Tag Archives: LEGO Star Wars

LEGO Star Wars The Skywalker Saga is Coming

Cyanbane first tipped me to this over on his new blog, the fact that there was a new LEGO Star Wars game coming in the form of LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga.  October 20, 2020 is the planned ship date.

All Nine Films Covered in One Game

Long time readers… diligent readers with very good long term memories… might remember the occasional post about LEGO Star Wars: The Original Trilogy or LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga from back in 2007 when my daughter was little and playing games on the Wii was our Saturday morning tradition.  I liked the game well enough to even get a copy for our now aging PlayStation 3.

But that was part of the console era at our house, and we haven’t played games on the PlayStation 3 or the Wii for a quite a while now.  We got the Wii out a couple of years back to play Just Dance at a party, but right now the PlayStation 3 isn’t even plugged in and the Wii has been packed away out of sight.  So Traveller’s Tales LEGO games have been pretty much off the menu because, frankly, the PC ports of them suck, even if you have a controller on your PC.  I could not recommend them in any way.

As such, the news of a new LEGO Star Wars title might spark some interest in me… I did a post about LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens when it was announced… but I was unlikely to play any new title, as our console days being behind us. (Though they did make a PlayStation 3 version of that!)

Now however, things have changed a bit.  My daughter and I both have Nintendo Switch Lite units and the new game is going to be released for the Switch, so a LEGO Star Wars title might be worth looking into for us once again.

Of course, we have a ways to wait.  October feels like a long way away right now and the future has been uncertain for a while now.  But for the moment I can watch the trailer.

The word is that Traveller’s Tales is making this a pretty big title in their line up, with all nine movies wrapped up into one game, the classic levels in with the new, some 500 unlockable characters reported to be available.  I just hope it plays well on the Switch Lite.

To the Series Born

There is a bit of a topic trend going on for Blapril, started by Krikket, where people name their top four or five favorite video game series.

The Blapril commeth

This is week four, which has its own topic, but since I haven’t come up with anything else I took “series appreciation” as falling under the “developer/creator appreciation” umbrella and decided I should run with it.

  • March 29th – April 4th – Blapril Prep Week
  • April 5th – April 11th – Topic Brainstorming Week
  • April 12th – April 18th – Getting to Know You Week
  • April 19th – April 25th – Developer/Creator Appreciation Week
  • April 26th – May 2nd – Staying Motivated Week
  • May 3rd – May 9th – Lessons Learned Week

Looking at video game series seems pretty reasonable.  In the last decade or so especially the large video game publishers have gone all in on series and sequels for games, eschewing much new in favor of a reliable return on investment that churning out annual change ups on standard formula has proven to bring.

So I started thinking about which series I might put on a list… and I sort of ran into a bit of a wall.  This is different than, say, picking my 15 most influential games.

Part of that was I immediately put bounds around the possible answers.  It is just what I do out of habit.  First, to my mind, a “series” requires there to be three or more games.  So as much as I may have enjoyed  Defense Grid and Defense Grid 2, they are only a game and its sequel and not really a series.  And that along knocks off a lot of possible entries listed over on Wikipedia.

I also felt that unless I had played a substantial and representative number of titles in a series… arbitrarily I figured I needed at least half to cover… I couldn’t really count that series as a favorite.  Playing only Need for Speed: World or Dirt 3 does not really give me enough to make a claim on either series.  I can say I love Mario Kart, but I only ever played Mario Kart 64, Double Dash, and that version on the DS.  I never even bought the Wii version!  Can I really complain about the blue shell if that is all I have experienced?

Likewise, although I had played four of the nine games in the Ultima series, those were the first four games of a series that expanded quite a bit from humble origins.  I enjoyed Ultima III the best out of what I played, which probably means I am not down with the series as a whole.

I did wonder for a bit if MMORPG expansions ought to count.  Is EverQuest one game, or a series of 27 games churned out over 21 years?  But I decided that way lay madness and discarded the idea. (Also, how many expansions would I have had to have played to be legit in counting EverQuest?  More than I have I am sure.)

This would have been much easier if I had been a big console gamer.  Or a sports focused gamer.  There are so many series there.  But as an online and/or MMO gamer, series haven’t been a huge thing for me and, as I have noted here in the past, I have been playing online games since 1986.

So what series of games had I played enough of to meet my own criteria?

Cilivization This series of games came up on a some lists and I am good here.  I have owned I-VI and a couple of the side games in the series, like Alpha Centauri.  I played the hell out of the original, the first sequel, and the fifth entry, along with Alpha Centauri.

Pokemon Or at least the main line Pokemon RPG titles.  I think I am covered on that, having played every title on the DS/3DS handheld series as well as Pokemon Sword on the Switch.  I even played two of the GameBoy Advance titled back on my original DS Lite, because it had the GBA cartridge slot.  And I played the re-release of Pokemon Blue on the 3DS and have the blog post to prove it.  I’ve even played Pokemon Ranger and a couple of the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon titles.

Age of Empires – The RTS winner here, though of the three core games I was only really a fan of Age of Empires II – The Age of Kings.  That was the pinnacle of the series to my mind, though I owned and played all three.  The original was a bit rough and unbalanced and the third seemed like Ensemble had lost its way.  But I have Age of Empires II in my Steam library.

Diablo –  There are three games there, so meets the bar for a series and I have owned and played all three games plus their expansions… multiple copies of a the first two even.  I owned a copy of Diablo II and the expansion for both home and work because we could play games on the work network after hours back around the turn of the century.  Those days are long gone, but if Blizzard made a credible Diablo II remaster I would throw money at my computer screen.

LEGO Star Wars – I thought I was done when I hit four series, and then this run of games finally popped up into my conscious thought.  There are six titles and we own four of them… more if you count the combo edition that reworked and repacked the first two games when Traveler’s Tales got the vibe right on the series.

And that’s it.

By my own criteria I cannot really come up any more, though at least I made it to five.  I can declare these as my five favorite series by virtue of being the only five.  I imagine if I rack my brain I can probably shake out one or two more… but it would be stuff from the 90s, things long forgotten.

Oddly, I have the games listed in the order to which the series came to mind, which corresponds roughly to a the descending order for both how much time I have spent playing them AND how I would probably rank them.  Seems natural enough.

Others who have posted their lists, some of whom felt less self-constrained than I:

Honest Game Trailers – LEGO Star Wars

While they gloss over the fact that they are referring to three different games, LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Star Wars II – The Original Trilogy, and LEGO Star Wars III – The Cone Wars (or four if you want to count LEGO Star Wars – The Complete Saga which revamped and combined the first two games and is actually my favorite), but the essential point is there, that the LEGO Star Wars games are some pretty decent fun, if not exactly challenging.  My general strategy is, when in doubt break all the stuff.

And, of course, there is now LEGO Star Wars – The Force Awakens, which I just started playing.

Also, a comment on the video; if you want to become the master of character names in the Star Wars movies, these games are great because you have to unlock every damn character they could find.

LEGO Star Wars – The Force Awakens Sounds Pretty Cool

Okay, the trailer for LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens has me a bit excited.  I have gotten a bit jaded on the whole Traveller’s Tales LEGO games in the last couple of years.  While they add in new mechanics with each generation, the new stuff hasn’t always sat well with me while the old stuff hasn’t changed much.  But then I watched this.

That was pretty cool, very much in the sort of humor that Traveller’s Tales like to inject into their games.

And the whole thing got a bit better when I noticed at the end of the video, the supported platforms include the PlayStation 3.

Look at all the platforms on which it will be released...

Look at all the platforms on which it will be released…

That is pretty much the only platform I have that could run the game, since their LEGO games are really unsatisfying for me on the PC.  I suppose I could get it on the 3DS.  That probably wouldn’t be so bad.  But it likely wouldn’t be as satisfying as having it on our TV.

And, finally, there was this bit of news that the game would bridge some of the gaps between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

That is not as crazy as it might sound.  Playing the original LEGO Star Wars games was not only fun, but it was a really good way to bone up on locations, characters, and events.  Playing through the now incorrectly named LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga was almost like taking an undergraduate course in Star Wars.

Anyway, it is coming our way on June 28th.  We might have to get this at our house.

Return to a LEGO Galaxy Far, Far Away

The age of the gaming console has pretty much faded in our house.  We have had a Wii for more than eight years now, but it has been mostly collecting dust for the last few years.  The last thing I did with it was bring up Pokemon Ranch to get back all the Pokemon I had stored in it last summer during my Pokemon binge.  I am pretty sure I could pack the unit, the controllers, and all the games up in a box and store them away without anybody in the house protesting.

Our PlayStation 3, now four years in the house, gets more attention.  Hooked up to our TV, it gets used to play BluRay movies or stream content from Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Video games though?  Not so much.  Little Big Planet, once my daughter’s favorite thing ever, the game that got her to leave the Wii behind, hasn’t been played in ages.  The last games that got played on the unit were the short bout with the poor PS3 port of Dragon Age: Inquisition and a bit of Diablo III, picked up with a GameStop gift card my daughter got for Christmas.  Those were both very brief encounters.

The mojo had clearly gone from our console gaming.

As I waxed nostalgic around Christmas about the days back when my daughter would wake me up early on Saturday mornings so we could jump in the Love Sac and play Mario Party 8 or Mario Kart Double Dash or LEGO Star Wars on the Wii, my wife decided that we might be due for a replacement.  Our late cat Trixie kept peeing on the Love Sac, so we had to get rid of it, and with it went what seemed to be an essential part of our console gaming mix; the ability to lounge comfortably on something close to the TV.

My wife decided to fix this, so got me a six foot Cozy Sack for my birthday back in March.  A discount competitor to Love Sac, it cost about a third as much as a Love Sac of comparable size and delivers about 80-90% of the experience.

With that, I decided to see if I could tempt my daughter back into playing video games with me on Saturday morning.  Not early Saturday morning… neither of us are keen to get up early these days… but at the more reasonable, post-breakfast hour.  But what game to choose?

Looking through our small-ish collection of PlayStation 3 titles… at least relative to our Wii collection… I decided to go with a classic.  Back when we bought the PS3, I decided to get a couple titles that we already had on the Wii so I could compare the game play.  One of those was LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga.

PlayStation version

PlayStation version

While we had to played the first LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Star Wars: The Original Trilogy, (Game Cube versions for both) when the LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga came out we had to have it on launch day and we played the hell out of it.

So I loaded it up, jumped into the Cozy Sack and called my daughter to come play with me.

It didn’t really work.  She came over and watched me play for a bit, but then went back to whatever she was doing.  My wife watched for much longer, but was not inclined to pick up a controller and join me.  But I was comfy and enjoying myself, so I persisted.  I have done a few levels every weekend and have been enjoying myself quite a bit.

The game has held up for me very well.  Part of that is its simplicity.

Traveller’s Tales has put out quite a list of LEGO games at this point.  We have LEGO Batman, both LEGO Indiana Jones titles, both LEGO Harry Potter titles, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, LEGO Star Wars IIILEGO Lord of the Rings, and The LEGO Movie game.

As the years have gone by and new titles have been released, Traveller’s Tales has worked to keep the series fresh by adding in new features and new mechanics.  Viewed from that angle, LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga feels more than a bit clunky.  Everything is jump or shoot or light sabre or use the force with a special mode events appearing very infrequently.

On the flip side though, this is still the culmination of Traveller’s Tales “getting” what makes their LEGO game series great.  After two tries, where the original LEGO Star Wars was too much of a hard core video game and The Original Trilogy still showed some tuning was needed, it felt like they finally got the basic model for their LEGO games down with this one.

So, going back to that early model of the LEGO game idea was refreshing.  A lot of what I said about the game in the past still holds true, including it being perfectly fine on a PS3 controller versus using the Wii Remote.  And, while only running at 720p, it looks much better than the 480p Wii version, not to mention not being rendered in a way that makes the universe far, far away look like it was just buffed to a high gloss finish.

I am at the 40% mark according to the game, with only two episodes left undone.  When I wrap those up I’ll have to decide if I want to go back and find all the mini kits and get the True Jedi achievement on each level, not to mention unlocking all the characters that you have to buy.

 

Picking My 15 Most Influential Games

Jackie at Kitty Kitty Boom Boom, prompted by lvling life, put up a list of her top 15 video games.

There was a methodology by which you were supposed to generate that list.  It wasn’t supposed to be a big deal.  You were not supposed to spend a lot of time with it.  And, of course, I tossed that aside.  Rather than a quick list of 15 special games, I ended up with my list of the 15 most influential video games in my gaming career so far.

And what do I mean by “influential?”

I mean that they opened up new idea, new genres, or new points of view for me when it came to video games.

Influential does not mean that they were my favorites, the games I played the most in a given genre, or even all that good in a few cases.  So, for example, I have played a LOT more World of Warcraft than EverQuest at this point in my life, and I am not really all that keen to go back to EverQuest.  But EverQuest is the more influential of the two.  Without it, there would be no WoW, and without me playing it in 1999, I might not have made it to WoW.

Anyway, on to the list.

1. Star Trek (1971) – many platforms

Star Trek in vt52

Star Trek in vt52

I have covered this as the first computer video game I ever played.  While incredibly simple, this game showed me the way, let me know that computers were going to be an entertainment device

2. Tank (1974) – Arcade

Tank!

Tank! In Black and white!

This was the game AFTER Pong.  Not that Pong was bad.  Pong was new and fresh when it came out, but I must admit that it did become a little dull after the first pass or two.  And then Tank showed us that man need not entertain himself with virtual paddles alone.  I wouldn’t touch Pong after a while, but Tank was always good.  You just needed somebody to play with.

3. Adventure (1979)  – Atari 2600

This Castle is Timeless!

This Castle is Timeless!

Yes, I got that Atari 2600 for Christmas way back when, but then there was a matter of what to play.  It came with the Combat cartridge, which included Tank.  And I also had Air-Sea Battle and a few others. But the problem was that these games were all unfulfilling unless played with two people.  And then came Adventure.  Not only wasn’t it the usual 27 minor variations on three two-player themes, it was specifically, unashamedly single player only.  Here, loner, good luck storming the castle!  And it had odd behaviors and minor flaws.  I tried putting that magic bridge everywhere and ended up in some strange places.  It also had a random mode, that might just set you up with an unwinnable scenario.  And there was an Easter egg in it.

It was both different and a harbinger of things to come.

4. Castle Wolfenstein (1981) – Apple II

Graphics - 1981

Graphics – 1981

This was the first game that I saw that indicated that I really, really needed to get a computer.  An Apple II specifically, because that was what Gary had.  And he also had Castle Wolfenstein.

It was not an easy game.  You lost.  A lot.  The control system left something to be desired.  You really needed a joystick to play.  And there were so many quirks and strange behaviors that somebody created a utility program a couple years after it came out that basically “fixed” a lot of the worst annoyances.  I bought it gladly.

Achtung! Give me your uniform.

Achtung! Give me your uniform.

But this game was the prototype for many that followed.  You’re in a cell and you need to escape.  You need make your way through the castle, picking up guns, keys, ammunition, German uniforms, and grenades.   Oh, grenades were so much fun.  There were other, later games I considered for this list, but when I broke them down, I often found that Castle Wolfenstein had done it already, in its own primitive way.

5. Wizardry (1981) – Apple II

Apple ][+ The Upgrades Begin

Apple ][+ and Wizardry

Basically, the party based dungeon crawl in computer form.  Monsters, mazes, traps, treasure, combat, and death.  Oh, so much death.  NetHack was a potential for this list, but I realized that randomness and ASCII graphics aside, Wizardry had pretty much everything it did.

And I spent hours playing.  I mapped out the whole game on graph paper, including that one level with all the squares that would turn you around.  The one with the pits of insta-death.  It also taught me the word “apostate.”

6. Stellar Emperor (1985) – Apple II

The GEnie version of MegaWars III at its inception, it was my first foray into multiplayer online games.  I have written about the game, even about winning.

Emperor of the Galaxy

Emperor of the Galaxy

But it was the online, playing with other people, usually the same people, making friends and enemies and having ongoing relationships that sold the game.  Again, it was primitive, even in its day, with ASCII based terminal graphics.  But there was magic in the mixture.

7. Civilization (1991) – Mac/Windows

The flat world of original Civ

The flat world of original Civ

Sid Meier was already something of a star by the time Civilization came out, but this cemented things as far as I was concerned.  I was considering putting Civilization II on the list rather than this.  Once I got Civ II, I never went back and played the original.

But that wasn’t because the original was crap.  That was because the sequel built on what was great in the original.  It was purely an evolutionary move.  But it was the original that hooked me, so that has to get the nod for influential.

8. Marathon (1994) – Mac

Spooky

Spooky

For me, this was the defining first person shooter.  There was a single player campaign.  There was a multiplayer deathmatch mode.  There were a variety of weapons.  There was a map editor and some mods and an online community that built up around it.  Everything after Marathon was just an incremental improvement for me.

Marathon on my iPad

Marathon on my iPad

There have been better graphics, better rendering engines, different weapons, plenty of variety on arena options, all sorts of updates on match making and connectivity, but in the end those are just updates to what Marathon already did.  To this day, I still sometimes say “I’ll gather” when creating a game or match for other people to join.  That was the terminology from 1994.  I wonder what Bungie has done since this?

9. TacOps  (1994) – Mac/Windows

Before video games I played a lot of Avalon Hill war games.  Those sorts of games made the natural transition to the computer, which was ideal for handling much of the housekeeping chores.  However, in the transition, some old conventions got dragged along as well, like hexes.  And I hate hexes.  Yes, on a board game you need to use that hexgrid for movement.  I could accept that for Tobruk set up on the kitchen table.  But a computer was fully capable of handling movement without such an arbitrary overlay.  A couple of games tried it, but they tended to fall into the more arcade-ish vein, which wasn’t what I wanted.

And then I picked up a copy of TacOps.

Giving orders on an open map

Giving orders on an open map

I bought it on a complete whim, picking up the very rare initial boxed version off the shelf at ComputerWare before it went completely to online sales.  And it was a revelation.  Hey, terrain governs movement.  And cover.  And visibility.  That plus simultaneous movement phases rather than turn based combat meant wonderful chaos on the field.  The game was good enough that the military of several countries contracted for special versions of the game to use as a training tool.

I originally had Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin on my list.  That is where Battlefront.com really came into their own with the Combat Mission series.  But aside from 3D graphics, TacOps had done it all already.

10. TorilMUD (1993) – various platforms

Have I not written enough about the last 20 years of TorilMUDPrecursor to the MMORPG genre for me.  Without it I might not have understood that camping mobs for hours at a stretch was “fun.”

11. Diablo (1996) – Windows

A simpler time... in HELL

A simpler time… in HELL

I have written quite a bit about my fondness for Diablo II, while I haven’t gone back to play the original Diablo since the sequel came out.  But I wouldn’t be still talking about Diablo II or comparing the merits of Diablo III, Torchlight II, and Path of Exile had the original not been something very, very special.

12. Total Annihilation (1997) – Windows

Total Annihilation

Total Annihilation

Total Annihilation was not the first RTS game I played.  I am pretty sure I played Dune II and Warcraft before it.  It is not the RTS game I have played the most.  I am sure I have more hours in both StarCraft and Age of Kings.  But it was the first RTS game that showed me that the genre could be about something more than a very specific winning build order.  All the units, on ground, in the air, on the water, were amazing.  The player maps were amazing, and player created AIs were even better.  The 3D terrain and line of sight and all that was wonderful.  And new units kept getting released.  And you could nuke things.  I still find the game amazing.

13. EverQuest (1999) – Windows

Fifteen years later and nothing has made my mouth hang open like it did on the first day I logged into Norrath.  I can grouse about SOE and the decisions they have made and the state of the genre, but that day back in 1999 sunk the hook into me good and hard and it hasn’t worked itself loose since.  Pretty much what this whole blog is about.

Froon!

Froon!

14. Pokemon Diamond (2006) – Nintendo DS

Before we got my daughter a DS lite and a copy of Pokemon Diamond, Pokemon was pretty much just a cartoon on TV and a card game somebody’s kid at work played.  Sure, I knew who Pikachu was, but I had no real clue about the video game.

And then in watching my daughter play, I had to have my own DS and copy of the game.  Make no mistake, despite its reputation as a kids game, Pokemon can be deep and satisfying.  It tickles any number of gamer needs.  My peak was in HeartGold/SoulSilver, where I finally caught them all.

Back when 493 was all

Back when 493 was all

While I have stopped playing, that doesn’t mean I don’t think about buying a 3DS XL and a copy of Pokemon X or Y and diving back into the game.  It is that good.

15. LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy (2006) – many platforms

Filling this last slot… tough to do.  There are lots of potential games out there.  For example, I like tower defense games, but which one sold me on the idea?  But for a game that launched me into a lot of play time over a series of titles, I have to go with LEGO Star Wars II.

LEGO Star Wars II

LEGO Star Wars II

That is where Travelers Tales really hit their stride.  The original LEGO Star Wars tried to hard to be a serious and difficult game.  With this second entry, they realized the power of simply being fun and irreverent.  That was the magic.

And I only have to look at the shelf of console games we have to see that LEGO games dominate as a result of this one title. They have evolved, and in some ways I think they have lost a bit of their charm by trying to do too much.  We got the LEGO Movie Game for the PS3 and it didn’t have the joy of LEGO Star Wars II.  Still, 8 years down the road, the influence of LEGO Star Wars II got us to try it.

Fools Errand?

Of course, putting limits like an arbitrary number on a list like this means it must ring false in some way.  And what does influential really mean?  I know what I said, but I can look back at that list and nitpick that, say, Castle Wolfenstein might not belong.  And what about genres I missed, like tower defense?  I could make the case that Defense Grid: The Awakening belongs on the list.  What about games like EVE Online?  Actually, I explained that one away to myself, seeing EVE as sort of the bastard child of Stellar Emperor and EverQuest or some such.  And while TorilMUD is so powerful in my consciousness, would I have played it had it not been for Gemstone? Where does NBA Jams fit?  And what other Apple II games did I miss?  Should Ultima III be on there?  Lode Runner Karateka?

And somehow this all ties into my post about platforms and connectivity options I have had over the years.

Anyway, there is my list, and I stand firm behind it today.  Tomorrow I might change my mind.  You are welcome to consider this a meme and take up the challenge of figuring out your 15 most influential games.

Others who have attempted to pick their 15, each with their own history:

Vader’s Not So Silent Night

From the LEGO people.

I like the snatches of lyrics from the rebel carol.

LEGO has a Santa Yoda page up this year that includes two more videos and a contest where people can submit their own.

And they are also pushing a LEGO Star Wars film, The Padawan Menace, which Vader appears to be trying to watch in the video above.  The movie is 22 minutes long, which seems a bit brief for a full price Blu-ray release.  But what do I know.

LEGO Star Wars III – The Clone Wars

It is no secret that we are quite enamored with most of the LEGO games that Traveller’s Tales has put out.

We own almost the whole set, and have played them all.  Our current household ranking of the games, from most to least favorite, is:

  1. LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy – Maybe our most-played game on the Wii, this was TT’s second LEGO game, and they nailed what makes the games fun.  Lots of puzzles, hidden surprises that make you want to replay levels, and breaking things… lots of smashing things into their little LEGO parts.
  2. LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 – We call this one LEGO Harry Potter: Movies 1-4, since the game follows the movies and not the books.  But it does follow the movies very closely.  We found that we could watch the movie for a given year, then could play through that year in the game without ever needing a hint.  The spell system was fun.  My daughter could not wait and played through the game without me, which was a first.
  3. LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga – Combines the Original Trilogy with a reworked and more fun version of the original game.  We played it through, though replay value was tainted a bit by the fact that we had already played episodes IV through VI to death.
  4. LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures – Lots of fun, though light on content.  Made us go watch the movies again.  The Temple of Doom segment, like its movie counterpart, was our least favorite.
  5. LEGO Batman: The Video Game – Fun, though we are not as into super heroes around here as we might be.  Introduced the split screen concept, so my daughter and I would stop playing tug of war, but the flicker and playing on a partial section of screen was more annoying that the tug of war.  Also, the controls on the driving levels needed some improvement.
  6. LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues – Like The Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls, proof that more is not always better.  Split screen flicker got worse, the cut scenes were too frequent, and they tried to make the lobby area part of the game with its own requirements, which turned it into a confusing mess.  My daughter played with the level creator more than we played the game, but the level creator didn’t seem to have a lot of real purpose in life.
  7. LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game – The first game in the series, and TT was still figuring out what was going to be fun.  This game is hard… that lava jumping level was a royal pain and there were a few levels we could barely start, much less finish.  All the levels were reworked in the spirit of “puzzles and breaking stuff” in The Complete Saga. Fortunately, TT quickly figured out what made the games fun and hit the mark squarely with LEGO Star Wars II.

So we had to get LEGO Star Wars II: The Clone Wars.

We received it in the mail about two weeks ago and it is currently vying for the second or third spot on our list above.

It follows the story, or at least the first two seasons, of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series which we have been watching every Friday night at our house.  And while I have not been paying the closest attention to the series, I recognize situations that have come up over the course of the series.

The game introducing a new engine for the LEGO series which seems to help the Wii along as it tries to render things on screen.  The downside of the last few games, including Harry Potter, is that the Wii seemed to be quite taxed to keep up with what it was being asked to do.  That goes away, to a certain degree, with LEGO Star Wars III.

The flicker that bothered me seems to have been reduced.  Of course, those of you who grew up in the age of LCD monitors might not know to what I am referring, but flicker used to be a serious annoyance on CRT based monitors and tube TVs used as monitors.  The reduction in flicker might, of course, be attributed to the fact that we no longer have a tube TV, but a nice big LCD screen.

This bigger screen, since the game expands out to play on the full 16:9 screen, and the reduction in flicker makes split screen play more bearable.  I still am not fond of it, and neither is my daughter, and I wish it was an option that you could turn off, but it is not.  In fact, there are sections of play where two players work on separate parts of a level on a divided screen.

So my daughter and I make do by using the “drop out” option that lets one player leave the game so the other player can have the full screen to perform some task that really needs the whole screen to accomplish.  This is something of a weakness of the game, in my opinion.  Any number of times you have to take over some huge laser cannon and blow up an objective in the distance, only to have your screen cut diagonally across your view by you partner who is trying to knock off some droid troopers who have just shown up.

The game itself has all the things we have become used to in TT’s LEGO games, unlocks, hidden items, fun puzzles, and lots and lots of LEGO objects waiting to be smashed to pieces, an aspect of the game that is more satisfying in some visceral than it probably should be.  And it never gets old!  Never!

There are some new features.  You can now command a platoon sized group of clones, using them to target specific structures that need rapid fire to destroy.  There are a number of battlefield scenarios where you have to destroy separatist structures and capture their power sources to build Republic structure.  This includes a mini-map at the top of the screen which the Wii, its output limited to 480p, is unable to display clearly.  I would like to see the whole thing on 1080p output.

And then there is that clone troop with the Gatling blaster in the Ryloth missions.  I could just run around shooting that thing all day long.

Reviews of the game have come up in the “mediocre” range of 6.0-7.5 on a lot of sites.  The DS and 3DS versions, which lack a number of the new features, score at the low end, while the home console versions rank a little higher.  The main complaints, paraphrased by me, seem to be “not much new, and what is new gets over used.”

I cannot really argue with that.

We are only 30% into the game, but it still seems like a lot of fun us.  If you wanted more LEGO Star Wars, you’ll probably like it.  That is where we stand.  We wanted more and we got it.

If you did not like the past versions, you probably won’t like this any better.

And I am looking forward to the next installment from TT, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean.

I might have to make another pass at my old post about Five LEGO Video Games I Want.  If they can do Pirates of the Caribbean, the door is open to other ideas.

[Keen and Graev have a nice review of LEGO Star Wars III posted.]

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga

I mentioned at the end of review of LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, I had already picked up a copy of LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga on release day.

In fact, the looming release of The Complete Saga was what motivated me to finally write up that review.

But now The Complete Saga is here.

Saturday morning this past weekend started as many Saturday mornings have over the last few months.  My daughter woke up first, then headed on into our room to wake me up.

If only we had this problem on school days.

I got up without too much protest about the time.

I got in my sweats, went into my office and picked up the new game off of the top shelf of my book case (hiding things from people who are only four feet tall can be easy) then headed out to the family room.

My daughter was already reeling out the GameCube controllers, ready to play.

I told her that we would not be using those controllers today.

Her face began to adopt that pleading pose, thinking that I was going to propose playing Mario Kart Double Dash or Marble Mania (which I really like), games that only I seem to enjoy these days.

But before she could work her way into full whine mode (how do you make that stop?) I pulled the LEGO Star Wars: Complete Saga case out from behind my back and showed it to her.

She is only in kindergarten, so reading is still work for her, but she did not need to read much on that case to know that the new LEGO Star Wars game, the one I mentioned a month or so back, the game she has been asking me about ever since (Daaaaad, we need Jar-Jar’s super jumping ability in this level! When is the new game coming out?) was here and ready to play.

I unplugged the GameCube controllers, set them aside, and got out the Wii remotes and nunchuk controllers.

Then my daughter and I spent a good nine hours over the weekend playing the game, hitting the 10% mark for content, which gives me some basis on which to make a first pass review.

The Cool

It is LEGO Star Wars.  It is cool by default.

Having all of the levels and all of the characters to unlock is great.  You can have characters that you have unlocked in any of the episodes when you choose free play.  You can also use parts from any of those unlocked characters to make your custom LEGO character.

Plus they have added new characters to the playable/unlockable list.  My daughter was flying around as Watto pretty soon after we started.

All of the great co-op game play action is in the game, but improved.

To borrow a phrase from Darren at The Common Sense Gamer, “They took out the suck.”

This particularly applies to episodes I, II, and III.  There were levels in that set which were extremely frustrating to play, and more so when trying to play co-op with a five year old.

I mentioned the pod race level previously.  It was a huge pain in the original LEGO Star Wars.  You had to race through three laps (just like the movie) with each lap divided into timed segments.  You could only advance to the next timed segment after completing the previous.  The first segment was hard enough that I had to have my daughter drop out and solo it.  I made it after four tries.

And then each segment after that gets harder.

But they fixed that.  They did away with the segments.  It is just one three lap race now, and all you have to do is catch, pass, and stay in front of Sebulba.  And if you don’t make it, you just have to re-run the last lap, not the whole race.

This time I only had to run the last lap four times before I won, though I did have my daughter drop out after the second run.  She was fine with that.

And then there was the Battle over Coruscant, the level that made me send the original LEGO Star Wars back to GameFly.  As frustrating as the podrace, but much more difficult.  I never made it through the level.

With the updates in The Complete Saga however, my daughter and I made it through the level with only a couple of setbacks.  We got to see a lot of content that was previously unavailable to us, including the fights with Count Dooku and General Grievous.

And finally there is Indiana Jones.  As a promo for the upcoming LEGO Indiana Jones game, one of the characters you can unlock in The Complete Saga is Indiana Jones himself.  He is cool with his trademark fedora, whip, and .45 revolver.  The in-game sound effect for that .45 is straight from the bar scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  It is a great sound, a deep, throaty, concussive report. Too bad it sounds like no .45 I’ve ever head fired, and I have heard a fair sampling at the range.  But that is Hollywood!

The Middling

I was a bit worried that I might have to get up off the Love Sac and get an early morning workout with the coming of LEGO Star Wars to the Wii.  But that was not the case.  While you can swing a lightsaber by waving the Wii remote, you can do the same thing with the B (trigger) button.  And since all the lightsaber strokes are scripted already, that is fine.  You cannot do anything special swinging the remote around that you couldn’t do just clicking the B button.

Which is, of course, going to be a disappointment to some who were looking for some real lightsaber action.  The game makes very limited use of the special control abilities of the Wii remote.  Instead, the Wii remote and nunchuck just take the place of the standard game pad.

The problem is, the GameCube game pad is much better for that sort of thing.  It is well designed and comfortable in both my hands and my daughter’s.  I have not checked the manual yet, but I do not think I can go back to the GameCube controllers, or even to the Wii Classic controllers for this game.

So, while I can comfortably lounge while playing the game, the controller configuration straddles the divide between Wii remote and game pad, which is dissatisfying for anybody who favors one or the other.

They also added on a two-player game section.  In that you can compete against the other player in several activities, including killing NPCs, collecting studs, or killing each other.  While a it was a nice idea to include some competitive play in the game, it really is not that good.

While the shooting each other game is simple enough, it is very heavily influenced by the character you choose to play.

Hunting NPCs is a bit more painful, and the match inevitably ends up going to the person who runs further ahead, thus getting to any new NPC spawns first.

And the stud collecting… that is just dreadful.  We chose the “collect 100,000” studs game.  Only it was five rounds, so it is really 500,000 studs.  So you go in and blow stuff up to scoop up all the studs that drop.  But then NPCs show up, shooting at you.  If you die, you lose a big chunk of your total.  this wouldn’t be so bad, but the NPCs come on in a constant stream, so you end up spending most of your time fighting them.  Plus you opponent can also shoot and kill you with the same stud loss result.

After a long time playing this with my daughter, during which neither of us hit the first 100,000 marker, I changed tactics and just covered her while she collected studs, just to end the game.

And this is compounded by a problem that exists in the co-op game, which is that you cannot go in two different directions.  And for a competitive game like this, you want to be able to go a different way that the other person.  So in trying to go different ways, we managed to play tug of war and get each other stuck in dead ends.

Since this was some “extra” content in a co-op game, I am willing to give it a pass, but I could not recommend it.

The Questionable

Then there are the things that bother me.

For example, somebody decided to turn up the shine setting to 11.

Everybody and everything in the game is much shinier than the previous versions.  It really bothers me.  I want somebody to run out and powder Chewbacca’s shiny face.  The glare off of RD-D2 is blinding.  And some things have so much shine, they get a glazed donut texture to them, like somebody did “wax on” but forgot to “wax off.”  (Heh, he said “Wax off!”)

They also made C-3P0 rather more gold in color than before.  A bit too much of the orange, if you ask me.

But these are matters of taste.  The big thing is that in some busy scenes, places where you’re blowing things up while NPCs are running around and firing, the graphics performance grinds quite a bit.  Objects get jumpy and the quality of what is displayed degrades quite noticeably.

I do not understand why this should be the case.  The graphics (minus the shine factor) are the same as the GameCube version, which ran as smooth as silk on the Wii.  Somebody screwed up.

The Verdict

While it has its faults, LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga is a clear winner at our house.  The smoothing out of the annoyingly difficult parts from the first installment, along with the continues great co-op game play, means that my daughter will continue ignoring the idea of “Sleep-in Saturday” for some time to come.

So no extra rest for me, but a dad’s got to do what a dad’s got to do.

LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy

It is 6:45am on a Saturday morning.  Someone is lightly shaking me, causing me to wake up.

“Daddy, c’mon.  Lego Star Wars.”

There is that voice again.

I roll onto my back and mumble something about “sleep-in Saturday” and going back to bed.

“I can’t sleep any more.  C’mon!”

She shakes me a bit more.

I hear my wife say sleepily, “C’mon daddy.”  I can hear the grin on her face.  She has some more sleep time coming.

Not me.

I expect this sort of thing on Christmas morning, but it is September.

There is a new ruler in the kingdom that is our Wii.  Mario Kart Double Dash lasted all of two weeks, and then we found something new.

A couple weeks before the early morning Saturday scene, we were out at Fry’s.  I was looking for cable extenders for the GameCube controllers I bought for our Wii in order to play GameCube games.  The six foot cables that come with the controllers were too short.  We found those at Fry’s, digging through some of the GameCube accessories that had been pushed to the end of one aisle in the sprawling Brokaw Road store.  We started at the Arques store, but their GameCube section had disappeared completely, so we had to move on to the next best location.

I found the cable extenders.  I also picked up a GameCube memory card so we could save GameCube game histories.

I also spotted a copy of LEGO Star Wars II

I showed it to my daughter, who was quite enthusiastic.  It had been marked down, so I was happy enough to throw it in the basket.

My daughter is already a Star Wars fan.  At age 5 she has seen all the movies, can tell you what characters appear in which, and, as I have posted here before, enjoys playing with Star Wars LEGOs. (Though it is really the mini figures she enjoys the most, like our golden C-3P0.)

Little did I know that I had created a monster.

The combination of LEGO, Star Wars, and a video game proved to have a lot of appeal for my daughter.

And so the scene above… me being awoken early on Saturday morning to play LEGO Star Wars has been repeated for quite a few weeks in a row.

Fortunately, for sleepy dad at 7am, using a GameCube controller is pretty low impact.

I roll the big Love Sac (we have the Super Sac, which pretty much fits us all) in front of the television, grab the controllers, jump in an get comfy with my daughter for a couple hours of LEGO Star Wars.

But enough of the indulgent father routine.  The game is freakin’ awesome.

I may not enjoy it quite as much as my daughter, or be quite as eager to get up early on the weekend to play it, but I have a great time when we play.

So aside from the fact that it is LEGO and Star Wars and a video game all wrapped up into one package, what does this game have going for it?

Well, it is a very fun and somewhat silly look at the original Star Wars trilogy.  You get to play through all of the major parts of the movies.

Second, the game play is pretty reasonable.  I found the speeder bike section a bit trying, but for the most part, the game is very accessible.  We blew through all 18 basic levels (six per episode) in about two weeks of not very intensive play.  We generally reserve the Wii for Wii-kends (ha ha), though we did go through a level a night for a few weeknights.  And, in the end, it wasn’t too tough to figure out.  I only got stuck twice and had to go to the web for answers. (I used this site for basic level walk-through, and this site for a more of the advanced questions.)

Third, it is extremely replayable.  Once we got through the story, we started on the “Free Play” aspects of the game, where you go back through the levels to pick up special pieces, unlock new characters and special abilities, find secret or locked locations, and run some of the special missions that only become available after you have completed the basic game.

The game even tells you how much of the content you have completed.  We currently stand at 56%.  Our big bonus for last weekend was earning enough of the in-game cash to unlock one of the three ghost characters.  (We took Anakin, but still have Yoda and Obi-wan to go.)

So we have been playing this game, and not much else on the Wii, for some time now.

We took a diversion into the original LEGO Star Wars for a weekend, but the game play was a lot more annoying.  We did not get too far into it.  I especially found the pod race level very aggravating.  I had to have my daughter drop out of the game so I could finish it by myself.

That’s no fun.

But they appear to have learned a lot from the first one when they made the second.

And I gather that they probably learned some from the second.  At least I hope they did.

Because, do you know what came out yesterday?  What I had to buy at Fry’s while I was there grabbing Ratatouille on DVD?

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga!

All six movies combined into a single game.

New Characters! New Levels!

And it is for the Wii!  Swing that lightsaber!

I predict more early Saturday mornings.  Only now I am in danger of having to move around because of the Wii’s controller.

(And if they get it right, they have pretty much sold me a copy of the upcoming LEGO Indiana Jones game as well.)