Product Type: Activision Nintendo DS games
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Lego Deconstruct the Star Wars Saga
Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (DS)
Member Name: Hishyeness
Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (DS)
Date: 21/12/09, updated on 21/12/09 (159 review reads)
Advantages: A great irreverent take on Star Wars. Easy to pick up and play. The price!
Disadvantages: Mini-games can get a bit repetitive. Not much else worth complaining about at the price.
I was searching for stocking fillers on Amazon a few weeks ago when I stumbled across Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga for what seemed like an astonishing bargain at £9.99. I am usually quite circumspect in buying games, often checking a fair few professional and consumer reviews before investing my hard-earned, but given the price and my very positive experience with the original Lego Indiana Jones equivalent for the Wii, I decided to forego the usual due diligence and decided to buy it as a present - for myself.
For those not familiar with the burgeoning Lego games franchise (Batman, Indiana Jones, Star Wars are soon to be joined by Harry Potter), the basics of the game are quite simple. You usually play through the story-line from each of these films as one of any number and variety of Lego characters, each of which has special functions, equipment and powers.
You control two characters at once in a sort of tag-team style (i.e. one of them is the active lead, and the other follows you around and cooperates using AI until you switch off and make him/her/it active). Each of the levels is based on very familiar scenes and set-pieces, and it's that familiarity - and the Lego interpretation of them - that makes the franchise so endearing.
BASIC GAME PLAY
The game is essentially a sort of hack and slash 3D platformer with simple puzzles and mini-games thrown in to keep things interesting. Following the story through in linear fashion is a popular way to play, however, completing each level also permits you to revisit the area in "free play" mode, allowing you to complete the many and varied objectives that are not possible the first time around.
For example, certain doors can only be opened by certain characters (Boba Fett, Stormtroopers and Droids seem to be the most prevalent) but you don't "earn" some of these characters until later in the game. You will need to access some of these areas to collect parts of artefacts and special tokens that give you access to special features. These are not necessary to complete the game, but serve as mini side-quests for those looking to complete the "whole" game.
The game allows you to store two different save games and you chose which one you want to play from the start-up screen. This screen also tells you how much of the game you have completed (there is also a counter - with the time elapsed in game play and how much you have completed in the main room of the Mos Eisley Cantina).
The game currency is Lego studs, which come in silver (1 point), gold (10 points) and blue (50 points). Destroying items, killing enemies and unlocking doors and crates release various quantities of these studs. If, within a level, you collect a certain, predetermined, number of these studs, you are awarded "True Jedi" status for that level which gives you a big stud bonus at the end.
The studs are then used to purchase extra items from the Mos Eisley Cantina which serves as the central hub of the game (and comes complete with the band and familiar music). This is where you access the each of the episodes of the "Complete Saga" (i.e. Episodes One to Six in the Star Wars canon). You are given "free" access to the first story in each episode, but you can't access the rest until you play the first level through, then the second etc. However, the game does give you the freedom to start with whichever film you want. Each Episode has five iconic stories, giving the game thirty levels across the six Episodes.
There are various other functions that you can access from this small collection of rooms - a bespoke character creator, a trophy room, a central console where you can purchase additional characters and power-ups, access wireless game play with friends who also have the game, and buy hints for the game, and a couple of rooms stocked with crates and tables whose sole purpose seems to be target practice for the accumulation of a few spare studs if you find yourself a little short when buying something.
The directional pad and the various buttons on the DS are the primarily means of directing your character around, jumping, swinging, shooting and sword-play (with lightsaber). The touch screen comes into its own when you use a "Force-enabled" character such as Luke (after he becomes a Jedi), Obi-Wan, Darth Vader, Count Dooku and Yoda amongst others and is used to move objects and force blast enemies into smithereens. In the Lego series of games, beaten enemies don't die, they de-construct!
The touch screen is also used for the many mini-games which are used to access special and hidden areas and open doors. These vary from matching falling bricks to a panel underneath, to "safe-cracking" and matching pairs. Whilst these mini-games are initially diverting, none of them particularly challenging and they go from being interesting to a necessary means to an end fairly rapidly.
In short, gameplay is fairly intuitive and easy, so you don't need to be a "button-masher" to do well in this game. The ease of play should be attractive to a wide variety of casual gamers, although I do think a bit more could have been made of the DS capabilities. That said, the multiplayer function - allowing two players to play the whole game cooperatively as separate characters - is quite good - but you need two cartridges to play. A single cartridge game for two players on different consoles is not possible and would have been a welcome addition.
LOOK & FEEL
The game is chock full of tongue-in-cheek, irreverent humour and creative Lego interpretations of classic Star Wars scenes and characters. Each of the levels is prefaced by a cinematic the first time you play, some of which will have you laughing out loud. From the moment in Episode IV where the Lego Rebel Cruiser is pursued by a Lego Star Destroyer that looms onto the screen, this game had me hooked. Despite the whole game being constructed of "bricks", the characters themselves are given limited facial expression that is used quite effectively.
The music is ported straight from the films with little interference and adds an element of authenticity to proceedings. There is enough variety in the score to keep things from getting too repetitive, and if, like me you love the films, you can never get too bored of the classic music such as Vader's theme. Lego Star Wars doesn't take itself at all seriously, but it has enough about it to please serious and casual fans alike.
The imagination, humour and creativity used to put this game together is what makes it such a joy to play. You end each level anticipating and looking forward to what Lego will have done with the next classic scene. That said, the graphics are not the greatest and can get a bit blocky (no pun intended), but that does not really distract from the overall playability.
It is a great game to pick up and play, and lends itself to a five minute spell here or there - making it perfect for short car journeys, commutes to work, or a quick spell before bed. Each level takes about five minutes to complete if you simply run through it - longer if you are trying to be thorough and find everything.
Despite my overall positivity, there are one or two things which I find slightly irritating. The first is the opening credits. There is no way to short-circuit the intro and it takes a fair old while for the game to boot up and cycle through the credits - which can get a bit frustrating when you want to just dive in and play.
Secondly, the perspective of the characters and the game makes it hard sometimes to judge distance, often leading to the unnecessary death of your character after a misjudged leap. The good news is that death only costs you studs, and you carry on exactly where you left off, so no huge loss.
The use of the force powers with the touch screen is a bit awkward because primary control is via the touchpad - two-handed - so you have to either stop, remove the stylus and use the touch screen (or use your thumb which is far less precise) or somehow hold on to the stylus for the infrequent moments when you need to use it. I prefer the former, but it interrupts gameplay and can make things a bit clunky.
The game is a couple of years old now (and has already spawned a sequel) but given the price point, I can't think of a game that can compete with its quality and playability on this platform (Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars at £14.99 is the closest in terms of value for money). That alone is enough to overlook some of the game play issues - none of which are serious - to make this a perfect little stocking filler.
The game is advertised as suitable for ages three-plus, but would put in more in the six to sixty-six bracket because of its broad appeal, and also because anyone much younger will struggle with the controls and will not appreciate the finer points of the game (such as atmosphere and humour).
A determined gamer could probably finish this game in a around day and would probably complain about its simplicity and lack of longevity, but that misses the point. This isn't a title aimed at this serious button-masher, however, it is perfect fodder and genuinely engaging entertainment for the casual player.
I have been playing it for two weeks now and, although I have completed each of the levels, I am finding my second and third visits to various areas of the game with different characters equally rewarding. Without doubt, it's the best tenner I have ever spent on a DS game, and as such, it is well recommended.
© Hishyeness 2009
Summary: A perfect DS stocking-filler for Christmas