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Lego Star Wars: The Video Game: Episode I

The three things I enjoyed growing up (and still do to this day, as a matter of fact) were video games, Legos, and Star Wars. When ?Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace? came to theaters and Lego started the Lego Star Wars line -- I thought nothing could top that combination. I was wrong. With the upcoming release of Lego Star Wars: The Video Game on the horizon, I got a chance to play through the game. This article is the first of a three part preview for the Lego Star Wars game and will cover Episode I (the other two parts will cover Episodes II and III -- which is where the game ends).

The Episode I segment of this game takes you through the first part of the ?Star Wars? prequel trilogy. Here, you take control of Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon-Jin, Padme/Amadala, Anakin, and many more characters from the movie as you play through the plot in a somewhat slapstick, yet still accurate rendition of the film.

This episode is broken up into six chapters: Negotiations, Invasion of Naboo, Escape from Theed, Mos Espa Pod Race, Retake Theed, and Darth Maul. This first part of Lego Star Wars reminded me a lot of the Star Wars: Episode I game that came out with the movie, except I found myself enjoying this game much more -- maybe it?s just the cartoony feel of it all.

Lego Star Wars lets you play in either one or two player mode. The second (or first) player can jump in or leave at any time in the game. If there is only one person manning the controls, then the other character follows you around and helps you out. Typically the other character is very defensive. So, if you end up in a courtyard with a lot of Battle Droids coming at you, most of the time you?re A.I.-driven counterpart will just deflect the shots instead of attacking outright.

If, for some reason, you need to be the other character (which happens a lot, considering most characters have different skill sets), then it is a simple button press to transfer control to the other character. There are some chapters where it will be more than just the two mini-figures running around. When you are trying to retake Theed, you will see around six other game characters chasing behind you.

Something like this can be a path-finding nightmare in most games, but Lego Star Wars holds up to the challenge pretty well (for the most part). There are times when different characters get to areas in different ways. For example, if you need to get all six people onto a balcony, the options available involve using a grapple point, a lift, a chute, or a couple of boxes that can be lifted using the Force. I found that each character was able to find his or her way up to the desired location without any problems.

Yet the system isn?t perfect, even though it did well for these seemingly complicated areas. When I tried to cross a bridge, R2 or one of the Jedi typically got stuck on the railing. Freeing them wasn?t a big problem (once I took control of the character), but it happened enough to get frustrating. Hopefully this little wrinkle will be ironed out when the game launches.

In each chapter of Lego Star Wars you can collect two things: studs (those small circular Lego pieces) and Mini-Kits. Collecting these will help you unlock various features outside of the episodes. Collecting all of the Mini-Kits in each level builds various ships seen from the movie. For Episode I?s chapters, you can construct the Sith Interceptor, Naboo Fighter, Bongo Submarine, Sebulba?s Pod Racer, and Republic Cruiser.

You have to go through each chapter multiple times in order to get all of the Mini-Kits and unlock the entire ship (since you?ll find a lot of them in areas that only certain characters can get to, like behind a door that only R2-D2 can open).

The studs you collect let you purchase various extras from Dex?s Diner, which serves as the hub area between episodes/chapters. You can purchase hints from Dex and various mini-figure add-ons (like mustaches, brooms, or purple light-sabers). You can also unlock characters to play as. You do this in two ways. Most of the good guys are unlocked as you assume their role in the Story mode. Villains can be purchased at Dex?s once you have encountered them in the game.

There are still plenty of other features to talk about in this game, but I have to save some of them for the next two articles, so this ends the first part of the Lego Star Wars: The Video Game preview. Check back soon for the Episode II segment.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer
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