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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Wii of the weekend: ‘Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga’

I wish I could say that I’ve been spending all this extended holiday weekend doing nothing but playing with my new Wii, but alas, it wasn’t until late last night that I finally had the first chance all week to turn on the console. And then I was up looong into the wee hours playing Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga, which is so ridiculously entertaining that it should be outlawed as a narcotic.

I apologize to the Lego people for ever doubting the appeal of the Lego video games. I had to play one of them to understand how hilariously, wonderfully goofy it is to see those blocky little people running around wreaking destruction on plastic blocks in order to collect silver and gold studs. Oh, and building stuff out of piles of bricks in order to see what happens? Brilliant!

As someone who is not a devoted gamer, one of the things that I often find frustrating when I do play is the constant game-overing. I appreciate that serious gamers enjoy the rewards that come with putting a lot of time and effort into a game, but I love that Lego Star Wars doesn’t require that I turn my life over to it nonstop. (This is a real beauty of the Wii: it has moved casual gaming beyond Bejeweled.) If it’s possible to game-over here, I haven’t found it… and believe me, I’m barely even a Padawan Jedi, so I keep getting shot by battle droids and walking over cliff faces. And I just pop back up again! No need to go back to the beginning of the game, or the level, or anything. (Yeah, I lose a few studs, but that’s fine. I can just go back to Mos Eisley and collect more!)
I’ve yet to reach True Jedi status, as you may imagine. But I was quite proud of myself for, last night, completing the initial story levels of The Phantom Menace. I know I missed tons of cool stuff on each level, and not just the stuff I’m supposed to miss because it’s deliberately inaccessible until I go back for “free play” later… but I don’t care. I love the multiple ways you can replay each level, and I love that it lends a sense that almost endless exploration is possible. Other games have sometimes left me feeling annoyed with their linearity — if I want to go back and explore more, I have no choice but to just play the level or the whole game again. I feel like I’m in charge with this game, that I can play the ways that give me the most pleasure, and that I’m not at the mercy of a preconceived notion of the way I’m “supposed” to be playing.

I realize that that may merely be a symptom of my lack of experience with new games: maybe lots of today’s games, and not just those for the Wii, are like that. But if that’s true, I had no sense of that. Nothing in the way that games are marketed to the general public made me understand that there are action games (as opposed to games like SimCity that are more unstructured) that let me explore like this. And that goes for the Lego games, too: I assumed this would be like first-person shooter with Lego characters instead of more realistic-looking ones. I would guess that people who read magazines and Web sites geared to gamers probably understood how gaming has changed, but it seems to me that a game like Lego Star Wars could be appealing to those who aren’t already keyed into the gaming subculture.

I wish this hadn’t been kept a secret from me for so long. It’s not fair that this kind of enormous fun has been denied me till now.



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  • lunarangel01

    Yeah, Lego Star Wars is tons of fun. I’ve had that game for awhile, but I can’t seem to get as addicted to it as I now am to Rock Band 2.

    I think a misconception is that there really AREN’T any good adventure type games out there anymore like there used to be in the days of Nintendo and Super Nintendo (Sega, etc). That’s really not true. It’s just that video games have become far more complex so there are lots of different genres of games. There probably aren’t AS MANY good adventure games out there though.

    When I was a kid I used to read video game magazines to get a feel for what good video games are out there. Now that I don’t do that anymore I find that it’s really hard to know what is worthy of my time and what isn’t, so I just don’t buy a ton of video games. Usually I’ll hear through word of mouth what is good and what isn’t, and go off of that.

    Really, the entire Lego franchise is very good. All of the Lego games that I’ve played are very well done. Currently of course, I like Lego Rock Band.

  • JT

    Glad to see you’ve discovered the wonderful world of gaming Mary Ann :-) I too love games that encourage exploration and freedom. Have you ever heard of Beyond Good and Evil? It came out quite a few years ago (Direct2Drive has a digital version for $10), and I’d imagine you’d really like it. You play as a reporter/photographer named Jade, who also runs an orphanage and who becomes involved in a conspiracy originating with the corrupt government. Very cartoonish graphic (many of the characters are anthropomorphic animals), fun action, and you get to do stuff like take photographs of the weird animals throughout the world. I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

    Of course, the absolute best open-world game ever is Fallout 3, but that’s aimed more towards what one might call the “hardcore” audience if one used such terms, and also features levels of ultraviolence that non-jaded gamers might find disturbing.

  • Keith

    I tried one of the Lego Star Wars games one, but couldn’t get that into it. I am a much more serious gamer, but I think it was mainly due to just not being the type of game I was looking for at the time. I find I often go through phases where I’ll focus on one genre specifically, but other times I do find myself hopping back and forth between games of different genres.

    I used to read gaming magazines in the past, but it’s so easy to get much of the same info on-line. My personal favorite site for this is Gamespot.com, but there are others. The site also has sections dedicated to the various systems, such as PC, Wii, Xbox, etc. The nice thing about on-line reviews is they often have video of gameplay so you can see what it looks like. I’ve even seen some video of interviews and commentary from game developers.

  • Amy

    Yes! I love all the Lego games. I’ve played them on Wii (friends’ & parents’ because I don’t have one) and now play them on my DS. I’m not a serious gamer either and love the fact that I take the game at my pace. It doesn’t matter how many times my little guy explodes – I just keep going. Be sure to try the other Lego games. Lego Batman is currently my favorite.

  • JoshDM

    Regarding Beyond G&E, a GameCube version was released and if you can find it and can get a Classic/GameCube controller, you can play it on your Wii.

  • Ren

    Heh, I spent the weekend playing Lego Batman on my new XBox, so we’re a matched set.

  • marshall

    Fallout 3 rocks. I “beat” the game over a year ago, but I’m still going in exploring, and finding new things.

  • Oh, I love the Lego games series! I’m big fan of the Indiana Jones ones and now this one with Star Wars themes sounds like a lot of fun too!

  • Paul

    NO NO NO! This is all wrong! Don’t you see? LEGOS is supposed to the alternative game to make you creative and tactile, not a zombie with eye strain! A LEGOS video game? What’s next? Obama at war? oh, wait … darn.

  • JoshDM

    What is unfortunate is that the games are derivative, if you play one LEGO game (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Batman), other than cosmetic (video and skins), level-layout, and some mechanics differences, and maybe some tools (I think Batman has a custom builder the others lack), you’ve pretty much played the others.

    Which is to say the challenge is essentially linear.

  • Dying has always been my least favorite part of those exploration/adventure/dungeon-crawler games. Don’t laugh, I don’t want my actions to result in my character’s death. I feel so responsible.

    With the Lego games, I can just have fun and destroy stuff without worrying about that part. Is this a revolutionary change or have I just been missing the boat because I’m such a wuss?

  • MaSch

    I see your point, Ms. SP, but then again, what meaning has life if death has lost its sting? We no longer care if we are struck by a bullet, if spikes pierce our bodies or if we drop into nothingness, and therefore we forgot to be considerate towards ourselves, which meant we stopped being considerate towards others. The thrill of danger has gone, and what’s left is reckless destruction without emotional investment into the lives of others, because life and death have become mere matters of coins, now.

    Ahem, am I taking this too seriously, here?

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