Solomon once declared that there isn't anything new under the sun. But people sure do keep trying to find something. I have a photographer friend who mixed his love of architecture with Lincoln Logs (and an artist's eye) to create a miniature city. And I'm not talking about a group of little cabins with a papier-mâché tree. Over the course of months he created a metropolis with stately skyscrapers, geometrically complex museums and a Golden Gate-like bridge.
The video game guys at LucasArts are a lot like my artsy friend, except, they're into LEGOs. Last year they took their infatuation with the newest Stars Wars movie (or maybe it was their preschool building-block days) and created LEGO Star Wars. They loved it so much that they've gone and done it again.
A Bunch of Blockheads
The LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy adventure game essentially tracks what the action might be like if Luke Skywalker and the gang were made of LEGOs. And as odd as that may sound, this interconnecting block concept actually lends a very playful attitude to the game's story line. Some of the characters, at first glance, can surprise a laugh out of you even when their scenes are serious (imagine a blocky little Princess Leia with her painted-on Jabba the Hut palace bikini). And while you're chuckling, you can try customizing your heroes by interchanging parts from other characters (Yoda in that same bikini, for example).
Play starts out in the Mos Eisley Cantina (no imbibing or hand lopping this time around). Within the cantina are lounge areas that serve as access points to each of the three original movies. For instance, from lounge No. 1 you jump into A New Hope and start out as Princess Leia trying to elude Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers. As you progress through each movie chapter, you get a chance to step into the shoes of a bunch of your favorite characters (from Chewbacca to C3PO), each having their own skills for fighting, flying, shooting and puzzle solving.
LEGO Star Wars II has a creative flair yet remains simple to play, running about as long as the actual movies would. During that time span you fly landspeeders and x-wings, fight battles in the frozen plains of Hoth, cross lightsabers with the bad guys and make your way to the final Ewok party—all undergirded by the rousing and well-known John Williams score.
Balancing the Force
Content-wise, there's no hidden Death Star lurking to slam gamers in the face on level seven. After all these years of Star Wars sequels, prequels, toys and games, though, no one will be surprised that "the force" (a kind of Eastern-influenced mysticism) is represented. Its use is limited to some levitation of droids and building of usable devices, but it still peeks its Jedi head up often enough to notice.
Much more prevalent is the ever-present slashing of lightsabers and zapping of blasters. Star Wars is all about battling your way through the obstacles that confront you. And even though Darth Vader and his minions are your targets, you can actually attack any character on the field of play and kill them in cold ... umm, plastic. The LEGO block world does help soften the blows. When good or bad guys are attacked, their blocks bloodlessly crumble apart (and you also have the option to put your heroes back together again).
The truth is, your opinion of this LEGO recap in a galaxy far, far away, will largely depend on your feelings about the whole Star Wars mega industry. If you're tired of the continued hype, or if you never liked anything about the movies to begin with, you'll probably dislike this game, too.
On the other hand, if you've ever dreamed of building your own Millennium Falcon or thought that with enough LEGO blocks you could take over the world (or at least the kitchen table), then LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy could be the tinker-toy in space that you've been waiting for.