STAFF REVIEW of LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game (Xbox)

Thursday, April 21, 2005.
by RichVGS

LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game Box art So why was there a marriage between Star Wars and LEGOs? Well, this relationship has been going on for some time. With each Star Wars film, and even when there were no new films, LEGOs have been giving Star Wars fans the chance to make their favorite ships and vehicles out of hundreds of little LEGO pieces. So why not create the entire Star Wars universe, including the living creatures (with facial expressions, not just those goofy smiles we\'re all used to), out of LEGOs? Well, the first reason not to do it would be you\'d need an uncountable amount of LEGOs to even come close to making a single Empirical Battle Fleet. Rather then having to use every LEGO piece in existence, Eidos and Lucas Arts created the universe via computer and now you can explore that universe without fear of breaking these massive LEGO structures. Besides looking really cool, the LEGOs act as problem solving material. Playing as a Jedi and using The Force ability, a useless pile of LEGOs can magically float through the air and be used to create a set of stairs so you can get to a normally unreachable platform. You can also rearrange some LEGO structures to create new items that will help you on your quest. In addition to aiding you along, the LEGOs act as a nice softener of violence. For instance, shortly after the start of Episode I, the Jedi transport ship is destroyed and the two pilots killed in the process. In the game version of this scene, the ship simply falls to pieces, LEGO pieces and so do the pilots in a rather comical fashion. That is the way most deaths are handled...the characters just fall to pieces and there is no blood. Now kids can enjoy fantasy violence using LEGOs instead of blood. Granted, I predict someone will try to sue Eidos and Lucas studios saying that their child was traumatized and can no longer even look at LEGOs without breaking into tears.

Besides being a really cool LEGO game concept, LEGO Star Wars has some additional things that make it stand out among so many different Star Wars games available. First, there is a bunch of little goofy things that will make gamers laugh. Because there is no talking in the cut scenes, the characters have to rely on facial expressions and body language to tell the story. Plus, it seems like Eidos and Lucas Arts took some creative liberties with their creation. For instance, Obi-Won is somewhat of a goofball and kind of clumsy at times, a substitute for that intellectual sarcasm we are so used to seeing in the movies. In addition, the love story between LEGO Anakin and LEGO Padme was more believable then that crap between Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman (so much said with no words, take a queue you two). Second, the idea of having Dex?s Diner being the meeting ground where all the character\'s you\'ve unlocked walking around and interacting was brilliant and funny. They don\'t just walk around, they interact with each other. You\'ll see a battle droid walk past Mace Windu only to have Mace whip out his light saber and attack the droid until it breaks into many LEGO pieces. Just take some time and watch the characters move about. Just be careful if you take on the role of a bad guy because if you walk anywhere near a good Jedi, they will come after you with mad fury (not that it matters with unlimited respawning ability). Don\'t worry, you\'ll have plenty of opportunities to go to town on Jar Jar with that dual light saber (oh joy). Finally, to my knowledge, this is the most comprehensive Star Wars game to date. Not only does it cover Episodes I: The Phantom Menace, Episode II: Attack of the Clones and much anticipated Episode III: Revenge of the Sith; but gamers have the ability to unlock scenes from Episode IV: A New Hope, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. That is just plain cool in my book.

If you\'re looking for a challenging Star Wars game similar to either Knights of the Old Republic or Republic Command, you will probably not be satisfied with LEGO Star Wars. This game was designed for kids, young kids. The clerk at the game store I frequent told me that her four year old son absolutely loves it. Controls are very simple and half of the Xbox control will not be utilized. Think back to the good old days of the Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo if you want to get an idea of the controls. The X button is your only attack button, A is for jump, Y is to switch between characters, and B uses your character\'s special ability. Most of the game will be spent fighting staple Star Wars bad guys, collecting coins (actually, they are the round, single peg LEGO pieces) and solving puzzles that mostly involve moving items to get to high locations or finding a switch to open a door. Even the boss fights are very simple for experience gamers and usually take about thirty seconds to figure out how to beat each one. About the only people that will find LEGO Star Wars challenging are going to be very young children with little to no gaming experience. Even then, the game still remains quite user friendly. Almost every enemy you defeat will drop a health heart, and even if you do die, you can respawn as many times as you want. About the only downside to dying is that you lose about 2,000 in coins and nine times out of ten you can respawn and pick up the lost coins before they disappear. Basically, don\'t trouble yourself looking for health hearts or playing with any kind of caution. Such simplicity might turn some gamers off to LEGO Star Wars. Yet, the lack of challenge did not stop me from playing for six straight hours with my first sit down with this title. Even though I was able to get through the basic game after about ten total hours, I still found myself going back and playing through yet again. While it may not be challenging, there is enough goodies for Star Wars fans to keep on pounding their controllers.

First, Eidos and Lucas Arts realized that the people playing this game were going to be either young children or hardcore Star Wars fans. In an effort to keep the action going, many points of the films are skipped over and go straight to the action scenes. Cut scenes are used to give some background into the current scenario, but those are very short and somewhat comical at times because there is no talking or reading involved. An example of this is the scene in Episode I when the Gungans agree to help fight the droid army. In the film, this is a five minute scene in which Padme pleads with the Gungan leader for help. The cut scene in the game simply shows the Gungan leader agreeing to help in a ten second scene, and then it cuts right to the Gungans fighting the droids. It\'s short and to the point. The largest gap in the game is the landing on Tatooine and Anakin joining the party. The only portion the game deals with is the pod race. Once over, you move right into trying to take back the kingdom and freeing the captured pilots. Finally, no more fast forwarding to the good stuff because all the game covers is the good stuff (except there is no ship fighting in Episode I, which I don\'t understand). Second, you get multiple characters to control. You begin the game controlling Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan, but as you move through the levels of each episode, more characters become playable, join your group and each has their own special ability that will help out along the way. For instance, the Jedi all use Force powers to interact with the world around them. Padme and the captain of the guard use grappling hooks to get to normally unreachable locations. Jar-Jar can jump higher then anyone else and young Anakin can go through crawl spaces to get around. Once obtaining these additional characters, you can go back and replay missions to collect normally unobtainable items using new characters and their special abilities. Third, at the end of each episode, you can use the coins you\'ve collected to purchase any characters you\'ve encountered or fought to add to the playable character roster. So if you get sick of using the default characters, you can change them out before you begin (I couldn\'t wait to use Darth Maul and Jango Fett as my team). In addition, you can also buy goofy add-ons such as mustaches for all characters, classic blasters, big blasters and large heads. Among those add-ons, you can also try to save your money and reach 1,000,000 to buy invincibility, but with the unlimited lives the game already offers, there is little reason to pick this one up.

Graphically speaking, it\'s pretty amazing what you can do with LEGOs and today\'s gaming design software. Normally when you talk about blocky graphics, it\'s a bad thing, but here it adds to the overall charm of the game. Each character looks like a LEGO person (characters like Watto look really strange in LEGO form) while retaining the character features. There was only a handful of times when I could not tell who these LEGO people are supposed to be. They may look like the awkward block people we are all used to seeing, but they certainly don\'t move like them. Movements look smooth and quick, not something you\'d expect with LEGO legs. Similar to the character recreations, the environments look so close to the ones in the movies that I often found myself not seeing the LEGO design of a location, particularly Padme\'s palace in Episode I and droid factory in Episode II. While not everything is LEGO (water and some background detail), the really cool LEGO detail can be found in little things like plants and flowers. In addition, there is just something really cool about watching items burst into little LEGO pieces when they are destroyed. About the only two drawbacks to the LEGO design were that LEGO people have trouble conveying too much emotion and sometimes it was hard to tell who a character was. We\'ll first talk about the emotional part. The scene where Qui-Gon Jinn is killed was a heartbreaking scene in Episode I and that sorrow is conveyed perfect by Ewan McGregor\'s face. The LEGO Obi-Wan simply has a frown and runs to attack Darth Maul. There are basically three emotions these LEGO people have: happiness (conveyed through smiles), anger (and sadness conveyed by frowns) and confusion (conveyed by a half smile, half frown). Considering this game focuses more on the action of the films and not the storyline, maybe this simplicity of the emotions isn\'t such a bad thing after all. Concerning the difficulty recognizing characters, this doesn\'t happen too often, but the fact that it happens at all is kind of annoying. Towards the end of the Episode I missions, the party that was trying to take back Padme\'s palace consisted of Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan, Padme, Captain of the palace guards, R2-D2 and another guy that I couldn\'t recognize. He wore a strange hat and I thought he might have been a pilot. It wasn\'t until halfway through the mission that I realized that the pilot was in fact Anakin. If it wasn\'t for the hat, and the fact that he was about as tall as the rest of the party members, I probably wouldn\'t have gotten confused. The only other questionable thing is that the camera angles can get confusing at times, especially when rounding corners, but not often enough to be a real issue worth complaining about.

Sounds like Star Wars to me. The music, even though at times it sounded like an odd remix of pieces of the full score, is pretty close to what was used in the movies. While no particular music piece stands out, they all do serve the purpose of heightening the tension of a battle scene. You can also tell when a fight is about to happen because the battle music will start up about two seconds before the enemy is on screen. If you want a real musical treat, be sure to use The Force on the jukebox in Dex\'s diner to get your old school Star Wars groove on. Sound effects in the game are perfect imports from the films. They even got the small details of having each different blaster having a different blast sound. In addition, while the characters did not speak, Eidos did have each droid have either a sound or a phrase familiar to that particular droid added to the game and played at appropriate times in the game. Again, no voice acting was used in this game, so the body language, movement, music and sound effects had to tell the story and all elements were in place to keep even someone who has never seen the movies understanding what is going on in a scene. The only thing I would have like to have heard was some variety in the music. It seems like the music department took selections from a few pieces of each episode\'s soundtrack, mixed and looped them, and put them in place. Star Wars has always been know for having really good scores, and I just wish more of that could have been present, or at least an option to select particular pieces for each level to use throughout.

So what in this game can be compared to Greedo shooting first (better known as \"What was not so good about this game\" section)? First, even though I found this game to be insanely fun and I understand that this game was designed with younger children in mind, this game could have been a little more challenging. Don\'t get me wrong...I really like LEGO Star Wars, but seriously, a five year old would find this too easy. Just because gamers are young doesn\'t mean they couldn\'t figure out some slightly more complex puzzles (stacking three boxes in proper order so you can climb them is way too easy for all ages). Second, Eidos and Lucas Arts could have done more explaining each character\'s special ability. Some are easy to figure out, such as The Force for Jedi and Jar Jar\'s ability to high jump, but some are completely oblivious until you happen to walk near an object that interacts with the ability. For instance, Padme\'s grappling hook gun was not known until you happened to walk near a red circle and Anakin\'s ability to crawl through small shoots was known until you happened to walk near one (and those shoots do nothing to draw player\'s attention like the red circles). Eidos should have simply explained at the beginning of each level \"you have this character and their ability is\" and life would have been so much easier. I couldn\'t help but wonder how many items I missed not knowing about these abilities sooner. Third, the nondescript character design can also cause you to miss the opportunity to collect items during a level. Since the game has so many extras and most of them involve collecting certain items, it would be nice to know who was with you so you don\'t have to go back and replay a level over to collect missed items. Finally, it would have been cool to have some Live action involved. Since some missions involve five or more people, how cool would it have been to have each character controlled by someone over Live. I guess Eidos figured young children wouldn\'t be playing over Live (although if you listened to some of the comments you hear when playing Halo 2, based on the maturity level, you\'d think children were playing).

So now you know what would happen if George Lucas and Ms. LEGO had a baby or what would happen if one of those Star Wars freak fans, the ones that are currently in line to see Episode III: Revenge of the Sith on opening day, had an unlimited amount of LEGOs to play with. I have to admit that I was skeptical at first when I heard about this project, but once I actually had a chance to play it, all that skepticism disappeared like that dancer did in Return of the Jedi when Jabba sent her to play with that big beast that lived under his futon (I\'m sure I\'m going to get email correcting me on all the Star Wars errors I just made with that last sentence). Don\'t look at the fact that the game was made for younger audiences discourage you from checking out LEGO Star Wars. They basically dissected Episodes I, II and III of that entire boring story stuff and simply presented us with the meat of the films...the action scenes. Finally, Episode I is presented in a watchable fashion. While the idea of a LEGO game may seem corny, the presentation is amazing and when violence involves LEGO people, not one is it safe for kids, but it can be quite comical. The fact that you can either gain allies during battle or purchase characters at the end of each Episode is insanely cool. Finally, you can play through the long awaited Episode III chapters using the late Darth Maul and Jango Fett (time to go b**** slap Anakin). And I cannot say this enough...go to Dex\'s dinner and watch the characters interact with each other. They will attack each other and do other goofy things. If for no other reason, where else are you going to be able to control LEGO Samuel L. Jackson? Nowhere else I know of. While there is very little challenge involved and beating the game length is kind of on the short side, it is a fun game to play through if you are a Star Wars fan. This is a most play for gamers like me that grew up playing with LEGOs and watching Star Wars films. Oh, the memories just came rushing back. Now I\'m off to storm the palace with Yoda and Samuel L. Jackson. Out.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.6 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.8 / 10


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