It's at this point where you need to remember the game's target audience. If you're the kind of person who only plays a game through once before part exchanging it for a new title, then steer clear. Lego Star Wars is a game that has been designed with the intention of being replayed to death. With the Free Play mode, and 30 unlockable characters, you can see why. The reward system for the game revolves around the collection of Lego studs - silver studs scoring 10 points, gold studs scoring 100 points, and blue studs scoring 1,000 points. These studs can be redeemed at Dexter's Diner (a locale from Attack of the Clones, itself a reproduction of a scene from Lucas' film American Graffiti) for characters such as Jango Fett and Count Dooku, or for other unlockable items, such as outsized blasters, and even invincibility (at the prohibitive cost of 1,000,000 studs). This "gotta catch 'em all" ethos is undoubtedly there to appeal to the obsessive pre-teen player, who has been raised on the Pokèmon principle. These studs can be obtained via using the Force to pull them out of objects you can interact with, or simply by destroying objects within the game world, and there's considerable fun to be had by simply finding all the objects you can obtain studs from. Objects such as switches can also be activated via the Force, (other objects, such as targets, can be used via shooting them with blasters) unlocking objects such as Lego canisters. Ten of these canisters are hidden on each game level, constructing a vehicle, which becomes parked outside the main mission hub of Dexter's Diner.
On the face of it, these unlockable items may seem purely cosmetic, but unlocking all of these vehicles, plus completing every level with "True Jedi" status (i.e. collecting a certain number of studs within the level) will unlock a fourth campaign, rewarding the obsessive replaying the game's target audience will devote to the game. Replaying the game in Free Play mode not only allows you to collect hidden power ups unavailable in the Story Mode, but also allows you to pitch the most unlikely characters against each other. Playing the finale of Episode I with Darth Maul fighting himself is sure to raise a wry smile with even the most seasoned of gamers.
Given that the main game covers the major events of Star Wars Episodes I-III, inclusive, it should be said that the 6 game levels for Episode III contain major spoilers for the film. For those who haven't already guessed the ending of Episode III, you would do well to avoid this section of the game, until you've seen the film. For the sake of journalistic integrity, I subjected myself to the spoilers, and can say without a shadow of a doubt that if the film is half as good as the game levels, then Revenge Of The Sith represents a true return to form for the film franchise. The opening level for Episode III, where Obi-Wan and Anakin attempt to land on the Separatist command ship in Jedi Starfighters, is nothing short of spectacular, and even outweighs the grandeur of TIE-Fighter's more ambitious missions.
There is plenty of variety in the individual missions, encompassing infantry action, to pod-racing and even a Zaxxon-inspired scrolling shooter level, when you take command of a Clone Gunship towards the end of the Episode II campaign. Despite the simplicity of the gameplay, Lego Star Wars is very rewarding and a highly polished title. The game hits its mark perfectly. Star Wars fanatics from five to thirty-five will love its charm, presentation and accessibility. Whilst it might be easy for cynics to point out the game's flaws and snort that it could have been so much better than it is, you might as well criticise Halo 2 for only being able to run around shooting things. To criticise Lego Star Wars for simplistic gameplay would be to miss the point.
To end the review where we started, it's not big and it's not clever: nor was it meant to be. Lego Star Wars is about the simple things in gaming. It's not about AI, it's not about physics, and it's not about dynamic cameras. It's about having the maximum amount of fun with the minimum amount of fuss. Whilst the niggles with the camera and the controls may prevent the game from reaching the true stratospheric heights of gaming perfection, Lego Star Wars achieves everything it set out to do, with considerable panache. As videogames for the 5-12 year old age group go, this is as good as I've seen. You can call Lego Star Wars a kid's game if you like, but it has a universal appeal to children of all ages.