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July 27, 2006

PREVIEW: LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy

In writing this preview of LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, I must have experimented with a dozen different opening paragraphs, to set the scene just so.

But why should I beat around the bush with cleverer - than - thou writing, when I can bottom-line it for you much more plainly and succinctly? So if you're pressed for time, feel free to stop reading after the following sentence:

LEGO Star Wars II , which will be released on September 12 (Xbox 360, Xbox, PS2, GameCube, PC, DS, PSP, GameBoy Advance), is chock full of delightful, kid-friendly awesomeness.

Actually, keep reading for a just a smidge more, as I take it one step further with this declaration:

LEGO Star Wars was great.
LEGO Star Wars II will be better.

Why do I say this?

Well, first, LucasArts is taking back the reins on this one (the first LEGO Star Wars was published by Eidos), which, given their stellar reputation for outstanding achievement in the field of excellence, can only be a good thing.

But let's get right to the actual in-game goodies, shall we?

  • LEGO Star Wars II features 50+ characters from the original Star Wars trilogy. This is great news for parents like me, for whom the first 3 Star Wars movies (officially episodes 4-6) occupy a warm, squishy, Pop-Rocks-eating, banana-seat-bike-riding place in our hearts. What made the first game great was not the story (Jar-Jar Binks, anyone?), but rather, the whimsical, immersive gameplay. So if you add the powerful draw of the original Star Wars trilogy into an already potent mix, you can't help but be excited. And for those of us who saw episodes 4-6 (many times), but skipped the more recent episodes 1-3, you'll actually be able to explain to your kids just what the hell is going on.
  • You can import save games & characters from the first LEGO Star Wars into this game. How cool is that? My kids have spent hours of independent, cooperative play with the first game, and the fact that they don't have to start from square one is terrific.
  • Franken-Star Wars! You can mix and match body sections to create your own custom Star Wars characters. Come on, people! Give it up! Storm Solo? Darth Lea? R2 Bacca? That's gold, Jerry. GOLD! It fits right in with the wonderful sense of humor that runs throughout the LEGO Star Wars series. I awarded LucasArts the Best Schwag Award in my E3 2006 Fammy Awards because of their terrific interchangeable LEGO Star Wars II parts. But what makes it more than mere cool schwag is that it is also smart marketing. Sure, LucasArts could have given out whole mini LEGO Star Wars characters, like the ones my wife and I bought for our son at the LEGO store in a local mall. But this wasn't schwag for schwag's sake, like a pen, keychain, or some of the other craptacular freebies I brought back with me from E3. In having interchangeable LEGO Star Wars II parts, they wisely melted down one of the main points-of-difference in the game into schwag form. Well played.

  • Instead of merely watching the cool vehicles drive/fly/hover by, you can build AND RIDE your own. Do I have to explain why that's great for kids? Didn't think so.

  • This game is more freeform than the first. Much of the first game was played on-rails, which was one of the few issues I had with it. LEGO Star Wars II will be more open-ended, which is something I always look for in a good kids' game.

There's a lot more cool stuff I could have included in this preview, but do I really need it? Have I not convinced you that this is going to be a terrific game for kids? Hell, I thought I did that after the first couple of paragraphs. All of the details are just gravy. So I guess my work is done here.............................. OK, fine. Here are a couple of fun little nuggets for you:

  • Chewbacca tends to rip the arms off his enemies. Of course, now that I read that, it may strike some as less than kid-friendly, but given that it takes place in the safe LEGO universe, it ends up being funny and cute, as opposed to scary or violent.
  • The Dewbacks poop LEGO bricks. Given how funny my kids thought the pooping was in Dog's Life, they'll be all over this one. When I told my kids about the pooping Dewbacks when I returned from E3, they were on the floor. Just wait 'til it happens when they're playing the game.

Anyhoo, come September 12, go buy it, steal it, rent it, whatever. But however you obtain a copy, just make sure you find a way for your kids to play it. Of course, since this game is fun for parents as well, they may have to wrestle the controller away from Mom and Dad. Or even better, since LEGO Star Wars II retains the low-maintenance, drop-in, drop-out cooperative gameplay of the first game, you can play together.

Oh, wait, I almost forgot the obligatory sentence written in Yoda-speak, so here goes:

This awesome game, you should buy.


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