Lego Star Wars

Year: 2005
Platform: Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Traveller's Tales
Genre: Action/Adventure
Review Date: 2/7/08
Rating: ***

After playing the superb "Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy" (2006), I decided to go back and visit the original game that covers the "Star Wars" prequels: "The Phantom Menace," "Attack Of The Clones," and "Revenge Of The Sith." As far as gameplay is concerned, it's effectively identical to the sequel. You take little Lego people with various skills through the events of the movies, collecting points and unlocking extra features. The controls are simple, but auto-aiming doesn't always work and precision jumping is extremely difficult. Once you play through the story, "Free Mode" is unlocked which allows you to replay the levels with any characters you want in order to find more goodies and hidden items. Ultimately, you can unlock a teaser level for "Episode IV: A New Hope," which unlocks Darth Vader and Princess Leia as playable characters and sets the stage for the sequel.

Visually, the game is identical to the sequel, with attractive and functional level design. However, it's immediately apparent that the game lacks the depth, polish, sophistication, and scope of "Lego Star Wars II." Keep in mind just how groundbreaking and risky this game was to produce - taking the beloved "Star Wars" franchise with its extremely hardcore fan base, and giving it a light-hearted kid treatment with Lego's of all things, must have had the accountants sweating and wringing their hands in fear and despair. Fortunately, the kid-friendly presentation paid off and was accessible to ALL ages, whereas previous "Star Wars" games failed to satisfy due to extreme difficulty, loose adherence to canon, or the inability to play as the principal characters. Interestingly, the game is played mostly straight, and lacks the campy and irreverent wit that the sequel does. Again, it feels like the developers are holding back and delicately testing the waters to see how fans are going to react to this unheard of and possibly blasphemous interpretation of the material.

Having played the sequel first, this game is a bit of a let down. It's still fun, but the improvements in the sequel make for a significantly more enjoyable experience (not to mention better source material). The vehicle missions in this game are awful and unnecessarily difficult. Just like the pod race in "The Phantom Menace," the pod race in the game is about three times too long. You'll play through the vehicle missions once just so you can advance to the next chapter, but you'll never want to play them again.

What's most curious about this game is that it was released several months before "Revenge Of The Sith" came out, and contains numerous spoilers from the film. Again, this feels like a blatant marketing ploy to see if they could sell this bizarre marriage of Lego's and Star Wars. Unfortunately, it drops the quality bar a bit because the "Revenge Of The Sith" chapters are a bit vague and disjointed, and don't feature music from the movie. Instead, they use music from the original trilogy, which is extremely disconcerting. Defending the Wookiee planet of Kashyyyk while listening to music from "The Asteroid Field" is a bit unnerving. Still, despite my nitpicking, there is much fun to be had in this game, and it makes a fine addition to anyone's collection.