From Bricks To Polygons – Part I

To be honest with you I don’t spend any time playing children’s computer game, I also have limited experience playing on consoles and I don’t really like those over-the-shoulder perspective games. So you might be thinking “why is he writing this review then?” Well, for starters my experience playing first-person shooters goes back to the original Wolfenstein 3D title, so my fingers have that crippled-by-over-tapping look that most gamers know all too well, I am heavily into LEGO, and (most crucially) I only live a short drive away from LEGO and the game developers.

Thanks to the team at Giant I had exclusive access to the Playstation 2 version of the LEGO Star Wars The Video Game, and for three days sat in a self-imposed exile up in their games testing suite while I bashed, slashed and flashed my way through Episodes I, II and III.

After reading numerous reports on the Internet and spending the day with Giant (see part one of this feature) I was very excited about this game, I never really anticipated just how fun it would prove to be. From my initial introduction the week previous I knew that the game was immediately engaging and done in an entertaining way that doesn’t come across as childish at all. The environment design captures the most important aspects of LEGO and Star Wars (with a few cunning tweaks) the fluidity of the moving mini-figs is an immediate draw, and the simplicity of the controls was inviting to a non-console gamer like me.

And so it was with no great reluctance I leapt peg first into the game:

When the game starts up the first Star Wars location that you visit is Dexter’s Diner. What might seem like a strange starting point makes sense after a very short while, because not only does it serve as the hub for access to the three levels that the game contains, but it allows you to get used to the control (navigation, weapons, special moves and the Force) systems.

And as you would expect, Dexter is present in his establishment, but instead of serving inter-galactic dishes he sells tips, free-play characters and cheats. All of these are part of the game’s rewards system that is based on collecting LEGO studs (silver, gold and blue) that are distributed throughout the levels, both in plain sight and hidden in objects that either must be destroyed or manipulated with the Force. Most of the studs can be reached by the main characters used in the various levels, but there are more difficult areas to gain access to that can only be reached in the game’s free-play mode. The ultimate reward is a secret level that can only be unlocked by retrieving all of the studs in every level of the game.

From Dexter’s Diner there are five doors – one for each of the Star Wars episodes, the bonus level and another to the parking lot/landing pads outside of the diner which houses the MINI Star Wars kits that can be assembled as gameplay proceeds. At the start of the game only the Episode One door is unlocked, and by taking the playable LEGO mini-figs (in this case Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi) through it you take your first step into a brick-built Star Wars universe. A text crawl kicks off the game, filling in the events that have transpired so far, followed by an animated action sequence that sets the scene for the level. Each level starts this way and it is important to pay attention to both of these storytelling elements because there is no dialogue in the game. Not having any in-game speech does take some getting used to but Giant have gotten around it by cunningly employing sound effects and facial expressions (sometimes to great comical effect).

Episode One

The first part of Episode One is, as you would expect, the Trade Federation blockade ship, and in this chapter, titled Negotiations, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan must fight their way to the invasion fleet’s loading bays, past battledroids and droidekas in order to stow away on a MTT. During this first chapter, on-screen tips introduces you to the key skills that are used throughout the game – lightsabre slashes and deflections, using the Force to reveal studs and attack the enemy, jumping, puzzles, interchangeable characters and an interactive non-player character that joins the team in order to gain access to areas that the two Jedi would otherwise but unable to reach.

An eagle-eyed player would have seen the LEGO treasure piece tucked away in the level. These pieces can be collected throughout each episode, and during the rest of the game, to build bonus MINI kits. Some of these have been created by LEGO (such as podracers and other spacecraft), while others were specially created by Giant and vetted by LEGO just for the game. Some of these are familiar, like the Gungan submarine, but others are all-new Revenge of the Sith vehicles.

Once escaping the Trade Federation ship a cutscene depicts the Invasion Of Naboo, with landing craft dropping through the jungle canopy and deploying their forces. From one of these MTTs emerges Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, and then the gameplay commences. This time the Jedi aren’t alone because they chance upon a friendly native who wishes to tag along. In this version of The Phantom Menace Jar-Jar Binks does prove to be useful, because by swapping characters you can use Jar-Jar’s special jumping skill to leap across ledges and up cliffs and open up the path ahead, as well as the Jedi’s Force abilities to construct bridges and remove obstacles.

As the three characters move through the Gungan swamps and undiscovered ruins they encounter battledroids and STAPs before Jar-Jar leads them to Otoh Gunga, where Boss Nass loans them a bonga submarine in order for them to proceed to Theed, rescue Queen Amidala and Escape From Naboo.

This level is introduced with a cutscene showing the Queen, Captain Panaka and several Naboo guards being herded by battledroids. The action starts with the player-controlled Jedi cutting down the battledroids and freeing Amidala and Panaka. With these two new characters you can use their ascension guns to ascend terraces and reach the roof tops that will allow you to advance past the puzzles, droidekas and battledroids that get in their way. Proceeding through the Palace and a number of other building in Theed, the group must reach the hanger in order to free several captive pilots who, once released, can clear the airspace of Trade Federation forces and allow the Royal Starship to slip past the blockade.

Once off Naboo the game continues to follow the storyline of The Phantom Menace, and the next port of call is the planet Tatooine. Here we see Qui-Gon haggle over the price of a new hyperdrive with Watto in a cutscene and Anakin Skywalker is introduced. Obviously what follows is the Mos Espa Podrace.

This level isn’t quite what you’d expect. Rather than a race against the clock it is the pack leader, Sebulba, you are following and he doesn’t want to give up the lead. The track is closely based on that which was seen in The Phantom Menace but with a few twists. Since the game is aimed at children it is somewhat shorter than the original, and a little less aggressive. The aim of the race is to catch up with Sebulba by the end of each quarter of the lap, of which there are three. Failure to do so causes you to repeat that section until the pack leader has been beaten. Each lap gets harder, with more obstacles including Tusken Raider snipers, boulders and potholes becoming progressively more difficult to avoid. Shorter time intervals mean that you must have faster reactions and better judge the hazards in order to finish one of the hardest challenges of the game, and win the necessary hyperdrive.

The next chapter of the game is to Retake Theed Palace from Trade Federation forces. On their return to Naboo, Qui-Gon, Amidala and Obi-Wan seek out Boss Nass at the Gungan sacred place. As every, Boss Nass is willing to help the Jedi and marches out with his army to distract the Trade Federation. Meanwhile it is up to you to guide Qui-Gon, Amidala, Obi-Wan, R2-D2, Panaka and Anakin through the city. This section of the game includes some very tricky puzzles that use multiple mini-figs, meaning that you must swap between different characters and use their special skills in order to win through to the Naboo starfighter hanger and onto the final chapter of the episode.

This level sees you pit yourself against Darth Maul in the first boss level of the game. It begins with a chase through the power core, followed by a dash through the laser gates before Maul turns to face Qui-Gon who must fight him using the Force. Once Maul has been weakened enough he flees and the chase continues with a cutscene of the final duel between Qui-Gon and Maul. Upon his masters death Obi-Wan takes on Maul, and in a perfect rendition of the movie we see a mini-fig Darth Maul get chopped in half. Cue the final cutscene and then the game automatically returns to Dexter’s Diner.

At the end of each chapter you can leave the game and return to Dexter’s Diner. Here you can choose to spend the studs that have been accrued during gameplay on hints and cheats, or on unlocking new characters to be used in free-play. Only those mini-figs that have been encountered through preceding levels can be bought from Dexter. For instance upon completing all the Episode One chapters TC-14, battledroids, droidekas, serving droids, Captain Panaka, R2-D2, Queen Amidala, C-3PO, Darth Maul, Jar-Jar Binks, battle droid commanders, Anakin Skywalker, Naboo security and royal guards, and Tusken Raiders can be taken into free-play mode. In all there are fifty free-play characters from all three episodes.

While in free-play each chapter can be gone over again, but by using the special skills each mini-fig has new areas can be explored – and more studs and MINI kit pieces can be found. Free-play mode allows the gameplay to be doubled in length, and serves the player who finds that they have completed the story element quickly.

Episode Two

The action kicks off, not with the speeder chase through Coruscant, but with Obi-Wan having made the Discovery On Kamino that strange things are afoot. A cutscene shows Obi-Wan and his red R2 unit arriving at Tipoca City and meeting Lama Su. She takes the pair through the city and shows them the clone army that is being crafted for the Jedi. Cleverly animated shots show clone embryos, depicted as single brick pieces, in culture tanks and clonetrooper mini-figs marching in step. From there Obi-Wan is taken to meet someone who can help him with his quest, but Jango immediately recognises the danger the Jedi presents and immediately attacks Obi-Wan and makes his escape with Boba Fett. As Obi-Wan you must seek out Jango among the gantries and ledges of Tipoca City, overcoming a few minor puzzles, before catching up with him on the landing pad where Boba and Slave I are waiting. Here Obi-Wan must face and defeat Jango under a barrage of cannon fire from Slave I, but just before Obi-Wan can capture Jango, Boba saves his father and they blast off from Kamino.

Luckily Obi-Wan is able to attach a tracking device to the hull of the ship and is able to follow Jango to Geonosis. While attempting to pass on the information he has discovered Obi-Wan is taken captive by the Separatists, and so Anakin and Padm? go to his rescue. On Geonosis they discover the Droid Factory that they have to infiltrate. The chapter is a platform game of jumping across gaps, ducking under presses and fighting through battledroids and Geonosian warriors. At the end of the assembly line is Obi-Wan trussed up in a detention field – the final objective of the chapter.

Unfortunately all doesn’t go smoothly because Jango re-appears with reinforcements and takes Anakin, Padm? and Obi-Wan as his prisoners. It all starts to go downhill for the game’s characters who are taken into the arena and are chained up for the amusement of the Geonosian’s who have come to see their execution. But all is not lost because Mace Windu arrives and the Jedi Battle against the odds to save their comrades. The player starts as Mace who has to fight through a never-ending supply of battledroids, Geonosians and super battledroids to release Padm?, Anakin and Obi-Wan in turn. Angered by this turn of events Jango enters the fray, and Mace has to finish off what Obi-Wan started on Kamino. During the final battle against Fett it is very easy to get distracted by the hordes of enemies who are attacking the other Jedi in the arena, but if you stay on target they will be rewarded with the arrival of Yoda and an army of clonetroopers.

And on to the next chapter – Gunship Cavalry – which has two stages. The first is Zaxxon-like shooter that scrolls across the surface of Geonosis, dodging Dwarf Spider and Hailfire droids, gun emplacements and energy fields. Once completed you must then stop a Trade Federation commandship from taking off. In a race against time all the shield generators must be destroyed, while you are harassed by ground units.

The pace doesn’t stop because the chase for Count Dooku has only just begun. Dooku, having escaped the commandship, flees to his hidden hanger with Obi-Wan and Anakin in pursuit. At the hanger Obi-Wan and Anakin have to fight the boss Dooku, protected by a number of battledroids and Geonosians. As each encounter unfolds you have to use both lightsabres and the Force to both attack and defend, and as Dooku gets worn down he manages to knock Obi-Wan to the ground and sever Anakin’s hand. Just as the outcome looks bleak for the Jedi, Yoda arrives to save the day. Playing as Yoda, who is a whirling dervish of leaps and slashing lightsabre attacks, Dooku is fought down but manages to make yet another escape aboard his Solar Sailor.

The final cutscene comes as the meeting of Dooku and his master, Darth Sideous, who allows himself a maniacal laugh at the outcome of events both have had a hand in.

Episode Three

SPOILER WARNING: This next section contains some significant plot points, so if you do not want to have Revenge of the Sith blown wide open for you then do no read any further.

Anyone who has seen the third series of Clone Wars cartoons won’t be surprised to learn that the start of the first chapter consists of the Battle Over Coruscant. Obi-Wan and Anakin, returning from their mission on Nelvaan, jumps straight into the fight. Piloting Obi-Wan’s Jedi Starfighter you must wend and weave through the Separatist and Republic capital ships who are blasting away chunks of LEGO hull plating. The level, which is on rails, is essentially a dogfight against Vulture droids and Tri-fighters with a few obstacles such as ARC-170s and dreadnoughts that must be avoided. The chapter ends with Obi-Wan and Anakin crashing their starfighters into the hanger of the Separatist ship that Chancellor Palpatine is being held on. Gameplay is rather simplistic but the chapter is still a graphical treat and a fantastic introduction into Revenge of the Sith.

With the Chancellor In Peril Obi-Wan and Anakin must pursue General Grievous through the flagship of the Separatist fleet, fighting the batteldroids and droidekas. When they reach Palpatine, manacled to a chair, Dooku tries to prevent the Jedi from freeing the Chancellor of the Republic. This time there is no escape for Dooku because, playing as either Anakin or Obi-Wan, his defeat ends with a cutscene showing Anakin severing Dooku’s hands and then killing him in a fit of revenge. The chapter continues with the hunt for Grievous, again battling past battledroids and super battledroids with the added bonus of meeting Grievous’ bodyguards. The end of the level is on the bridge of the flagship, and a brief skirmish with Grievous ensues. This time it is his turn to turn tail, and after setting the auto-destruct, Grievous ducks into his escape pod and blasts off. The final puzzle of the chapter is to gain control of the ship, with a culminating animated sequence showing the bridge section crash landing on Coruscant.

Having gained intelligence on the whereabouts of General Grievous, Obi-Wan heads off to Utapau. With a clonetrooper as back-up Obi-Wan corners Grievous in one of the planet’s sinkholes. Progressing through the sinkhole using Obi-Wan’s Force powers and the clonetrooper’s ascension gun you must chip away at the health of Grievous until he is defeated, wherein the level ends. This chapter is simply a giant boss level, and though it seems out od sequence with the other boss levels that have all previously taken place in the same locale as the chapter that has lead up to the encounter, it is none-the-less a challenge.

The next chapter sees a change of characters, with the arrival of Yoda – met by a young Chewbacca – on a certain heavily wooded planet. The first stage of the chapter is to explore the Wookiee city in order to rendezvous with the clone army who have been sent to defend the planet from a Separatist attack. unbeknownst to Yoda the clonetroopers have received a holographic message from a mystery character in a hooded robe. With the receipt of Order 66 the clonetroopers turn on Yoda and Chewbacca who have to fight for the Defense Of Kashyyyk. Meanwhile in another part of the city Republic forces are taking Wookiee warriors prisoner, who must be rescued in order for Yoda to access the rest of the forest. With access to the next stage Yoda, Chewbacca and the Wookiee warriors witness the extent of the treachery committed against the Jedi when they witness clonetroopers and battledroids fighting side by side against the Wookiee locals. Progressing past enemy troops and AT-RTs you eventually come to Yoda’s means of escape , but it is protected by a puzzle that requires you to use Yoda’s Force powers while fighting off wave after wave of clonetroopers.

With his mission to destroy General Grievous complete Obi-Wan returns to Coruscant to discover that the true extent of the betrayal against the guardians of the Republic. Amidst the Ruins of the Jedi he finds Yoda lamenting the loss, and together the two of them must search the remains of the Jedi Temple in order to find clues to who has wiped out the Jedi in the heart of their order. Room by room Yoda and Obi-Wan advance, sometimes being attacked by clonetroopers disguised as Jedi, until hey reach the evidence they are looking for – a holographic message showing Anakin cutting down Shaak-Ti.

Distraught at what her husband has done Padm? heads off to confront Anakin. Knowing that the Chosen One is turning to the Dark Side, Obi-Wan stows away aboard Padm?’s ship so that he can stop Anakin becoming Darth Vader. On their arrival on Mustaphar Obi-Wan is discovered, and believing that his wife has betrayed him, Anakin turns his back on the duo and the Light Side forever. With Anakin in flight, Obi-Wan follows him into the power complex that feeds off the volcanic planet. Anakin’s only defense is to fight his old Master into retreat, while Obi-Wan’s takes the offensive in order to force Anakin into submission and bring him back to the Order. During their confrontations vital systems are damaged and the facility begins to malfunction. With lava pouring in and the structure falling apart Obi-Wan and Anakin are forced to put aside their differences and help each other in order to survive. In time they reach the volcano’s crater where they face each other in a final duel. During gameplay it is possible to swap between the two characters, but in the end Obi-Wan triumphs and drives Anakin into the fire. With his body in ruins Anakin is left for dead, and Obi-Wan departs knowing that he has only won a Pyrrhic victory.

With the end of the LEGO Star Wars The Video Game and the Star Wars saga looming there is still the final cutscene to watch. We see a close-up of Padme’s face, and as the point of view pulls back to show Obi-Wan and C-3PO we see that a pregnant Padm? mini-fig is in a delivery room. With a comical popping noise she gives birth to a pair of twins – one a boy with blonde hair and the other a girl with dark buns on either side of her head. Meanwhile Darth Sideous finds the wreckage that was Anakin Skywalker who is taken to a secret Sith medical centre. Anakin’s delivery into Darth Vader is not so pleasant though…

LEGO Star Wars The Video Game must be one of the best children’s games available at the moment, and will certainly have an attraction to adult fans of Star Wars. The combination of fighting, puzzle solving and the mix of vehicle levels is well-suited for the eight to fourteen market, and those grown-ups who want a light and easy game they can casually pick up and put down at their convenience.

If this all sounds exciting to you then you’re sure to be interested in our competition to win a copy of LEGO Star Wars The Video Game, available on PC, Xbox, Playstation 2 and Gameboy Advanced.

Entertainment Earth

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.