It's a great concept, taking the brutally unfunny Star Wars universe and turning the entire thing into innately hilarious Lego figurines. The format is pretty simple, but very effective. There is a hub, called Dexter's Diner, where you can wander around searching for coins and swapping between characters. This is done by simply facing a non-player character (NPC) and tapping a button. There are three main story paths out of this hub, each devoted to one of the three movies. Along each path there are six chapters, each of which rip-off a signature scene from the film and as you beat one chapter you move on to the next. At any time you can then return to the diner, switch between unlocked characters and go back to tackle any of the missions you have completed.
This last point is more important than it sounds. All of the missions have collectables and alternate paths that can only be reached by a specific character - often a character that you have yet to unlock. The level design is quite smart and there is plenty of incentive to go back and explore. Indeed, this is a collect-a-thon of the highest order and it feels like every prop in the game can be shaken or rearranged with your Force powers to help you collect something. This replayability is a big issue too, as the single player game is incredibly short and with next to no alternate modes even moderately capable gamers won't be around for long.
The core characters (Qui-Gon and Obi Wan in Episode I; Obi Wan and Anakin in Episodes II and III) have at their disposal a lightsaber, a double-jump and Force power. When you come across an enemy you have the choice of button-bashing with the lightsabers (there are no combos and the enemies usually fall in a few hits) or throwing them with your Force power - that's it. If you want to get super technical you can switch to a character with a blaster (like Queen Amidala) to spice up the action.
Perhaps this could have been helped by a difficulty system, or by giving the many characters special powers beyond the likes of open doors (R2D2) or jump high (Jar Jar Binks). Points are awarded, however, for the inclusion of drop-in, drop-out co-op. At any time a mate or sibling can immediately take control of one of the NPC characters trailing along behind you. This is a good thing, especially because the game's artificial intelligence (AI) is a little short on, well, the "I" bit. It will ignore your compatriots (and your compatriots will ignore others) with all the focus of the combat on you unless you go co-op. In fact, co-op is the second best thing in the game.
What's best, you ask? The graphics. This Lego world is not a place of blocky textures, in fact, the environments, models, animations and reflections are ace. Watching Darth Maul whirl his double-bladed lightsaber into oncoming attacks is impressive. There are a few little cons that sneak in though, with much finger-pointing at collision detection. Too often you'll see objects pass through each other or you'll re-spawn in a model or off a cliff.
Traveller's Tales made a big call in choosing the non-dialogue route, and while the attitude heavy, situational comedy of the "acting" will have you giggling here and there, the opportunity to really "go to town" has not been fully taken. This could have been one of the game's keynote features, lifting it out of the "younger gamer" category and out to a broader audience.
In the end, it is the young or the young at heart who this game will appeal to.The short game duration, and button-bashing gameplay will quickly alienate experienced campaigners. Also available for the Xbox and PS2.
Visuals: Cute and cheeky, the models and animations are pure class Audio: Nice use of in-game music and sound effects, the inclusion of dialogue would have made this title complete Gameplay: Great replay value ensures longevity of the title, co-op play with a mate is a must Score: Publisher: Eidos Developer: Traveller's Tales URL: www.legostarwarsthevideogame.com