SW universe are included, such as the original Star Wars theme and the Cantina scene piece, along with a many of newer pieces from Episodes I through III. There is not much dialogue in Lego Star Wars, but the character noises, especially the droids, have been crafted with care. Sound effects are equally as great, but that's what we've come to expect from Skywalker Sound.
With such a low price point, Lego Star Wars is a necessary buy for any pre-teens. The faithfulness to the SW universe might be better than any game out there, kid title or not. Graphically, the game is a comical look on Lucas' work, but also strangely true to the original vision of the movies. The soundtrack justifies the purchase price. Camera controls do cause the player a little pain, but this is an all-around platformer for any gamer.
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