Around the time of Episode III's to the Cinema, a quirky game came out which combined the world's most popular toy with the world's most popular science fiction series. Lego Star Wars was one of the most original games of that year and it was no surprise that it was one of the biggest selling games of that year and has built quite a fan base proving that Star Wars games are back. Lucasarts decided to take the game in-house this time and rather than Eidos having the publishing responsibility, Lucasarts and Activision have teamed up once again with Travellers Tales to bring the first three movies to this crazy Lego world, and while using that source material doesn't make it hard to top the original, Travellers Tales have gone the extra mile to make this a quality title with some genuinely amusing content, not to mention their take on the series will have you in stitches time and time again.
Obviously with the game set in the first three movies you will play through some of the most famous cinematic sequences of all time such as Luke finding out Vader is his father (this is truly one of the most hilarious moments in gaming we've seen for a while), the deathstar flight sequence and many others. It's how these well known stories are presented to the gamer that makes this as unique as the original. At first only the original movie is unlocked, but the other two can be played after about two levels of 'A New Hope' is completed.
As with the original game the action takes place from a third person perspective and the developer has gone with a "if it isn't broken don't fix it" approach because those who have played the original game will be instantly familiar with the controls. At the basic level, Lego Star Wars II is a platform game where you have to get from point A to B alive, but with a few differences in comparison to a typical platform game. First of all, you really can't die. Your character can explode into a billion Lego pieces, but there you have unlimited lives. This has both positive and negative effects such as the fact you won't ever get overly frustrated, but on the flipside it won't be long until you finish the game. Travellers Tales have also taken the lego-building mini game to the next level as well with the characters now constructing much more including some of the most famous vehicles like the landspeeder and AT-ST which look stunning. What really is excellent however is that the pieces which are used to build the vehicles are actual Lego pieces rather than bits which conveniently go together and don't exist outside the game.
The other excellent feature of Lego Star Wars is the multiplayer component, especially with the fact that gamers can drop in and out anytime. It really is a shame that they weren't able to get this working across Live because it would have been brilliant with people dropping in and out of your game to help you out. There is Live support for many of the other games options however. As well as this, for the first time Lucas has allowed Star Wars to be mucked around with and taken out of the 'official' realm. This is displayed by the character editor where you, once you reach far enough in the game, can create your own characters - for instance, you can put Luke's head on Leia's body and play through the game with that character.
There is obviously a lot of fan service in this game and many of the reasons why this game plays so well is the humor element which is prevalent throughout. This game does have a lot of cinematics, but they all tie into the story and are so enjoyable you will forget that every 10-20 minutes you are interrupted by one, in fact we'd argue that you will actually be playing the game just to see the next cinematic. That to some people may be a problem however and the game is certainly not without its problems. The aforementioned ease of difficulty is a big one and the fact that there is no mode where you have limited lives really limits how long you will be stuck in this game and the challenge offered by it. Also, it is a disappointment that the only difference on the 360 version to the others is the graphics and really with a fairly moderate PC you can get the same effect for sixty dollars cheaper. However the biggest disappointment to us is that while the game is improved it really is an expansion pack to the original game. There is enough content to justify the price, in fact this is one of the best priced 360 titles around, but it would have been nice to see the developers try to implement something from totally left field into the title rather than sticking with the tried and true which is becoming an all too common problem with Xbox 360 games due to development costs.
It's hard to be too harsh on the visual aspect however as the game looks gorgeous and runs a super smooth sixty frames per second throughout. Even with many enemies on the screen, the game doesn't skip a beat and the animations really gel in the game well with characters moving as you would expect and Lego pieces falling into place in a realistic fashion as well. The cinematics as mentioned before are done in engine but are some of the funniest Star Wars parodies you will see inside a game and it's nice to see Lucas also has a sense of humor when it comes to his massive empire. Sound effects are done well with the official score from the films making it into the game and the introduction text accompanied by probably the most famous piece of Star Wars music ever done.
Lego Star Wars II takes a successful formula, enhances it ten fold and goes next generation. It really is one of those games that are hard to predict as a hit despite its predecessor taking numerous accolades. The game is going cheaper than the usual RRP of 360 titles but even when you take that into account, the 360 version really is only for those who don't have a PC good enough to run the PC game, as the PC version offers the same game experience for a lot less money. May the schwarz er ... force be with you.