OK, so you’re a Star Wars fan with sixty-odd quid burning a whole in your pocket. You bought the original films on VHS, then the THX special editions, and more recently the DVD special editions. And now you’re considering shelling out on the new DVDs just so you can once again enjoy the ‘bonus’ original theatrical releases, even if it with a plain old Dolby Stereo soundtrack and a letterboxed 4:3 picture.
Here’s a tip: don’t. There’s a better way to get your original Star Wars trilogy fix. It won’t cost you quite as much cash, you won’t be paying for films you’ve bought three times already, and you won’t be encouraging George Lucas to come out with another ‘OK, here’s the real version’ thirtieth-anniversary set in two years time. It’s called Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, and while it’s a game that features Darth Vader in the guise of a cute-looking Lego midget, not to mention a stormtrooper who appears to be wearing little more than a helmet and a thong, it arguably captures more of the real spirit of Star Wars than any other Star Wars game since Tie Fighter.
What’s more, it’s a superlative sequel. It helps, of course, that the original Lego Star Wars was a wonderful game - easily the best to be based on the controversial prequels – and that this follow-up follows on along similar lines. At its heart, Lego Star Wars II remains a fairly simple one or two-player platform-shooter, rendered in 3D, but played mostly on a 2D plane. There are occasional missions where you’re piloting a ship, tackling Tie-Fighters and Star-Destroyers, but for the most part you’re running left to right shooting stormtroopers and hopping from platform to platform, while collecting little Lego ‘nubs’ that can be converted to bonus items and characters back at base: in this case the Mos Eisley cantina. Just like the first game, it works because the gameplay is simple to pick up yet always entertaining, and because there’s always considerable charm in seeing much-loved scenes and characters from the movies picked out in Lego form. One day I’ll work out how they get so much character into such simple animated faces, but it’s amazing how easily recognisable each character, from Han Solo to Grand Moff Tarkin to Obi Wan can be.
Yet the sequel improves on the original because, in retrospect, that game’s best ideas – its blending of the build-anything flexibility of Lego with the sci-fantasy nostalgia of Star Wars – were only partly realised. Lego Star Wars never really was a test of arcade skill. The fact that you’re characters couldn’t die didn’t just make victory inevitable, it also shifted the emphasis from fast reflexes to the more light-hearted puzzle-solving mechanics. However, these puzzles were mostly fairly simple affairs. With the sequel, things are different, and it’s here that the gameplay has been refined to something near perfection.