A Long Time Ago, On A Video Game System Far, Far Less Powerful...
Star Wars is awesome. Video games are awesome. But most Star Wars video games have been, well, terrible. Games like Shadows of the Empire were sometimes referred to as “non-interactive video games” because the controls were so unresponsive, and many of them also didn’t have any appearances by lightsabers, the Force, or any recognizable characters, making them seem poorly connected with the films.
A New Hope
The Lego Star Wars series has developed a reputation as the set of games that bring fun back to Star Wars gaming, and Lego Star Wars II for PSP makes it clear why. Although the game still has a noticeable Dark Side, it is undoubtedly one of the best Star Wars video games to date.
Lego Star Wars II is a nearly comprehensive reenactment of Star Wars episodes 4-6, with all characters, ships, and objects made entirely of virtual Lego building blocks. Playing as Lego versions of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa, and countless other characters, you will battle against Imperial forces using blasters, lightsabers, and spaceships, as well as solving puzzles to find your way out of tricky situations. Each scene in the game features the appropriate group of characters for that part of the movie. Different characters have different weapons and abilities, ranging from Jedi who can use the Force to ewoks who can squeeze into small areas, and you can take control of any one of them at any time and change which one you are controlling on the fly. The others will be controlled by the computer and follow you, although you will, of course, be doing most of the work yourself, no matter who you are playing as. Throughout the game, you will also encounter piles of Legos waiting to be built into objects you will need to solve puzzles or earn rewards. If putting together Lego pieces on a PSP screen sounds like a pain, don’t worry; all you really have to do is stand over them and hold the “build” button.
With fast reflexes and puzzle-solving skills, you can lead the Rebel Alliance through the story of the three films—but this is really just the beginning. Once you have beaten a level, you can also play through it again in “Free Play” mode, allowing you to choose any available character instead of just the ones that really appear in the scene, and a “Challenge” mode where you hunt for objects within a time limit. Free Play mode opens up entirely new areas of the levels that aren’t accessible to the characters who appear in Story Mode, and within every level are thousands of “studs” (Lego currency) to earn as well as additional bonuses that unlock additional playable characters, special abilities, and other extras. Your ultimate goal is to earn all 99 golden bricks, which will have you playing through each level numerous times and still finding something new each time.
Blue Screen of Death (Star)
Overall, the game’s universe is almost as expansive and elaborate as that of the films, making it feel like a real opportunity to experience the movies yourself at long last. There is really only one aspect of the game that might make you want to throw it out the window next to Shadows of the Empire: it’s really buggy. Several times during gameplay, the game simply crashed my PSP (running up-to-date, non-hacked firmware), which can easily erase hours of progress thanks to the game’s stingy saving options. Even if it doesn’t crash, in some scenes it is possible to perform tasks incorrectly or in the wrong order in such a way that you will strand yourself in a state where it is no longer possible to make additional progress. This, too, will force you to start the level over. These issues also have the unfortunate side effect that some of the game’s tougher puzzles will make you wonder, “Is it supposed to be doing that?” even if it is working properly. Finally, the game’s background music sometimes just drops out entirely, and the only way to get it back is to exit the game completely and launch it again.
Usually, console and handheld video games are thoroughly tested, so it is really a shame that Lego Star Wars II didn’t get the additional testing that it sorely needed. Video games based on movies are sometimes rushed to market in order to make sure they are available by the time the movie comes out, but in this case, they missed that excuse by about 30 years. Game manufacturers have been known to silently update their games, so I certainly hope that copies manufactured in the future will improve, but for now at least, the game’s bugginess is very frustrating.
Traveller’s Tales has also included some additional extras, such as a “prequel room” where you can relive some of the adventures of Lego Star Wars I (which was not released for PSP), an unlockable Legoland level, and a multiplayer mode that works over ad-hoc WiFi.
I want to say that the game’s graphics are impressively realistic—but I have never actually seen a real set of Legos reenact the Star Wars trilogy, so I’m not sure if I can make such a comparison. Nonetheless, the graphics are detailed and well animated, with some of the story scenes mirroring their movie counterparts shot-for-shot. Frankly, a couple of the special effects actually look better than they do in the movies, and some of the scenes also have hilarious visual gags that deviate slightly from the story line of the real movies. In short, this game just looks great.
Lego Star Wars II’s sound is also well done. As with most Star Wars games, sound effects like blasters, lightsabers, and Vader breaths sound exactly like the movies. However, unlike some previous games, almost all of the music in the game is also taken from John Williams’ original score, instead of inserting lots of filler music written by an inferior composer. Most people are already familiar with how awesome the music for the movies is, so all you really need to know is that the same awesomeness is present in the game. The characters don’t really speak except for mumbles and screams, but this just makes things all the more amusing in scenes like the one where Darth Vader tries to pantomime “I am your father!”
May The Force Be Worth It?
Lego Star Wars II for PSP is imaginative, expansive, and enjoyable to play, with tremendous amounts of replay value since there’s so many additional items and areas to discover in each level. It could’ve been one of the all-time classic video games... if only it would stop crashing. Still, Star Wars fans who feel starved for a game that truly captures the feeling (and the fun) of the films are likely to find that the game’s inconveniences are more than worth putting up with, in light of the game’s strengths.
Tips and Hints
-Familiarize yourself with which characters can access which restricted areas. For example, Bounty Hunter doors can be opened by Boba Fett, Greedo, 4LOM, Bossk, and Princess Leia (Boussh). “Tiny doors” can be accessed by Jawas in addition to Ewoks, and Stormtrooper doors can be opened by any Imperial personnel—not just all types of troopers, but also engineers, pilots, and even Darth Vader and the Emperor.
-Keep your eyes open for shiny, metallic objects. These can usually be destroyed by a thermal detonator (which can be thrown by any Bounty Hunter). For example, “Through the Jundland Wastes” has a large bonus area that you can access by turning to the right from the main path near the beginning of the level. You will have to blast the metal grating with a thermal detonator to enter this area. (You will also have to use R2D2 or Boba Fett to fly across the large canyon).
-If you just bought some Extras in the cantina and you’re wondering why they don’t seem to be making any difference, remember that you have to pause the game, go to the Extras menu, and enable each Extra. You will also have to re-enable them after accessing any mode that doesn’t allow Extras (like Super Story or Challenge).
-Want to be a billionaire? Score multiplier Extras can be combined. For example, you can use the 2x and 4x simultaneously to get a total score multiplication of 8x, and you can eventually combine all five of them to achieve 3840x!
-Sometimes studs will scatter everywhere, and you will probably not have enough time to chase them all down before they disappear. So when you’re deciding which ones to grab first, remember that a gold stud is worth as much as ten silver ones, a blue stud is worth as much as ten gold ones, and the rare purple stud is worth as much as ten blue ones.
-It is a good idea to save up and buy the multiplier Extras as soon as possible. Sure, they’re expensive, but they will make all subsequent purchases easier, so it makes sense to buy them first. Invincibility is also a great Extra to purchase early.
-In “Escape From Echo Base,” the game intends for you to assemble the mounted gun, use it to blast the grate in front of the door, and then have C3PO open the door. However, it is possible to have C3PO open the door first with the grate still in place—but don’t do it, or you’ll have to restart the level!
-When you reach the end of “Dagobah,” you may find yourself overlooking a large swamp and wondering what the heck you’re supposed to do to finish the level. The answer is to use the Force to raise Luke’s X-Wing out of the swamp. Luke’s skill with the Force is not yet strong enough to do it successfully at this point, so you’ll have to use Yoda or another character.
-Try not to let the AT-STs (two-legged walkers) in “Speeder Showdown” fall off of any of the cliffs in the level. If they crash-land in just the wrong way, you will have to restart the chapter.
-In “Jedi Destiny,” Luke and Darth Vader join together to fight the Emperor. However, you will soon discover that when the Emperor is zapping you with Sith Lightning, it leaves you almost completely powerless—so as soon as you get zapped, switch control off to the other character and go slash at the distracted Emperor.
-If you find Legoland, stack the large blocks there in the right order to make them form the word “Lego.”
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Everything in the game looks exactly how it should, and overall the visuals are clear, detailed, and well-animated.
All of the game’s sound effects stay true to the movies, and just about everyone loves John Williams’ music from Star Wars—except when the music drops out altogether.
This is a tough category to summarize with a single number in this case. It is truly thrilling to relive the movies’ greatest moments, but the more you enjoy this, the more you will hate it when you are about to enjoy one of these moments only to have your PSP go blank instead.
Compelling storylines and extensive replay modes make this game truly difficult to put down.