Lego Star Wars
Kids these days, they never had it so good.
Yes I know - thatís about as corny as you can get. Generations are always taunted by generations gone by about how easy their life is compared to when they were kids and, to some extent, itís always true. When I was growing up back the 70s, my elders frightened me with tales of WWII rationing, massive unemployment and breadline poorness. Iím not prepared to go that far but I will tell you this; the world of the 70s was a very different place to live in than these maddening times. We didnít have the internet, we didnít have mobile phones, we didnít have cable TV and we didnít have video let alone video games Ė all that stuff came later. What we did have was Star Wars, and we also had Lego. That was plenty to keep us going.
Of course, we didnít actually have Star Wars Lego as that was quite literally decades away, but we made the best of what we had. Hand-me-down kits that your older sister used to build sweet little houses soon became makeshift Millennium Falcons, big fire station kits quickly became AT-ATs and old-school Lego cars with bendy doors doubled up as X-Wings - no problem. The secret Rebel base is where? Dantooine? No Lord Vader sheís lying, itís actually under my Mumís sofa.
When Lego and Lucasfilm reached an agreement in mid 90s (to coincide with the theatrical re-release of the classic Star Wars special editions), millions of 20-something Star Wars fans across the globe rejoiced. Finally we get to build a Lego Tie Fighter that actually looked like a Tie Fighter and lightsabers actually looked like lightsabers, not repainted brooms with their handles broken off. All in all life was good. In fact, it came as no surprise to me that when I first clapped eyes on Lego Star Wars Ė the video game Ė at Gamestars Live last September, the cordoned off area was populated only by adults reliving their childhood while the children theyíd bought with them sat at the side, bored. ďDad, can we go and queue for Halo 2 now?Ē I donít think so.
If you don’t think this looks cool, there must be something wrong with you.
So after all this waiting around, is the final product any good? Well, the first thing that knocks you for six when you see Lego Star Wars playing is the look. I canít for the life of me imagine the developers doing a better job of achieving the Star Wars Lego look in a million years. Itís spot on and goes a long way towards making the playing experience deeply satisfying Ė that and the wonderful Lego feel to the characters. If you, like me, only need to look at a little Lego man holding a lightsaber for a big grin to appear, ear to ear, across your face, then the game will do the same for you from start to finish. Itís wonderful, they plod around the levels moving just like you imagine Lego characters would if they were alive (if I can get away with saying that without sounding totally crackers), although I admit the spot-on Star Wars music accompaniment might be a major influence on that sweeping praise. That timeless orchestral movement engulfs you completely and its punctual use is actually one of the most appropriate uses of the Star Wars score Iíve ever heard. Wow Ė as you can probably tell for true Star Wars nutters the start of the Lego Star Wars experience is quite overwhelming.
The game itself is an arcade action adventure title which has you play through key scenes from the first three movies (the prequels sadly, not classic Star Wars) as the main protagonists in their Lego form, battling against the droid armies of the separatist union. At the start of each level two characters are available to play (although you can play it one player with your mate under the control of the computer if you really have to) with their various skills, but more characters become available as levels progress. Accordingly, with more characters come more skills which you must learn to utilise to progress. For example, the first level starts you off as Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon Ė both Jedi with lightsabers as their main weapon. The buttons work thus; ĎXí is draw you lightsaber and attack (producing a not unexpected three hit combo if hammered), ĎAí is jump (although Jedis can jump higher with a double jump) and ĎBí is use the force Ė more on that in a minute. ĎYí is switch player, and this is one of the neatest tricks of the game. Running up to a friendly character and hitting ĎYí switches your control over to them while your character is taken over by the computer. This is immensely satisfying as several different characters have different and unique ways of getting to hard to reach places.
R2-D2’s always handy to have around.
Jediís use the force to manipulate objects, translated in this as Ďmake things out of a pile of bricksí or Ďmove big blocks aroundí. As you move objects will glow indicating that you can use the force on them and at this point you hold ĎBí. Effects are context sensitive - sometimes you move an obstacle, sometimes build a bridge out of rubble, sometimes you just open a container and tonnes of Lego studs come out (yes - collect the studs, buy stuff between levels). So far so good, but the Jedi arenít alone with their unique gifts. Take Padme and the guard captain sidekick whose names eludes me; they both have blasters as their main weapon (thrash that ĎXí button!) and ĎBí triggers a grappling hook which works wherever you see a red swirl icon on the floor. They canít double jump like the Jedi though, so the grappling hook is the only way to get to higher places. On the few levels that Anakinís involved youíll find your self taking advantage of his ĎBí skill of jumping down shafts to get to hidden areas, or if R2ís around you might find the little booster rockets in his feet handy for jumping across gaps. In fact, some of the better levels have parties of like six with you and your mate controlling two and youíll end up frantically switching between characters to progress. Canít get to that high switch unless I switch to Padme. Must use a lightsaber equipped Jedi to smash open that shaft then switch to Anakin to jump down it. Must switch to C-3PO as heís the only one who can open that door. Can only double jump up that gap if youíre a Jedi. Oh, or Jar Jar, but we try not to talk about that.
Anyway, itís loads of fun, but it does have its faults. For a start with, this is a kidsí game and the difficulty reflects the target audience. Youíre gifted with unlimited credits, meaning youíll always eventually get past whatever bit you are stuck on, sooner or later. Sadly, this also goes a bit against the game as each movie is broken down into six levels and you only have three movies here, so you do the math. The droids never really pose any threat, especially when you play as Jedi, so you often find yourself just wading through all the droids then working out where you have to go next and with which character. I suppose you could even say itís quite repetitive, but then again what isnít everything these days? This is Lego Star Wars hack-and-slash in the same way that most FPSs are run-and-shoot and driving games are drive-left-right but, God damn it, it looks so good and feels just right. The lightsaber crackles, the droids march forward (ďRoger, Roger!Ē) and you charge, just as the music kicks in, as fast as your little Lego legs will carry you. Kids these days, they never had it so good.
Even Yoda gets in on the action.
Itís not all hack-and-slash though, there are some infuriating racing levels. Actually thatís harsh - theyíre infuriating and very funny, which Iím sure sounds like a contradiction in terms but hear me out. Take the Pod Racer level in Episode 1. You and your mate (you shouldnít be playing this alone, itís not half the fun) play as blue and green Anakin in his Pod Racer(s), but rather than split the screen you share the same and are kind of joined at the hip by an invisible elastic band. If you steer hard to the right, he pings across with you and vica-versa. You need to communicate and think as one to get through it, otherwise you end up swerving hard to the left, say, missing a boulder but dragging you mate into it with that elasticness I told you about. At which point you obviously both blame each other for crashing and tension mounts, but you try it again straight away because thatís the kind of game this is.
As you play through each level you collect a number of Lego studs which you can trade in between levels at Dexterís Diner. The Diner (the one from Episode 2 where Obi-Wan goes to get information) is the hub of the game and, charmingly, all the characters youíve played with so far wander around there. Also, using the studs youíve collected you can buy special items (moustaches are cool) or even buy more characters to play as. Yes, you can go back and play the battle of Geonesis as Darth Maul and Jango Fett as the good guys if you like, but there are more subtle ways to use this replay ability. On each level, collecting 10 white Lego capsules reveals unlocks a mini Lego kit outside the Diner for you to go and have a look at between games. Yes itís not much, but it teases you Ė playing through the first level youíll notice many shafts that Anakin could get down but you couldnít, or platforms that Jar Jar (sorry, I mentioned him again) could jump up to but you canít. When those characters become available you can head back there and sort it all out Ė collect all the goodies. This is where the time dribbles away, replaying levels with other little Lego dudes can become quite addictive.
The battle for Geonosis is a bit bonkers. Thank God the Jedi are on our side.
Not much more to tell you actually. The drop-in-drop-out nature of the two-player game is pretty cool Ė hit start and your character can switch to computer controlled whenever you like, meaning youíll never need to pee yourself while playing games ever again. I thoroughly recommend you donít go, however, as one of the other big let downs of this title is the buddy AI Ė it sucks. When youíre not playing as them, the Jedi just stand around. R2 and C-3PO arenít much use and wonít think to unlock a door or something without you switching to them and Padme and Amidala (thatís his name) arenít exactly what youíd call trigger happy. Oh, and I canít tell you anything about Episode 3ís chapters in the game yet because Iím saving myself for the movie. Well, thatís not true actually, I had a peak at the first level and it was a space battle on rails using the Pod Racer engine, but with spectacular visuals to match. I canít waitÖ
So yes, itís fun, charming, addictive in a kiddy way, and a bit too short. But itís very Star Wars, so thatís alright then. Naboo, Tatooine, Kamino, Kashyyyk and Geonosis are all represented beautifully here but letís face it, thatís not what we really want to see. Tatooine, the Death Star, Yavin, Hoth, Bespin and Endor are what we all really want to see. Oh please, please let those guys over at Travellerís Tales be secretly working on a classic Star Wars Lego game. PleaseÖ
Eight out of ten