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Review: Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga

Posted Feb-01 2008 by ron, created under common review policies
Multiplatform game, reviewing the Playstation 3 version

No material can withstand the touch of a light-saber, and no creature can say "Möääääh!" quite like a wookie.
Movie licenses are somewhat of a bane of gaming: by attaching a popular franchise, poorly thrown-together games can still attract many customers, so one should usually not go in with high expectations. On the other hand a movie license does not technically prevent a game from being good (unless it has to be rushed to make a simultaneous release), but even if it is, experienced gamers will be so wary of the licensing that they will find it hard to take the game serious.
Lego Star Wars is an oddity in that it is based on two licenses. Can two terrible curses, when combined, cancel each other out and make a great game after all? Huh?

Tarkin and Darth Vader

The Lego half of the license lends a little hilarity and comic relief even to the villains.

Unlike your average kids' movie license where you can be thankful to end up collecting a few hundred nuts to proceed another level, the Star Wars source material is a great template, because it offers several mechanics that lend themselves well to videogame adaption: there's combat with blasters and light-sabers on a great variety of scales, there are dogfights in space, stealth elements, hacking elements, and even magic of sorts. There's very little that has to be specifically invented for the game, when a complete arsenal from handheld weapons over large armed vehicles to entire space stations can be lifted directly from the designs that were already in place in the movies.
It thus comes as no surprise that Lego Star Wars just takes all these design elements and uses them to imitate major scenes or sequences from the movies. There are six levels for every episode, yielding a total of 36 levels in The Complete Saga.

Obi-Wan fights general Grievous

On-foot missions, such as this recreation of the showdown between Obi-Wan and general Grievous, make up the majority of the game.

Most levels have you control the characters directly in a third-person perspective. Each of the many playable characters has specific traits, with the primary distinction lying in their combat style, i.e. whether they use blasters or light-sabers. There are many more traits and small differences though: most of them can jump, some can double-jump, some droids can interact with computer terminals, very small humanoids can enter ducts, some characters have jet-packs that allow them to float across wider gaps, there are face scanners that will only let certain classes of characters (or characters wearing the correct disguise) enter areas, some characters can use explosives to blow up certain obstacles, and then there is of course that whole "force" thing.
At first, levels will be played with a cast that is appropriate for the movie scene they replicate, but after finishing a level once, it will be unlocked for free play, which means you can go back in with any character you want, and solve any optional puzzles that call for specific abilities that weren't available for you in the first go.

Darth Maul, a jedi and a few droids

The Mos Eisley cantina and a couple of connected areas serve as the central hub and superstructure for the whole game. All of your unlocked characters are assembled here and can be experimented with, and there are a few puzzles to solve and things to break, which is a quick way to earn a little money. If you wish, you can also have a massive inconsequential bar brawl before walking through the door that leads to the next real level.

These on-foot missions strike a balance between combat and puzzling. Even boss fights are interspersed with simple puzzling or platforming activities, such as building a bridge or traversing a bit of terrain to catch up with a retreating enemy.
Puzzling is where the Lego part of the dual-license comes into play. Many objects throughout the levels can be destroyed, and while this most often produces just Lego studs, the currency of the game, which must be collected quickly before it disappears, sometimes such destruction also yields actual Lego pieces that can be put together to form something new, like steps, bridges, or entire vehicles.
The second pillar for puzzling is the force, which is open only to a few select characters of course. It allows them to manipulate objects from afar so that they can be stacked, remodeled or just rattled around a bit, which usually causes some money to come flying out of it.

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