At first blush it sounds like a spectacularly harebrained (and not particularly good) idea. That is, take the "Star Wars" universe, cross it with the blocky world of LEGOS and create a video game for the kiddies.
In a galaxy far, far away…there's a space opera made of interlocking plastic cubes? Seriously?
But what could have turned out to be a cheesy, ridiculous, licensed-property exploitation instead has become a pair of fun, funny and highly playable third-person action games with plenty to offer players of all ages.
On Tuesday, LucasArts, with the help of developer Traveller's Tales, released "LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy," a game for all major consoles and a sequel to last year's "LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game."
Despite much skepticism, the first game — a rather surreal mating of plastic building blocks with the three "Star Wars" prequels — became the surprise hit of 2005 (it sold more than 3.3 million copies worldwide). And if the quality of the sequel is any indication, it's likely "LEGO Star Wars II" will follow in its predecessor's square footsteps.
For this newest installment, the three original "Star Wars" movies have been LEGOized. That is, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, even Darth Vader have been transformed into pint-sized plastic minifigures (toys familiar to anyone who's ever played with LEGOs). Likewise, well-known locations from the movies – the Death Star, the Millennium Falcon, Mos Eisley Cantina – have been rendered in plastic cube form.
The challenge here is to take the various characters from the films through a rather hilarious interpretation of "Episode IV: A New Hope," "Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back" and "Episode VI: Return of the Jedi." High points from the three movies have been transformed into the various levels of the game.
With light sabers flying and guns firing, miniature heroes such as Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi, Luke Skywalker and Lando Calrissian must fight off Storm Troopers, Tusken Raiders and a whole variety of "Star Wars'" famed baddies. When they blast or slash an enemy, his blocks scatter to the four winds.
In this game, teamwork is paramount. The player is given control over at least two characters at a time — and sometimes many more. To complete the various levels in the game, you must make good use of each character's specific abilities in combination with the other characters. For example, Obi-Wan can use the Force to move large objects while R2-D2 has the ability to unlock certain doors.
Meanwhile, a second player can join in at any point in the game and take control of some of the characters. That player can then exit whenever they want without disrupting the progress of the game.
Once a level is completed you can go back and play it again in Free Play Mode. This mode allows you to revisit that part of the story as any character you want while unlocking additional secrets and bonuses.
While the original "LEGO Star Wars" was a very solid game, the sequel offers several major improvements and added features. This time around, you can take control of various vehicles and ride a variety of animals with far more freedom. Hop on the banthas of Tatooine or the tauntauns of Hoth. Zip around in a landspeeder as you please.
Perhaps the coolest addition is the Character Customizer. This feature allows the player to mix up the various characters' LEGO body parts to create brand new and highly comical "Star Wars" personalities. For example, put Princess Leia's hair on Luke's face with Obi-Wan's body and, voila, you've got Princess Luke Kenobi.
Infused with tongue-in-cheek humor, "LEGO Star Wars II" is a game that doesn't take itself too seriously — and yet remains a serious enough offering to provide even advanced gamers with many hours of amusement.
Okay, "Star Wars" crossed with LEGOs is a silly concept. And yet, this is a cleverly designed game with fighting and puzzling that is challenging without being frustrating. Toss in some sweet scoring from the original movies and you're back in the theater. But...with LEGOs.
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