The light side of the force.
Think about it: when was the last time a video game let you blow up the Death Star? Rescue Princess Leia? Unfreeze Han Solo? When was the last time, to put it another way, you picked up a Star Wars game that followed the events of the classic movies themselves, not some hair-brained fan-fiction probably written by someone who looks like this.
The sad truth is that the original Star Wars Trilogy
was too good. In spawning a franchise as big as the Empire itself, the materials of the movies were extracted, broken down, and rearranged into a giant mythology that has as little to do with Darth Vader as Hayden Christensen
has to do with acting. Some Star Wars games are good, some are bad, but almost all of them write their own chapters of Star Wars history—usually without the personality that made for such great movies in the first place.
Leave it to the Danish and the spirit of shameless cross-promotion to swoop to the rescue. Lego Star Wars II
builds (snaps-together) upon the success of its first installment by recreating, in tiny plastic bricks, the first three Star Wars movies. While the first Lego Star Wars
was good, this second one is much better, not because of any added tweaks or modes, though there are a few, but because the original Star Wars movies are just much, much better than the last three. The marriage of Legos and Star Wars is like stormtrooper love
, unpredictable, but touching.
Like the first game, Lego Star Wars II
playfully romps through the movies using the familiar children’s blocks as the only materials for props, sets, or characters. Once the novelty fades, one can appreciate the genius of the idea. Lego figurines, with their cartoon faces and easy dismemberment, don’t ask that we take anything seriously. Even better is the fact that there is no dialogue at all in the game, Lego people being only able to produce grunts and quizzical noises. Surprisingly, this makes the script go a lot smoother. It’s like watching a mime-performance of all three films
, if mimes could be dismembered.
In the game, you control one of a party of characters as you hop, build, and Jedi-mind-trick your way through the levels. Platform puzzle-solving makes up the bulk of the gameplay, and the most common type of puzzle involves getting everyone in your party onto a ledge, through a door, or out of a giant asteroid worm’s belly. As in the last game, each type of character has a special skill: blaster-characters can fire grappling hooks to reach high places, bounty-hunters can throw thermal detonators to blow up obstacles, droids can open locked doors, and Jedi can use the force to assemble and rearrange Legos from a distance. A typical puzzle will use all of your characters in some capacity, needing Luke to build a ramp for R2D2, R2D2 to unlock a door, and Chewbacca to shoot some stuff. The puzzles are smart and fun, and while they aren’t hard, they don’t insult your intelligence, either. This is one of the reasons Lego Star Wars II can be played and enjoyed by just about anybody.
The drop-in/drop-out co-op mode is especially parent-friendly (or girlfriend-friendly). As in the last game, a second-player can join at any time, assuming control of one of the other characters of the party. Even friendlier are your characters’ infinite lives. No matter how many times you take a light-saber to the head, you spawn right where you died. It’s impossible to lose in this game.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no reason to play carefully. The game offers a mammoth amount of hidden items and unlockable secrets. While it’s fairly easy to play straight through the story mode in about six or seven hours, most players will want to return to levels in the “free play” mode to explore and find hidden golden legos and collect even more “Lego studs” to attain the rank of “True Jedi” and unlock new levels. The game may be too easy to finish, but its rewarding collectibles and unlockable content mean a lot of replay value.
New flying modes, in which you can pilot familiar Star Wars vehicles like the X-wing or the Millennium Falcon, are excellent additions to the basic platforming levels. Each of the vehicles behaves a little differently, and the best might be the Hoth Speeders. I trust you know what to do with that tow-cable, young Skywalker.
Other new elements include the bounty-hunter class and the inclusion of hat-machines that instantly change your character from one class to another by switching your adorable Lego head. In order for Leia to break into Jabba’s palace, she has to put on a bounty-hunter hat. In that scene, you will inevitably try to put the same hat on Chewbacca, to comic effect.
The one addition that promises more but delivers less is the ability to create your own Lego character by swapping out pieces of unlocked characters. Thus, you can put Darth’s big old noggin on Leia’s sexy, if entirely square, body. The combinations are limitless, but also not that interesting.
My one criticism of the game is that the combat is simple to a fault. Your characters apparently auto-aim, so just pointing the stick in the direction of the bad guy and spamming 'Attack' usually does the trick. Boo for button mashing. Another problem is that the auto-aim does not discriminate between enemies, friends, or the millions of detonating Lego boxes lying around. Friendly-fire incidents are commonplace—hooray for infinite lives.
Lego Star Wars II is not going to wow anyone graphically, but it doesn’t look bad. The environments are colorful and bright, and the characters sport silly grins and tote toy guns. The 360 version makes each lego block look a little crisper, but that’s really the only difference between the next-gen and the last-gen versions. And if there’s one thing that looks about as good last-gen as it does in the next-gen, it’s colored blocks. By the way, the music is excellent. But we shouldn’t wonder when John Williams’s score scores.
And while the gameplay and puzzles are streamlined, the unlockable content massive, and the flying modes excellent, the best part about the game is its snarky humor and feel-good satire
. For a game that is so seriously put-together, it doesn’t take itself seriously, and that, for a battle-hardened game reviewer, is right with the Force.