Lego Star Wars II
Let’s face it- It hasn’t been a good decade for Star Wars fans. The Phantom Menace, released during a golden age for the console era, started a landslide of shoddy games bearing the name so many geeks around the world held in such high regard. Attack of the Clones suffered a similar fate, and I’d rather not discuss the game that Revenge of the Sith spawned. While there were a few diamonds in the rough, the Star Wars video games were certainly a painful series of flukes that slowly chipped away at the souls of thumb jockeys everywhere.
But then something… wonderful happened.
Oh don’t worry about him, he’s ‘armless
The first Lego Star Wars did the impossible. It took the Prequel Trilogy and crafted something entertaining. For once, gamers were less preoccupied with thinking of creative ways of purging Jar-Jar from the history of celluloid and more focused on how the hell to get him to the next platform. The team behind Lego Star Wars, Traveler’s Tales, had created a game that was fun for Star Wars and Lego fans of all ages. But there was one nagging little problem… it was based on the prequels. Well, that’s no longer an issue.
Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy is everything the first game was, and more. The game mechanics are relatively unchanged, as are the visuals, but the original title had enough charm that this really isn’t too damning. You still start in a cantina, you’ll still go through three movies collecting studs to purchase characters and cheats. However, the levels are now significantly longer, and there are plenty of modes, including the returning feature Free Play, to keep you busy for a long time. LSWII has also made some improvements in character balancing. In Lego Star Wars, there was really no reason to play as a blaster character until the story mode forced you to- in the sequel, blaster characters can now build things out of Lego bricks, not just Jedi. Gunners also have exclusive access to some melee and dodge moves, which makes playing as them much more enjoyable. Another major change this time around is the way vehicle missions are handled. Instead of the StarFox-esque rail shooters, the air and space levels are now played from an isometric perspective, sometimes zooming in for a behind-the-back shot. Some players will welcome the addition of this extra layer of control, but others may be disappointed. The on-rails missions had a much greater sense of speed and intensity in LSW, while the flight missions in Lego Star Wars II may seem lifeless and dull in comparison. Co-op play was a much lauded feature in the first game, allowing for a second person to jump into the action at any point and also to leave without disrupting the flow of the gameplay. This feature is entirely intact in LSWII, although it is a shame that support for online play is still not available. However, these issues do not detract from the overall experience in any way. The game is still straight-up action with a few simple yet clever puzzles to break it up a bit.
Ok…own up…who farted?
Lego Star Wars II is also akin to the first game in its presentation. The graphics are practically identical to those found in LSW. Is that bad? Not really, considering how pleasing the first game was. What the game lacks technologically, it more than makes up for in style. After being defeated, characters explode into separate pieces and dump loads of studs for players to pick up. The animation is slick, and there are enough movesets to go around to make every character feel unique- for example, Chewbacca can rip the arms off of Stormtroopers. For the hardcore set, the game is worth picking up for the cutscenes alone, as there are some moments that will literally have fans falling out of their chairs giggling. Lego Star Wars II of course recycles John Williams’ brilliant musical score, and all the sound effects for weapons are ripped straight from the films. It may not pump out anything rivaling Doom 3, but it does prove that a game can be fun without being the shiniest looking. On all consoles, and PC, the game runs at a smooth clip and looks good, although the Xbox 360 version gets the benefit of a very attractive depth-of-field blur overlay that gives things a much more “next generation” look.
Overall, Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy is a great game. It manages to beat the original without changing too much of the formula, but unfortunately the new formula still has a few wrinkles that are less forgivable for sequels. Players will either gripe about or embrace the new vehicle missions, and polygon snobs will certainly find the 360 version hard to accept. In the end, though, LSWII crams a whole lot of single and multiplayer fun into a game built- no pun intended- around Lego bricks and lightsabers.
Nine out of ten