Thursday, November 23, 2006

360 review: Lego Star Wars II (4/10)

Seems like a great idea, right? Lego games. We all played with Legos as kids. People like Legos. Make the game fun, so that both adults and kids can play it. Make it a Star Wars game. Everyone likes Star Wars.


Lego Star Wars II does a few things right. It recreates the first three movies pretty well; it has a ton of unlockables; two-player mode seems easy to do, with the second person able to pop in and out as needed (perfect if your kids are just a little young to get through some of the harder parts). You do have health and can die (until you buy some extras), but when you do, you drop a few coins and are put right back in the action, so there's no three-lives-and-out.

However, it's a platform game. Not a problem ... but it's also designed to be a cinematic game (third-person view, camera usually fixed at a distance). Very bad combination. There are all sorts of places where you need to hit a jump just right, but with the camera at a distance, it's very difficult to tell where you need to be, so you'll make use of those unlimited lives.

And it's designed to be easy to pick up, so there's no way to aim: it's automatic. Great if there's only one target on the screen. Not great if you're shooting at something in front of you, but the game decides you want to aim at something to your right. Or, for that matter, that you're too close to hit the object right in front of you.

In story mode, you have one or more AI companions; in free play, you have only one. The AI is awful. The computer-controlled characters aren't allowed to do any damage, which is fine, but they usually get in the way during a fight, and at worst, in free play mode, are the same character as the ones you're shooting, so you don't realize you're firing at the wrong guy until he dies. They generally have no idea where they're going and will happily push you off a platform or block a narrow path simply to be near you, but will also display a cat's unwillingness to come down from a platform to which you've led them. The only time they ever do anything helpful is when you are attempting a task that requires two people, which (fortunately) they manage very well.

Most of the achievements are based on completing levels without dying or using extras. Good luck with that. The invulnerability extra is extremely valuable, and I'd suggest finding it and buying it as soon as possible. The second and third movies have a number of parts where you're basically getting shot left and right, so it's much easier to manage when you're not dying every couple of minutes, especially if you're trying to get the coin blocks.

If you're a big Star Wars fan, you might love this game if you can overlook its faults, and if you have a significant other who plays games too, maybe the two-player version is tolerable. But I can't overlook its faults. It's not a bad game to rent for a while, because when you can't take it any more, you can just send the game back and get another one. It's too bad, because with a couple of improvements (intelligent camera and the option for manual aim), this could have been a great game.

zlionsfan's rating: 4 droids out of 10.

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