Warning — if you don’t want to hear about Star Wars every five minutes for the next 5 years from your kids, don’t buy this game.
When I was a kid one of my best memories was playing Boulder Dash on the Commodore 64 computer with my dad. It was an amazing game and I’ve never been able to find an emulator that can quite deliver the same game that we used to play for hours and hours and hours. My dad was as addicted to it as I was and we’d both stay up late nights trying to work through the puzzles and collect all of the diamonds that we needed to complete a level. And while gaming has certainly come a long way since way back then, the basic premise of the seeking and finding to complete levels as gameplay has remained at the core of many great games.
Which brings me to the first thing that I hear from my boys every Saturday and Sunday morning, "Dad, can we play Star Wars today?" By Star Wars, they specifically are referring to Lego Star Wars II, The Original Trilogy on our XBox 360. For the past few months I think they mention something Star Wars oriented about every 5 minutes or so.
Of the 12 games or so that we’ve purchased for the XBox 360 so far, none has been the hit in our household (well, at least with the boys in our household, mom’s not as big of a fan) as this game.
Yes, folks it’s got Star Wars, it’s got Legos, and it not only plays on the XBox 360, but on a number of other platforms as well. They couldn’t have designed a better geek dad game if they tried.
The basic premise of the game is that you complete levels through all of the original Star Wars trilogy episodes, Episodes IV (A New Hope), Episode V (The Empire Strikes Back) and Episode VI (Return of the Jedi). As you go through these familiar stories you do so with little lego versions of the characters. You can rotate characters with your partner, and in free play mode even more of the characters that you collect in the game.
Different characters have different tools and skills. Droids are helpful for getting into locked doors, characters with blasters are able to blast the opponents, characters with The Force (both good and bad) have light sabers and can use the force on objects to advance through the game.
As you advance through the game you collect minikit canisters, red bricks and most of all studs, little coin like objects that can be used to buy things in the Mos Eisley Cantina between levels. In the cantina you can buy characters that you don’t own, special play enhancements, gold bricks to build things, and build custom characters.
On every level there are plenty of little lego things for you to build and get more studs. Motorcycles, radios, vehicles to ride around in, etc.
So, why is this game so great for kids? Well, apart from the old hand/eye coordination Jedi mind trick that we use on mom, I think this game is particularly well suited for more than one player. Central to the two player experience of this game is the concept of cooperation. Unlike other games I’ve tried, in Lego Star Wars both players appear on the screen at the same time. In order for one character to move somewhere on the screen the other player must cooperate and move in the same direction.
While this might sound a tad frustrating, it actually creates a better two player gaming experience than a split screen does. And it also forces the kids to work out their differences between themselves (note, sometimes dad needs to play referee). When Jack (my six year old) wants to go hunting for a mini-kit canister while William thinks he needs a storm trooper helmet from the helmet dispenser (which he doesn’t really need, but he’s five and at five years old wearing a storm trooper helmet on your character is uber cool), then the two of them need to work it out. In the end Jack learns that if he yells at William then the XBox is likely to be turned off by me. But William also learns that if he is not listening to his older more experienced brother or if he’s being purposely annoying that I’m likely to make him drop out of the game for a few minute break while his older brother plays in single player mode.
The other good thing about this game is that it can teach kids about sharing. I try to restrict the XBox 360 to weekend mornings at our house (I said *try*, in case my wife is reading this) and inevitably more of the neighborhood kids come by to play the game with my kids. When you have more than two players we set up a timer and rotate players every ten minutes.
The other thing that this game teaches kids is that when you can’t find something out you might want to check Google. Although we’ve been able to figure most of the game out on our own, there have been some canisters which are pretty toughly hidden and occasionally we have to go find a walkthrough somewhere on the internet to finish our level. I do have to remind my kids that this doesn’t count as cheating of course because we’re doing it on a Macintosh. Just kidding.
Anyways, this is the best of all the XBox 360 games that my boys and I have tried yet. Also for those of you dads who like the whole idea of mashing up legos with video games, the good news is that not only is a Batman lego game coming out shortly but it looks like Lego is partnering up to make a bunch of other games as well.
Related links: Lego Star Wars II on wikipedia. Watch the trailer of the game.