This is sort of a combined review of the first Lego Star Wars: The Video Game, Lego Star Wars II and Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. It turned out to be quite long, so make yourself comfortable. 🙂
I wasn’t expecting much from this series. I think the reason I gave in was a combination of hearing so much praise about it and finding it on-sale. Up until then, Lego video games had been consistently terrible, otherwise I would’ve jumped at the opportunity to control a Lego Darth Maul right away.
What struck me about the first game was not that it was “expertly” crafted or precise, but somehow it didn’t need to be. In most games we demand a certain amount of precision in the controls and hit-detection, but in this game it really didn’t matter, which was probably a result of it being so darn cute, and having infinite lives.
It’s a franchise with a very…relaxing level of difficulty. But with enough unlockable extras like characters and vehicles and “cheats” that you still feel like you’re working to earn stuff. It was the perfect game for me to play just as I came down with a cold because I didn’t have the energy for anything rigorous but still felt like I was being productive.
Starting with the second game, the “cheats” took on a different dynamic. There was more of them, they were cheaper, and a lot of them had to do with enhancing specific powers. Adding to that the fact that they were usable even in your first run through Story Mode, and the “cheats” took on the feeling of an RPG element – which created a lot of additional replay value. Even after unlocking everything in the game, I’ve found it so much fun to start a new file and do it all over again.
The second game also introduced Character Creation to the series, which of course made my mind salivate. I wasn’t quite able to make a Lego version of my ultimate Sith character, but I made a decent old, haggard, Lego Jedi.
A part of me wishes I hadn’t played the first two games, and just got the Complete Saga and started with that. It has pretty much all the content of the first two games mixed into one package allowing all the characters of both games to interact with eachother. (Except Yoda doesn’t hop around like crazy like he did in the first game – I miss that.)
Since then they’ve made Lego Indiana Jones and Lego Batman games, but both of them fall short of the freedom of creativity of the Star Wars games. Batman in particular has extremely specific ways of getting through each level, meaning that even in Free Play mode (where you can play as any character you want) you still have to switch to specific characters constantly in order to progress through the level, which removes a lot of the sense of freedom that Free Play mode is meant create. Other reviewers didn’t seem as bothered by it as I was, but there it is. In the Star Wars games I could identify levels that were Force-heavy and levels that were Blaster-heavy, and knew that I could play as any character from those categories and get through the level without having to switch too much. That didn’t exist in the Batman game.
These are games that I find fascinating to play with a variety of people. For something that seems so simple, nobody plays it the exact same way. Some people prefer Lightsabers and Force powers, some prefer blasting everything, some compete to collect all the studs, some are constantly trying to kill me. I never knew my mother was so viscious when you put a gun in her hand! And the ease of difficulty means you can play it with just about anybody – even people who are most often intimidated by video games.
There’s little in these games for parents to be concerned about. Even characters that are normally sexy have all been Lego-nized. Slave Princess Leia does a little dance when you press the action button, but she’s not exactly curvacious. People fall apart when they die, but without blood or guts. Some might be concerned that in Free Play mode there are certain areas that cannot be accessed without using “The Dark Side” of the Force, but apart from the red colours, there’s no actual difference in the game between using that and “Good” Force.
These games are the kind of games that I really could’ve used as a kid. Even without the Star Wars name, just the design of the difficulty setting, the drop-in-drop-out multiplayer feature, the freedom of creativity… Back when my autism was more severe, I tended to feel inadequate and out-of-place in most social situations. Video games brought me to a world where I and the person I played with were on the same level. But so few games are as welcoming to such a broad range of individuals as these Lego games.
Now Lego Star Wars III is out. But I’m waiting to buy it until I come down with another cold or something. That’s how I’ll always remember these games – as comfort games. Something to make me feel productive while I can’t be bothered doing anything energetic. Only Lego Pirates of the Carribean is coming out in less than a month. So I’m gonna have to get sick twice in a very short amount of time…
Anybody want a hug???