First Impressions: Size matters not... especially when every character is 1 1/2 inches tall.
2005's most enjoyable Star Wars-based videogame wasn't Revenge of the Sith. Granted, that game had the distinct advantage of being tied in with one of the top-grossing movies of the summer. But we've got to face the truth: most movie-based games suck. It started out with E.T. and hasn't really changed since then. Games based on existing licenses are rushed for release at the same time as the movie, and there just isn't time for development and testing as there could be for other types of games. Then again, if a company gets the game out in time for the movie, that's a built-in selling point. You've seen the movie, now play the game! Luckily, last year's greatest Star Wars game rose above the mediocrity of Revenge of the Sith and delivered something missing from many licensed games: fun.
LEGO Star Wars plopped the player into a Star Wars universe populated by LEGO minifigs. The Star Wars LEGO kits are consistently the most popular among the building brick line, so putting out a videogame based on their version of the galaxy far, far away was a given, but they didn't have to make it so damn fun! They could have scrimped, and it would have been a decent seller just because of the franchise attached to its name. But Traveller's Tales had something up their sleeves: create a Star Wars videogame that's actually good. Yes, the game's aimed at kids, but it's still accessible to adults as well. The player is taken through each episode of the Star Wars prequels, where you control characters through some of the more exciting scenes of each movie. With 50 unlockable characters, constant replay is encouraged. And, heck, slicing a lightsaber through an enemy droid until it breaks apart into its component LEGO pieces is hilarious.
Or maybe that's just me.
Now Traveller's Tales is working on a sequel, and boy, does it ever look sweet. The game will take players through the Original Trilogy this time, the one everybody grew up with. The ?better? one. The ?classic? one. The one Kevin Smith's characters revere more than that trio of movies made by that New Zealand guy. Allow me to indulge in some shameless mangling of another classic quote: ?The buzz is strong with this one.?
You'll be given another 50 characters to unlock and (how's this for sweet) you'll be able to import all of your unlocked characters from the first game as well! Darth Maul on Endor! Imagine that! Let's all just bask in that ray of sunshine for a brief moment.
Wait. Still basking.
In addition to that, there will also (finally) be a Character Creator that will let players create their own Star Wars minifig to let loose in the galaxy in Free Play mode. Stormtrooper-Jedi? Yoda-Chewbacca? It will all be up to you. It's great to see the developer embracing the sense of imaginary play that LEGO has encouraged since the first plastic interlocking blocks came out. Everyone has taken apart their minifigs and put them back together in silly configurations, right? Right? I can't be the only one who put Draco's hair on Harry Potter's head. Hmmm, was that a case of too much information?
Anyhow, LEGO Star Wars II will also address one of the most common complaints given about the first game: it was way too easy. Keeping in mind that the franchise is aimed at kids, this is forgivable, but the developer is seeking a way around that. Apparently, the game can ramp up the difficulty of play if it senses that the player can handle a more challenging environment. This is welcome news to everyone who blasted through the first game in a day. Once again, the option to unlock another 50 characters (though sources say the number is closer to 60 now) encourages replaying through the levels. Also, the vehicle levels have been completely redone, allowing for more control over a wider expanse of terrain. And now there will be character-specific attacks, hopefully reflecting the different personalities of these beloved characters. As an example, Chewie's special attack is to rip the enemy's arms out of their sockets. It's a great way to show how well the Star Wars franchise translates into LEGO form when you can do that without anyone complaining about violence. This is an E-rated game, after all. No blood. No gore. Just a whole lot of flying bricks.