LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga Review
At first, way back when, we couldn't really understand the logical connection between the legendary Star Wars movie saga and the legendary construction toy, LEGO. But then again, we figure Lucas can pull off just about anything, and this seemingly bizarre combination worked like a charm. They may be milking the idea just a bit with this next-generation PS3 installment of LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, but when games are solid and people enjoy them, there's really no good reason to disappoint the fans. Besides, considering the only PS3 currently on the market - the 40GB model - doesn't support PS2 software, it's probably a darn good idea to have one of these LEGO Star Wars titles in the PS3's library. After all, it's always great fun for two players, the single-player campaign is lengthy, humorous and almost always entertaining, and it's a nice, relaxing break from the likes of Devil May Cry 4 and Turok. Therefore, we were happy to take a look at The Complete Saga, which does indeed deliver on a variety of different levels, despite the fact there's really nothing new or innovative, here.
There's probably no need to see LEGO blocks in high definition, but hey, we're not complaining. Virtual LEGOs have never looked this good, and there's plenty of imaginative design and color involved in this production, although we're slightly disappointed in the lack of detail. Yeah, we realize we're dealing with plastic, knobby blocks (mostly), but the background environments aren't quite as intricate as we would've hoped. Beyond that, though, everything seems just about right. They manage to pump a lot of emotion into those little LEGO heads - the faces are just a few black lines, really - and as we said, the design is almost always impressive. Didn't think they could find a way to produce flowers out of LEGOs? Well, they did it. There's some blurriness going on, but for the most part, this is exactly what you would expect the Star Wars universe to look like if it somehow came to life in LEGOland. For the future, if they decide to do more entries (and we're sure they will), we'd like to see some larger environments, a greater level of clarity and more detail overall. For now, though, this will suffice.
The sound is an interesting blend of quality sound effects, an excellent soundtrack, and a complete and total lack of voice acting or dialogue. It makes for a somewhat strange experience, mostly because the John Williams tracks and top-notch effects serve to absorb the player into the action, but the lack of voice acting or dialogue detracts from the adventure. Thing is, without any form of communication at all, the entire quest seems oddly silent, even with the soundtracks and effects. The blaster and light sabers sound just right and the music fits most everything nicely, so the atmosphere benefits from this stellar combination. Unfortunately, we don't even have dialogue bubbles and because of this, the story seems almost non-existent. Most players who purchase this game are certainly familiar with every storyline involved from every chapter of the series, but even so... Let's face it- Lucas has never been a great one for writing dialogue, so one could argue we're almost better off. But while we can always follow the story in The Complete Saga, it feels a lot less "complete" when the characters never say anything. Perhaps fans of this franchise are used to it, but it's tough to swallow in this day and age.
Obviously, the gameplay in the LEGO Star Wars titles has always been simple and straightforward, thereby allowing every type of gamer, from the casual to the hardcore, to pick ‘em up and play. Within seconds, you'll be slicing and dicing with your light saber, pulling off double jumps, and using the Force with experienced skill. Pressing the circle button lets you manipulate objects with the Force, the Triangle button lets you switch between characters immediately, the Square button attacks with whatever weapon you have equipped, and the X button jumps (tap twice for the double jump). It's as simple as that. You'll soon find that switching between characters is a major theme and often required to complete many of the chapters in The Complete Saga. For example, you can switch off control between C-3PO and Jar Jar Binks early on; 3PO can access control panels to unlock doors while Jar Jar can jump higher than the two main characters, letting him reach greater heights. There are plenty of different characters to run across in the 36 main chapters, as you will encounter some automatically and use collected Studs to unlock others. Studs are this franchise's equivalent of money, and you can use them to purchase hints, outfits and other collectibles at the Cantina.
You collect Studs from every level, and they're either laying around to pick up, or they pop out when you use the Force on certain objects. However, here's where we explain our biggest problem with the game: even though Studs are entirely unnecessary to advance in the game, fans will certainly want to gather up as many as they can, simply because they'll have to pick up some of those unlockables at the Cantina store. And the problem is, you can spend the majority of your time collecting Studs if you're really vigilant about going after them. Furthermore, because you have to be almost on top of them to pick them up, it makes the process all the more drawn-out and tedious. They do kinda float to you when you're close enough - similar to the Red Orbs in Devil May Cry or the blood droplets in God of War - but you really have to be quite close. Running around after all the studs can take up a huge chunk of time and significantly affects the flow of the action. Furthermore, because there really isn't a character advancement system of any kind, there's really nothing else to do but fight and collect Studs...and one of those mechanics gets very old, very fast.
On the other hand, the combat mechanic works just fine, as it always has in this series. Every action is easily executed and you get to play with many different characters, which means you'll be able to use light sabers, blasters and even grappling hooks in your travels throughout the galaxy. We really wish Traveller's Tales had opted to include at least a few different light saber combinations, though, and the characters should be able to swing those crazy things a lot faster. As is, all we can really do is slash - slowly - and execute one downward thrust after jumping into the air, which greatly limits the fighting system. Oh, and you can block and deflect bullets by holding down the attack button, but that's nothing more than standard. These issues don't represent a crippling drawback, but it's something we're forced to mention. After about the tenth chapter with light saber battles, things just got awfully repetitive, but thankfully, the developers work to sprinkle in different experiences as you progress through the story. Just when we start to get really tired of the light saber play, we get a chance to drive around on a special vehicle - LEGO-style, of course - or blast away with a gun while negotiating a new environment.
If you're looking for something new with this entry, you'll likely be disappointed, but that doesn't mean it isn't entertaining. The Complete Saga, despite all its flaws, is really a well put-together and above all else, fun, experience. You get a lot of bang for your buck, because not only can you progress through the typical Story mode, but you will also unlock Free Play mode for each chapter you complete. This lets you play through those levels again, after you've obtained some new characters. See, certain characters have special abilities, as we mentioned before, and you'll need to backtrack sometimes once you've unlocked characters who will let you access previously out-of-reach locations. On top of which, if you really do get hooked on the Stud-collecting, you could play this game for a very long time; the sheer amount of stuff you can purchase is mind-boggling. Using the Force to open up new areas and quickly construct bridges and other useful objects is great, and there's no doubt the game is loaded with a ton of genuine humor. It brings a good deal of levity to the Star Wars universe, which just about anyone who likes to smile will appreciate. So there's plenty of positives, and they generally override any and all negatives.
LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga is exactly what we've come to expect from the long-running series. The gameplay itself isn't deep, the lack of voice acting is disturbing, and the Stud-collecting can get extremely boring. But it's not required, and everything about this game is plenty accessible. It's fantastic fun for two players (great for the whole family, too), those 36 chapters provide a huge amount of gameplay time, the levels are diverse, it can be very funny, and the entire production will make you grin. It's hardly a supremely polished blockbuster, but it's worth playing, especially for Star Wars fans.
2/9/2008 Ben Dutka