August 04, 2007
Ahh Star Wars! Some say the best trilogy in the history of cinema. Whether or not that is the case, surely no one can debate that the Star Wars universe is a fascinating and ideal setting for a video game and while there have been no shortage of games based in the Star Wars universe, both good and bad, there has never been a game that follows the actual movies until now. Yet, as Star Wars fans and gamers alike clamoured for a game of the original Star Wars trilogy, a retelling of the movies using Legos is probably not what they had in mind. Still, once you get past that, you'll notice that Lego Star Wars 2, while not as great as Knights of the Old Republic or the Jedi Knights games, is certainly not a bad game, and definitely not a 'Super Bombad Racing' for example. In fact, Lego Star Wars 2 is somewhere smack in the middle, not great but nor is it terrible. It manages to retain a great sense of humour and make terrific use of the Star Wars license.
Lego Star Wars 2 was developed by Traveller's Tales, a British company that have been developing games since the 1990s. They've consistently churned out roughly one game a year since then, yet had never quite reaching the fames and fortunes of bigger companies. None of the games have been astonishingly bad (with the possible exception of Muppet Racemania) but neither have they been huge innovations in the video games world. That is, until the release of Lego Star Wars in 2005. This game, while being extremely simplistic in nature, managed to catch the imagination of mostly everyone who played it. Encompassing the childhood toy Legos and Star Wars, the game was a great mix and guaranteed to enthrall both hardened and casual gamers. And now, a little over a year later, Traveler's Tales releases the sequel, covering the Original Trilogy rather than the newer Star Wars films. It's a great idea combining Lego with Star Wars, but does the series manage to charm us still on a console such as the X-Box 360?
For those who have played the Lego Star Wars which covered the 'newer' prequels, Episode 1-3, the gameplay of Lego Star Wars 2 is practically identical. This time around the game focuses on the classic Episodes 4-6. The game plays as a 3rd person perspective action adventure game. The main camera angle is behind the player character's shoulder, occasionally moving about to theoretically make it easier to see what's going on. I say theoretically because it doesn't always achieve that, but more about that problem later. Controls are immensely simple, A jumps, X attacks, B uses and Y changes character. Nice and simple to teach a child or novice player which is who this game is definitely aimed at. The game starts out in, rather than a multitude of menus, Mos Eisley Cantina offers you paths to all three episodes, although you have to unlock them first, beginning with A New Hope, as well as a counter to buy items such as extra characters or hints for the game. A character creation counter is available as well. Once you enter a chapter of an episode, you start out usually either playing as Princess Leia or Luke Skywalker. Your main weapons being blaster pistols until you become, or control, a Jedi, at which point you can use the elusive lightsaber. For the most part you have an entourage of 6 characters from the film to aid you throughout each level. These constitute characters from all 3 films ranging from Ben Kenobi to Wicket. You can switch characters by walking up to one and pressing a button to transfer control to them. This creates a Three Viking-esque feel to the game if you've played Three Vikings before. Basically it means you can switch characters to solve puzzles to advance through the game, such as sometimes you need to use the Force so you need Luke or Obi Wan, while other times you need to crawl through a small gap thus needing Wicket. Another bonus for those who played the first Lego Star Wars game is no more annoying 'on rail' vehicle sequences, which I know drove me insane with the original game! The character creation is fun to dabble with too, and a nice addition from the original. You can only use your custom characters in Free Play Mode (Unlocked for each chapter after completing it in Story Mode) but it can be quite fun to mess around with, much like real Lego in fact. Sounds good huh? Get to play through the Star Wars trilogy, become a Jedi, all that goodness. Unfortunately it could have done with some more play testing to be wonderful.
Much like the original Star Wars films seem to kids now, under its surface is a great game but it's hidden away by some serious flaws and oversights. The graphics wouldn't challenge an X-Box, not even a Gamecube really. It's not essential to a great game but it's always a bonus to have the full package and have amazing graphics too. The sound is distinctly dull too, it uses the classic Star Wars music, but other than that it simply reverts to using large amounts of laser fire which then goes onto cover up the briefly good music in the game anyhow. However, sound and graphics do not make a good game. That falls down to the gameplay, unfortunately that's the problem; there are some serious flaws in the way the game plays as well as its delivery.
First of all, you can't skip any cut scenes, which is fine some of the time but if you're replaying a level in story mode it can get intensely irritating! It wouldn't take much to add that option, so why miss it out? The AI in single player is distinctly....odd. No other word can describe it. Your allies will stand there and watch you get shot, they'll get shot as well yet they just won't react at all half the time; completely useless. I had to do a puzzle involving having 3 characters on one side of a divide next to a wall to trigger some buttons; the other three characters go to the other wall to do the same thing. I waited for 5 minutes....did R2D2 and C3P0 go to their designated spot? Of course not. I restarted and it worked fine. Why should I need to restart? Fighting enemies doesn't work so well, most of the time your buddies get in the way due to the dodgy AI and you just end up shooting them and get shot by the enemy at the same time. Perhaps the most unforgivable thing is that the lightsaber just isn't all that good! I played through the initial levels with a blaster thinking 'It's okay, it'll get better once I've got the uber lightsaber.....it wasn't. I could block shots but no more easily than dodging them while holding the blaster pistol. And fighting just seemed so much easier while at long range with the pistol instead of going up close. How can you have a Star Wars game where it's better to shoot than to fight with the lightsabre?! Throw in the occasional dodgy camera angles, and when trying to complete a level undefeated (Which you'll be wanting to do a lot if you want any achievements), you will be tearing your hair out.
There are some nice touches to the game that make you smile. In the early levels you can open a door to reveal some stormtroopers showering together. At the end of the Empire Strikes Back subsection Darth Vader shows off a photo of his family proudly, a lovely nod to the forthcoming story twist. But it just feels somewhat half complete as a single player game. From what I've heard and seen, it is however a fantastic 2 player game especially as an introduction game for the gamer with a partner not interested in games. Co-Op mode means no suffering the shocking AI which means the game's immensely more fun. But sadly I want a single player experience to rival the co-op mode. Not to feel punished just because I want to play a game by myself! I couldn't even contain myself with an online co-op, which is a shocking omission for a game with such potential. So we come to the achievements, which is probably the main thing on your mind at this point. Are they easy enough to put up with the single player mode? Or should you just condemn this to the 'Great for when mates are around' corner? Well the answer isn't simple....it all depends on how much time you have. If you play through the 3 episodes once it's easy enough to get 190 points, 20 for completing the first level, 50 for each episode complete and 20 for completing 20% of the game, but the others take some effort. Another 360 points is devoted to being able to complete each level undefeated. For some levels it's not too hard and just requires being careful, for others such as Death Star 2 it requires near Herculean efforts. The remaining 450 points go towards being able to complete the game at certain percentages and completing the bounty hunter missions and Lego City level. Basically to get the full 1000 points, you need to play through the whole game a few times, to complete it ALL undefeated, collect every single gold brick, to complete every level at true Jedi, collect all the mini-kits scattered across the levels. It's no easy feat at all, but it would be satisfying. Personally the game ended up irritating me too much so I just did a few undefeated levels and sent it back. But I may come back to it sometime as it does have its own unique charm much like the first game.
In summary, this game is a bit of an odd one. Kids will absolutely adore its sense of humour and gentle learning curve and it's no doubt great with a friend, particularly a friend you can rely on not to screw up, but as a single player experience, it's just lacking. For a previous generation game it'd still be great, but as it stands it just doesn't cut it anymore. If only it had online co-op so you didn't have to rely on local friends. For the achievement fiend, it's perfectly achievable, just expect to devote plenty of time to do it, it's not a one day 1k but nor is it a 6 month 1k. Just be stubborn and crack on with it, it's not a hard game, it's just occasionally very irritating!
How can you not like the Star Wars music? And it plays wonderfully in this. It's just a pity that the sound effects let it down a bit for being so boringly unoriginal.
Wouldn't look out of place on an X-Box, but it does the job and matches the Lego theme well.
When the camera is positioned well and you've got a blaster pistol in one hand, it's extremely playable. It's also extremely easy to learn to play with no need to even read the manual let alone practice. But when aiming to complete levels undefeated, the controls go out the window and it gets infuriating.
Lovely Star Wars feel all over the game, while still being friendly to kids and novice players. The game episodes are linked through the use of the cafeteria in Mos Eisley which makes it much more fun than menus.
Infuriating but achievable. Easy to get 200ish quickly, but don't expect to get them without getting frustrated at the dodgy camera angles and poor AI.
Lego Star Wars 2 is a fun two player romp, especially for kids. If only it had a better single player mode with better AI, it could have scored so much higher.