In addition to Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, the coolest Star Wars release of 2005 may very well be Lego Star Wars, an action game that lets you reenact the plots of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but in a virtual Lego world. We've gotten sneak peaks at the console versions of Lego Star Wars in recent months, but we finally got to see and play the PC version of the game at the Game Developers Conference. And after seeing it in action, we can say that as good as the console versions look, Lego Star Wars practically shines on the PC, as the high-resolution graphics let you really appreciate the sheer Lego-ness of it all.
Lego Star Wars is set during Episodes I, II, and III. And, yes, since the game is going to ship later this month, it has the potential to spoil the upcoming theatrical release of Episode III. However, if you hold off playing the Episode III portion of the game for a couple of months, you can spend your time playing through Episodes I and II, both of which look to be just as much fun as the third and final chapter.
Basically, Lego Star Wars lets you control the Lego versions of Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, and virtually every other significant character from the movies. And, yes, this includes Jar-Jar Binks, along with the two droids, C-3PO and R2-D2. You'll take a party of these characters and journey through the main-plot bullet points of each movie. So, during the Episode I part of the game, you'll start with Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon battling Trade Federation droids aboard their starship using their lightsabers and Force powers. After escaping from the ambush on the Trade Federation battleship, the two Jedi find themselves on Naboo, where they encounter Jar-Jar Binks for the first time, and so on and so forth.
The combat in Lego Star Wars takes full advantage of the fact that these characters are made of Legos. When a Jedi slices apart a battle droid, or when another character blasts a droid, all the component Lego pieces fly apart. It's such a fun graphical effect that it never seems to get old. Each character has a special power or ability that will come in to play during the course of the game. For example, the Jedi can use their Force powers to manipulate the Lego environment. Thus, if a party encounters a deep chasm, the Jedi can use the Force to yank out pieces from a wall and reassemble them into a bridge so the party can cross safely. Jar-Jar Binks has the ability to jump higher than the rest, so he may be able to get to a button that no one else can reach to unlock a door. The gameplay is full of all sorts of these kinds of puzzles.
It's hard to convey the lightheartedness of Lego Star Wars, but the game simply looks cool, like a sleek Lego world come to life. The game takes the best of Lego and Star Wars and blends them together to amazing effect. It also features plenty of pretty graphical effects. Playing Lego Star Wars feels very much like watching a computer-generated cartoon, a feeling reinforced by the fact that there is no dialogue in the game. Instead, you see the characters emote through goofy facial expressions that are both charming and fun. You don't even need to have seen the Star Wars movies (though the overwhelming odds are that you have) to understand what's going on.
Lego Star Wars managed to turn more than a few heads on the GDC show floor, and it's no surprise, since the game taps the fond love of playing with Legos (which most of us share), along with the pop-culture cachet of Star Wars. The good news is that we won't have to wait much longer, because Lego Star Wars will ship for the PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox near the end of this month.