Review by Fastkilr

Reviewed: 08/28/06

The first enjoyable LEGO game?

Eidos Interactive capitalizes on two respective licensed properties in one shot, wrapping the spirit of Star Wars around their finger, and utilizing the LEGO brand in a charming way. The post-GameCube Generation is one deeply depressed by the very gaming franchises they support. Finally, a third party developer (Eidos) refuses conformity in the face of an evil empire at war. Once Activision’s Revenge of the Sith met the release date forced upon it by the film of the same name, I began to wonder why Developers of previous Star Wars games had to concern themselves with keeping so close to their source material. LEGO Star Wars is proof that the genre of Fantasy is most appealing to its audience when realism is no longer in-tact.

Loosely burrowing plot devices from The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith, LSW features all the major conflicts, characters, and planets, even making room for some of the lesser ones. Familiar scrolling text precedes each scene in Story Mode. These scenes are under the player’s control, permitting unlimited lives so the player cannot influence the storyboard in any way George Lucas didn’t intend on. The length of time you spend on each stage differs drastically. Episode I takes nearly one hour to complete, where as Episode II & III are shed into a fraction of that time.

The central cast of characters consists of Jedi-Knights, seemingly expendable people with guns, or Droids. Somehow Anakin Skywalker also slips into the mix, harnessing the ability to fall down garbage chutes. Two hours later and Anakin Skywalker has evolved from a harmless infant, into the deadly Darth Vader. As long as they’re wielding light sabers, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn are a force to be reckoned with. Persistent button mashers, a gaming nirvana calls your name! As the repetition of hitting the attack button will result in a bullet-deflecting swing of your light-saber, and also an offensive attack, at the same time. Droids are primarily used to unlock specialized doors. They had to add a slew of unfortunate door-opening puzzles just to justify the existence of the gun-touting characters, and those damned Droids, who sit listlessly on the sidelines the whole game, doing absolutely nothing.

In Multi-Player, my main complaint is that one player is always forced into being the unlikable character. This is fixed by playing Free-Play mode, but the action just doesn’t feel right when the two of you aren’t the same character. Namely, if your character is enhanced or unique in any way, your friend is likely to be sitting out, waiting for the ever-exciting opportunity to unlock a door for their ungrateful friend to pass them by.

As uneven as the battling portion of LEGO Star Wars is in nature, not everything in the game has direct priority on destroying large troops of Sith scum. In fact, quite a few linear puzzles have been injected into the game, with the prize either being a one-way exit from a recognizable Star Wars location, or access to a plain balcony you may’ve disregarded. Whatever the puzzle, they are all solvable and aren’t anything worth seeing twice.

Interference from invisible walls and a collection of character glitches make otherwise solid controls into unnecessary work. Had the LEGO pieces played a more important role in the game, there could‘ve been more atmosphere. Controlling LEGO-pieces with the force, a Jedi can move the object from the original location to a pre-destined spot on the level; this usually allows you to stack LEGO pieces and reach locations that aren’t accessible otherwise. Towers of useless LEGO pieces will be your sort of makeshift platforming device through most of the game. Don’t worry though, it’s all a very enjoyable experience. The downside is that it’s mostly used to reconstruct LEGO pieces which seem broken and scattered all over the levels, for some reason. Don’t get me wrong, LEGO Star Wars is an excellent attempt at innovative gameplay for a mass-market, but who would want to experience the magic of LEGO blocks, with Jedi powers, when a human without the aforementioned powers is capable of much more spectacular designs?

Considering the repercussions for dying (or the lack thereof), it is more tempting than not to run right through a good number of LEGO Star Wars’ levels. I suppose this would seem less painful, since large-scale fights are hideous affairs in this game (several teammates will be killed unintentionally in most battles), and there’s really no punishment for death, so being on the receiving end of a few blows is all fun and games. However, the whole title isn’t some phenomenal Light Saber-adventure game. The appeal of LEGO Star Wars falls squarely on variety instead of solid polarity towards one subject matter or another.

Each character in the game has individual perks. I trust that characters can be labeled by their actions/weaponry. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are both extremely powerful Jedi Warriors, Anakin is useful for solving puzzles that require a small party member to climb through a ventilation system, R2D2 and his robot cronies can unlock doors for you, or reach previously inaccessible locations, while long-ranged weaponry is reserved for characters such as Padmé.

Starting with Obi-Wan Kanobi and Qui-Gon Jin jetting into a Separatist space station, we find ourselves hopelessly falling for adorable LEGO blocks, as they re-enact key scenes of The Phantom Menace. Progression through each stage requires various maneuvering. Character-swapping on the fly is suggested, although the CPU AI works as a teammate, if you‘re without good friends. Convenient for younger gamers, there is no way for the gamer to lose, in LEGO Star Wars, although they will be deprived of their “Studs” which are primarily used for decorating the HUB level known as “Dexter’s Diner”, with useless junk and filling it to the brim with non-obligatory characters.

Each “Episode” is split into six levels. Throughout these levels, constrained areas (for example, a plaza) will contain enemies, opportunities to complete puzzles, Stud-ridden bushes and LEGO pieces, and a small doorway to the next area. On the way through each area, we find one of the biggest inconveniences in LEGO Star Wars; the game features one of the nastiest cameras on this side of Tatooine. Although the camera is irking, it’s out of your control and only sometimes will it not allow for you to see exactly what you need to be focusing on, there are only a few instances where it prevents you from correctly navigating your character through the levels. Otherwise, the game runs fairly smooth. AI seems driven with logical way-point frame of mind, often times hinting you in on puzzles you may otherwise miss due to poor judgment or hap hazardous platforming

LEGO Star Wars can be completed in an incredibly short span of time. Persistent gamers interested in collecting everything possible in their games are either setting themselves up for a rough time, or will be enthralled. In any case, that’s not me, so I can’t rightly judge how expansive the game is once you’re prowling the ins-and-outs for LEGO pieces called Studs. I did manage to unlock the majority of the available content, completing a good amount of levels with “True Jedi” status (achieved once you’ve collected the required amount of Studs in a level, which is gauged by a bar, increments symbolized with coins). Without intentionally furthering myself with the collection aspect of LEGO Star Wars, I still found a lot of pleasure in completing the stories of the latest films.

Beyond the on-foot hack and slash levels are a breed of entertaining attempts to induce a level of variety into the game. These levels either click together like a LEGO piece (brilliant, I know), or they fall apart like your Death Star model in the hands of your little brother. One level I enjoyed thoroughly had you pod racing three laps in the sands of Tatooine, while another gave flight to the opportunity of a space mission. The ability to work yourself through sections of every level, respawning very close to the place you died, without any consequence (aside from losing some Studs), lightly fractures the appeal of LEGO Star Wars; though all age groups should find it to be enjoyable.

The game’s music was composed by the legendary John Williams, all of it being very fitting for a Star Wars adventure. The sound-effects are entertaining enough and the voice acting encompasses the reason people will buy this game: the characters are simply adorable.

Despite its camera conflict, being based on two stale franchises, and some awkward or uneven gameplay, LEGO Star Wars is a humorous take the George Lucas masterpiece. Fortunately, Star Wars in LEGO form translates a whole lot better to video gaming than the more realistic counterpart (that awful Revenge of the Sith game). Across the board, LEGO Star Wars is a product of superb presentation, Eidos flexing their ability to make impressive albeit linear titles with magnificent gameplay.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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