A confession: I have spent the last few years being a gaming snob. I own a GameCube, and have thus far steadfastly refused to buy a console that people were actually releasing games for because, well, all the others are just pretenders to Nintendo's crown, aren't they?
I caved in because I missed Final Fantasy. So I bought a secondhand PS2, and copies of FFX, FFX-2 and, erm, Lego Star Wars. I'm honestly not sure how that last one happened. One minute there was thirty pounds in my hand, and the next minute it had been replaced by a copy of Lego Star Wars.
I suspect that it happened by magic. Because that, more than anything, is what defines Lego Star Wars.
I want to tell you two things during the course of this review. One is how Lego Star Wars is better than the films on which it is based (a cynic may suggest that this is not exactly difficult, as it's based solely on the recent prequels), and the other is how the game itself appeals to nongamers.
1. Differences Between the Films and the Game
- One features tacky, plasticky characters with a lack of facial expressions and is almost impossible to take seriously. The other has everyone made out of Lego.
- Watching the films doesn't let you know what noise Jar Jar Binks would make if you repeatedly hit him with a lightsaber.
- Unlike the film, the game has no dialogue. As a result, the urge to lobotomise yourself with a blunt spoon because of mushy kissy-poo love talk never arises.
- Jar Jar Binks looks more believable when made out of Lego. I'm not actually joking at this point.
- Aw, come on. The whole thing's made out of Lego. How can you not love the idea?
2. How the Game Appeals to Nongamers
My girlfriend likes computer games. To be more precise, she likes three computer games. She's been playing the same three computer games for the past six years, since she bought her last computer. Getting her to like new games is, to all intents and purposes, impossible.
Imagine my amazement, then, when she decides that this is (and I quote) "the best game ever." I can testify—at length, if required—on how she's impossible to please. It is with some regret that I say I can only wish I were as satisfying as a plastic Threepio.
The following observations are those made by my other half during the course of her playing the game, and whilst watching me play.
- On seeing C3-PO injured such that he's lost both arms and one leg and is hopping along on his one remaining limb: "Hee! He looks like a sausage! He's a sausage droid! Hee!"
- On seeing C3-PO—still with only one working leg—get stuck to a giant magnet which is activated by the use of Force powers: "Hee! He's a shiny wiffly sausage! Look at his leg! It's all wiffly like a badger's nose! Oh, he's lovely."
- On seeing the disco-dancing Kaminoans gyrating to the Star Wars theme music: "Oh my God! This is the best game ever! Hee!"
- "You bastard!"—ostensibly to Jango Fett, though I suspect it may actually have been directed at me as I tried to walk in front of the TV to get to the kitchen.
My only complaint about Lego Star Wars is that it's possibly rather too short. But, to be honest, I don't care. I had that much fun playing it, it should be illegal. I might also complain about the fact that my girlfriend loves it more than she loves me, but that may seem churlish.
In terms of gameplay mechanics, it's not that original. It's a basic, linear platform game that allows you to reenact scenes from the recent prequels. There are some puzzles, in that players are required to work out how to use different characters' skills to access hidden areas. But that's it.
You can't complete the game on the first attempt, as several areas within a level will only be accessible after you've unlocked a character who can, for instance, jump higher than others or who can (gasp!) use the Dark Side. This ensures that after you've played the game completely through, there is still an incentive to go back and revisit already completed levels.
The token vehicle-based levels (there are only three—one per episode) can be frustrating, but aren't prohibitively so. On the whole, I never got so stuck that I felt like abandoning all hope, and I never felt bored by the ease of the game.
Large amounts of my goodwill towards the game are attributable, obviously, to the fact that it's a fundamentally daft premise. But Lego Star Wars really does improve on the films by cutting out much of the padding that made them seem something to be endured rather than enjoyed. But then it adds something, too. It adds fun.
Lego Star Wars is just that. Fun. An element that was notably missing from the films is here by the bucketload. Put simply, you just have to play it. If nothing else, rent it. You'll probably complete it over an intensive weekend. Just make sure you've got some friends round to play it with, as two-player mode is even better.
It is, in a word, magic.
Tim was born at a very early age, and plans to die shortly. He suspects that only people who know him will get the joke in the second half of that sentence. For anyone else wondering, the joke is that he's not very tall. In idle moments, Tim also wishes that he hadn't subcontracted the writing of his jokes to a cut-rate Tommy Cooper knockoff.