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LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game (PlayStation 2) artwork

LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game (PlayStation 2) review

"Most zones require rapid character swapping if you want to discover everything. For example, you might see a ledge you canít reach. Your Jedi only has a limited jump, but perhaps you have Padme along. She can use her grappling hook to reach higher areas, then trip some switches so that her friends can follow. Or maybe thereís a hidden item. You can see it, but you canít reach it."

Cutting through a bunch of rebel forces as Darth Maul kicks butt. I donít care that technically theyíre on my side. Thatís irrelevant. Thereís just something exhilarating about carving into them, then watching plastic helmets go flying in the wake of masterful light saber strokes. My black cape swirls and my menacing scowl leaves everyone quiveringóif theyíre not dead from the force of my assault. For these moments and many others, I canít stop thanking LEGO Star Wars: The Game.

Now, you might have a few general issues with the game I find so enjoyable. Plastic helmets? Whereís the blood? And Darth Maul? Heís from the second Star Wars trilogy, the one that showcased Jake Lloydís non-existent acting skills, the one that made everyone hate Hayden Christianson. How can a game based on those disasters be worth playing? I can understand your points, every last one, but I donít care. This game is so much fun that they donít matter!

When you start playing, it wonít be as Darth Maul. Youíll star as a Jedi and his apprentice. Theyíre working their way through a spaceship. Sound familiar? LEGO Star Wars: The Game follows the movies quite closely. From the meeting on the trade ship to Obi-wanís final saber duel, youíll live out many of the trilogyís most pivotal moments. Thereís none of the angst or the bad acting, though. Voice work is limited to a few convincing grunts and thatís it. Portions of the film that stretched out for minutes at a time are here glossed over in a matter of seconds, and then itís on to what counts: the action.

Most stages are straight-forward in nature. You start at one point and you work through a fairly linear path to the end. There are side routes you can take to grab hidden itemsóeach of 17 chapters features 10 ship parts you can gather if youíre so inclinedóbut mostly youíre just hacking or blasting your way through swarms of enemies and sometimes using the Force to levitate or otherwise manipulate objects. Generally, that amounts to a lot of button mashing. When droids swarm you, their firepower will blow you to bits if you try to make precision strikes. Instead, youíll sweep your weapon about, deflecting lasers and chopping through one foe after another. Youíll know youíve done well when the plastic starts flying all over the place.

Yes, plastic. As the title implies, much of what youíll see here is constructed from LEGO pieces. Thatís particularly true of the individual characters, who even have the familiar c-shaped hands. Some of them look cool (like Darth Maul) and some of them look fat (like Padme), but the effect is pleasing as a whole. Environments and ships sometimes include the telltale round bumps that remind you what the ground youíre walking on is made of, but things donít go much further from there. I was actually disappointed by how often youíll go through a given area and only see a few signs of plastic construction. Clearly, the developers cared more for Star Wars than they did building blocks.

At least they didnít skimp on the actual gameplay. Iíve already mentioned how a lot of areas amount to button mashing, but thatís not necessarily a critique. The same could be said of many games within the genre, and at least LEGO Star Wars throws in some variety. Each episode has one chapter where youíre doing something really cool, like stepping into the driverís seat for pod races, cruising along canyons in a cruiser, or even flying through space battles. The last of those three feels more like a great shooter than anything I can recall playing in a long, long time.

Even when youíre not in one of those special stages, thereís plenty to do. Most zones require rapid character swapping if you want to discover everything. For example, you might see a ledge you canít reach. Your Jedi only has a limited jump, but perhaps you have Padme along. She can use her grappling hook to reach higher areas, then trip some switches so that her friends can follow. Or maybe thereís a hidden item. You can see it, but you canít reach it. Sometimes, thereís a way around it, right then and there. Other times, youíll have to come back in ďFree PlayĒ mode with one of the other unlockable characters.

Free Play is actually code for ďreplay value.Ē If you want to uncover everything, youíll have to play through most zones multiple times, no matter how good you are. The more you play, the more money youíll get. The more cash you have, the more characters and cheats you can unlock. Early levels feel almost entirely different when you go back through them as General Grevious. Or Count Dooku. Or whoever. There are lots of options, and they really keep things entertaining.

Of course, LEGO Star Wars isnít perfect. Like many games of the three-dimensional persuasion, it sometimes suffers from shoddy camerawork. Thankfully, that fact isnít game-crippling. At worst, it makes finding some of the secret items more difficult. When you really need to see everythingóin the heat of a massive battleóthe viewpoint is quite acceptable. The developers knew better than to get too close to the action, so cramped quarters arenít anywhere near the mess they are in other titles that spring to mind.

The gameís other problem is more distressing: its main quest is just too short. I know the point was to keep things short and sweet, but it seems like they couldíve covered more of the great moments from the films. For example, whereís the underwater escape scene from The Phantom Menace? What about Anakinís revenge for the way the monsters treated his mother in Attack of the Clones? Thereís only one scripted battle with Darth Maul, too. If not for all the replay valueóand a two-player mode that lets a friend join in and exit whenever you likeóthis is one cool game Iíd have to recommend as a rental only. Thankfully, thatís a fate the developer avoided. With an understated but unique appeal thatís all its own, LEGO Star Wars: The Game is one game you should experience just as soon as the opportunity presents itself. After all, where else can you play as a plastic Darth Maul?

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Staff review by Jason Venter (May 08, 2006)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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