A short time ago, on a system not too far away, I played Lego Star Wars. Like a cruel Jedi mind trick, I find myself compelled to play almost any Star Wars game to come out… irregardless of how good—or bad—that the game might be. Luckily for you, my apprentices, I can tell you whether Lego Star Wars is indeed worth your 40 hard-earned credits.
Let me slip out of Jedi-speak and into reviewer mode. That's better.
Lego Star Wars is an action game that, at first glance, would seem suited best for young Padawans—as in the under-12 set. As the title implies, there are lots of Lego pieces to be seen here. Mace Windu's got that raised hole on the top of his head. Some obstacles are clearly pieces of Lego construction. If you can get by this, understand that the first walkthrough all of three episodes (based on their movie counterparts), and are willing to sacrifice seeing some minor spoilers from the upcoming Revenge of the Sith film (it's in here)… then Lego Star Wars might surprise you more than when you first found out that Darth Vader was really Luke's father.
Lego Star Wars is a third-person action game, with a few ship-flying sequences and minor puzzles thrown in. Each episode has a plethora of playable characters to unlock in order to replay each level and find hidden items, such as Lego capsules to put together some cool ship models and tons of Lego studs, which are like the nuts and bolts from Ratchet & Clank and are used for buying new characters and other extras.
The different characters have varying abilities. Obi-Wan will likely be used the most by players, as he can not only smite his plastic foes with his lightsaber, but can also manipulate objects via the Force and this is key to solving many of the game's puzzles. He'll create stairs, open doors, and be able to find hidden Lego studs and other secrets. Blaster-armed characters have grapples that can be used to reach certain areas. Young Anakin can crawl through small holes. R2-D2 and C-3PO can open certain locks. Yoda is a flipping, hacking beast. It's important to understand each character's abilities, because you'll be forced (no pun intended) to switch between them pretty often in the solo game. Two-player games alleviate the need to switch players somewhat.
The action sequences are pretty standard. Expect lots of hacking and slashing (or firing of blasters) as you take on a seemingly alarming number of enemies. There are some boss battles, and you'll have to use your noggin for some of them as brute force (there's that word again) just won't cut it. There are also a few flying sequences. These are fun, although not very difficult; however, the controls for these stages tend to feel a bit too loose and a few deaths may result. Granted, these stages are more of a diversion from the numerous action stages that the game throws at you, but the control issue is worth noting.
Average-skilled players can finish all three episodes within about 4-5 hours. Since having a character die only penalizes players by deducting Lego studs from their collected totals and the game allows unlimited continues, it's quite easy to get through the game in one sitting. The difficulty level is perfect for beginning players or children (or that significant other that doesn't play games well)… but the beauty of LEGO Star Wars lies in its replay value. The game invites multiple walkthroughs as there are multiple ways to finish many stages, based on which characters that you take along in Free Mode (which opens up after you complete a level once in Story Mode). As mentioned above, there are plenty of unlockables to be found and it will take some time to find enough Lego studs to unlock everything.
Each level allows players to "relive" certain sequences from the movies. Traveller's Tales, the game's development team, does a nice job bringing these sequences to life and adding certain extras to make them play out in game format. Players will have to chase down Darth Maul via extended sequences in the latter stages of Episode I before the ultimate showdown. Episode II contains unique takes within the droid factory on Geonosis. The best part is, despite the liberties that Traveller's Tales takes at times, it really does feel like you're playing through the movie and making the action unfold yourself. It's a fascinating level of interactivity that you just wouldn't expect from a game comprised almost entirely of Lego pieces.
You'd think that illustrating Star Wars with a bunch of Lego pieces would look mediocre, but it really doesn't. Darth Maul looks as mean as ever. You can see the progression from young Obi-Wan versus how he looks in Episode III. All of the characters, worlds, and ships look strikingly like their movie counterparts… even through the characters may be a bit smaller or have that token Lego hole on the top of their heads. The game moves along at a steady frame rate, despite a pretty good number of characters and/or ships on the screen at once. The game's cutscenes are indeed humorous at times, which shows the game's softer side. There are times when you will laugh out loud at a few of the scenes. The transitions from area to area within levels are also nice, as the screen wipes and other effects mirror the same transitions that Lucas uses from scene to scene.
In terms of sound, there are no voiceovers at all. There are occasional grunts or maybe a rare battle droid snippet, but that's about it. This isn't a bad thing, although LucasArts has been able to conjure up some convincing voice actors in the past. The sound effects, though, are authentic and pulled straight from Skywalker Sound. Combine this with the competent surround sound encoding that the game uses, and it sounds very sweet indeed. As with most Star Wars games, LEGO Star Wars is supported by John Williams' familiar scores. They sound as good as ever, and are generally in concert with the correct areas in the game. It is interesting to note that, for Episode III, pieces from the original Star Wars Trilogy are used. It's interesting to think about whether this is because the score for Episode III wasn't completed at the time of the game's production or whether this is just to keep at least some suspense regarding the movie, which is still over a month away.
Sure, LEGO Star Wars is easy. Sure, it looks like a game for kids. These things are undeniable; however, what else is undeniable is just how much fun that playing this game is, despite its appearance. The game's limited difficulty also makes it all the easier to go back and replay your favorite stages and find enough Lego studs to unlock your favorite characters to play with. There are also other secrets that the game has to offer for thorough players and the ability to play with a friend. It's a deceptively deep game in terms of replay value. My only advice—and I cannot be clear enough on this—is to understand that Episode III is playable and there indeed are a few spoilers that could detract from the experience when you go to see Revenge of the Sith in May. I only say this because, if you're interested in this game at all and reading this review, you've already got plans for opening night. Right?