LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game
What you get for your money are the first three films (including the imminent Episode III finale), rendered entirely in LEGO. All the characters, all the fights, all the battles, all the action. From young Anakin flying podracers in Episode I, to the massed Jedi fighting the droid army in Episode Il's arena, to... well, let's not spoil any of the Episode III action. Not every scene is there, but enough of the story gets played out to get the basic gist across. All with sufficent doses of LEGO humour to keep things moving. Mostly the game is played out on foot, with occasional flying/ riding sequences being used to break the pace up. You take on the personalities of various characters, usually with an Al partner in tow, and with the option of switching between roles at will through a sort of mind-swap affair. This is a mechanic that lends itself to various puzzles and situations throughout the game, such as doors require you to momentarily inhabit the servos of R2-D2 to activate, or objects need to be manipulated with the Force by Obi-Wan. At all times you're pretty much battling through wave after wave of bad guys in a manner similar to the old Golden Axe style, either lightsabering their limbs off, blasting them to bits, or using the Force. All the while you're collecting 'studs' and exploring the meticulously crafted world for hidden extras.
Other than the brilliant sense of humour on display - the developer really playing with the whole concept of seeing beloved Star Wars characters in toy form, even to the extent of making Jar Jar Binks seem acceptable - one of the best aspects of the whole game is this concept of collectability. As you unlock levels, you're rewarded with key characters to use in Free Play mode, the part of the game that lets you revisit completed levels with different characters to find hidden bonuses.
Each level contains hidden LEGO bonuses', mostly building bricks for various Star Wars vehicles. As you build your collection you can examine your hard-won gains in the midlevel cantina' holding area.
The other key aspect is the drop-in/drop-out nature of the two-player game. Because each level sees you playing with two or more characters, simply plugging in a second joypad (and joypads are really essential for getting the most out of the thing) and hitting P2 Start lets you play in co-op mode. It works a treat too, especially for some of the more climactic boss battles such as the one with Darth Maul at the end of Episode I.
There's absolutely no doubting that to play, LEGO Star Wars is a blast. The kind of game that slaps a big, dopey grin on your face from the moment you start, keeps it there throughout and leaves it there for a good few hours after you finish. Except that the grin actually lasts longer than the game does. Yeah, that's right, you can see what's coming as clearly as if it were wearing a great big sign above its head. A flashing sign with neon lettering, followed by an even bigger sign pointing out the first one's existence just to be sure you don't miss it. I hate having to write it. You're going to hate having to read it. But it's unavoidable, so we'd better all just grit our teeth, get through it as quickly as we can then meet on the other side for a quick debrief and a pint to console ourselves. Ready? Here goes: as much as we all absolutely love the concept at work here, as well as the execution, the sheer fact that from an actual gaming perspective there's almost little (if any) proper challenge and that you can feasibly complete the whole game - including bonuses - in less than a day simply has to count against it. Hence the lack of any shiny award logos anywhere on these three pages.
Jedi Mind Bricks
It's a ride, pure and simple, which is no bad thing, but at 30 of your English pounds, it's a hell of a steep price to pay for such a limited amount of fun -however joyous that fun may be while it lasts.
However, we're not going to leave it there. This is a message direct to Traveller's Tales, to Eidos (or whoever owns them by the time you read this), to LEGO, to everyone involved with the game - YOU HAVE TO MAKE THE NEXT THREE CHAPTERS. Have to, have to, have to.
LEGO Star Wars is simply the best damned gaming concept we've played in this godforsaken industry since time began. But - and it's a big but, a huge but, the kind of a but that takes up two seats on the Tube and still presses uncomfortably against your thigh whenever the carriage jolts - please, please, please don't feel as though you need to dumb things down for kids. Kids are sophisticated these days, more than most of us. Kids are smart. Kids want to feel like grown-ups. Kids know where it's at, while most of us are still left wondering what exactly it' is and why we can't get a more comfortable version with lower-back support.
Lego Of Your Feelings
So, just to recapwhat we're saying. Make the damn sequel. Episodes IV, V and VI (you know you already are), but expand those horizons. Don't change the style - we may already have mentioned once or twice that the style's perfect. Just make more of it. Make it harder, more of a challenge, more of a game. Add some multiplayer modes beyond two-player co-op, include more of each film in there, really play with the whole LEGO/building bricks/Force thing (no pun intended). We're not exaggerating when we say that you came very close to making one of the best games of all time here, Traveller's Tales. Very, very close. And you've still got one life left. For god's sake, don't throw it away.
It Could Have Been Even Wonderfuller...
Lucascorp is pretty touchy about unauthorised usage of Star Wars intellectual property and all, but surely a bonus area where you can buy boxes of bricks and/or blueprints and then build whatever takes your fancy might have been nice? There's very little missing from the LEGO Star Wars experience, but some multiplayer deathmatch action to accompany the two-player co-op could have worked too. Something along the lines of old Dreamcast multiplayer combat classic Power Stone? We moan about games lacking co-op modes for years, now we get one and start asking for competitive modes. No pleasing some people.
Good Things Come To Those Who Wait. And Those Who Rabidly Collect Lego Bricks...
We're not ones for ruining things, not often anyway, so we're not going to let on what the secret bonus levels are should you complete the game and collect enough LEGO goodies. What we can tell you though, is that it's bloody brilliant. It made us scream and shout. It reminded us more than ever of why we love Star Wars and why we love LEGO. And, in a funny way, it also made us feel bad. Evil, even.