When you were a child, a parent or teacher probably told you "Stop that. It's not big and it's not clever." The latter half of this phrase sums up Lego Star Wars more concisely than any other erudite turn of phrase I could dare hope to come up with. It's not big, and it's not clever, but it's as much fun as what you were told to stop doing with that very phrase all those years ago.
Lego Star Wars takes two of the most appealing things children of all ages have ever known, and has fused them seamlessly into probably the most charming game I've had the pleasure of playing. The developers have taken the Lego theme and have run with it with imagination and humour. All the locations in the game are recognisably from the films, and they're exactly as you'd imagine them to be, had you been given a 1,000,000 piece Lego set and been asked to build them. The game has a wonderfully retro look, thanks to the blockiness of Lego pieces, but that hasn't given the developers an excuse to skimp on the graphics engine. It's a very aesthetically appealing game, and that appeal spills over into just about every aspect of the game.
For example, Jedi characters can (obviously) influence their environment with the Force. This is made obvious to the player by a coloured aura surrounding an object. When you see one of these glowing auras, pressing and holding down the B button will make you interact with it using the Force. Battle droids can be pushed backwards into walls, making them break into their individual Lego pieces, and objects such as crates, can be lifted and stacked up, allowing you to gain access to otherwise out of reach areas. There are also environmental puzzles, which can only be solved using the Force. Rubble can be manipulated to form ramps or steps, and retractable platforms can be pulled out into place. The physics involved may be simplistic at best, but the way you can manipulate these Lego blocks at the touch of a button never fails to delight. I was almost in tears of laughter at the very start of the game, when I used the Force on the chairs around the negotiating table, and they danced to the Cantina Band tune from the Mos Eisley cantina. I had to do it a second time, just to make sure my senses hadn't deceived me.
'Lego Star Wars is a game that sets out to satisfy the very simple pleasures'
Lego Star Wars is a game that sets out to satisfy the very simple pleasures. It has been unashamedly pitched at the 5-12 year old market, but that shouldn't deter Star Wars fanatics of any age, provided that they approach the game knowing whom it was made for. Whilst I may be able to dissect the game and suggest any number of improvements that would have enhanced the gameplay, to do so would be futile. The game was designed for a far more forgiving audience than the cynical 30-year-old videogames hack.
Given the young target audience, necessity has kept the interface very simple. Movement controls aren't as fine as older players such as myself would like, but are more than efficient enough to be able to complete the game without too much frustration, provided you remember not to rush. Likewise, the 3D camera is a little finicky. Without the ability to control the camera, a few of the camera angles will frustrate more experienced gamers, but importantly, they never make the game completely unplayable, only mildly irksome. Combat is very simplistic, with only a pair of combo attacks to speak of, but again, thanks to the beautiful aesthetic presentation, it's never unsatisfying. Fighting with Jedi characters is by far the most enjoyable. Jedi have the unique ability to deflect blaster fire, and each Jedi has a very different fighting style: Qui-Gon Jinn is the most flamboyant, with fancy backstabs and flourishes; Mace Windu is devastatingly direct, with slower cuts and stronger slashes; whilst Yoda is the veritable whirling dervish, as seen at the conclusion to Attack of the Clones.
Given this obvious combat-bias, you would think that there would be no incentive to play the game using anything other than Jedi characters. Fortunately, thanks to some very canny character balancing and level design, not everything in the game can be achieved using the main Jedi characters. Blaster-based characters, such as Queen Amidala and Chewbacca, have advantages Jedi do not. Their Ascension Gun ability allows them to reach places other beers (sorry, characters) cannot reach, which allows players to collect power-ups in Free Play that would otherwise be unobtainable during Story Mode. Likewise, some doors can only be opened using droid characters such as R2-D2 and C-3PO, meaning that some parts of the game have been designed to be inaccessible on the first play through. Replayability has been factored into the game design from its initial conception, which is just as well, considering how short the game is. With only 17 levels, each taking only around 10-20 minutes each, the game can be completed in just one evening's solid play, if you really hammer through it.