To begin, a line of Lego trivia. The word Lego comes from the Danish 'Leg Godt', meaning to play well. That is the Lego philosophy - playing well - and that confident quality oozes from almost everything the Danish manufacturer has branded since its inception. To continue, a cheap shot. Lego videogames have not (traditionally) played well. Star Wars games, too, have forged an unenviable reputation recently, apart from a certain RPG. So, from an Edge reader's point of view at least, Lego Star Wars finds itself in a peculiar situation from the start: two powerful licences, each theoretically tailor made for videogames, each a blessing and each a curse.
It's likely, then, that that an Edge reader will have come to this part of the magazine last of all, regardless of how much they've loved Lego, loved Lucas. Why blame them? What could they expect from a journey through the first three films that, according to the developer's mission statement, has been made for children? It's not for them, right? Jonathan Smith, development director at the game's publisher, Giant Entertainment, answers without missing a beat. "You're talking about a hardcore, seen-it-all-before gamer? This is exactly what they want. They haven't seen it before." Interesting. Just suppose he's right.
You - you - may not have seen Lego Star Wars before in a very literal sense, either. The game had a low-key public unveiling at the San Diego comic convention at the end of July to no small amount of surprise and excitement, the hype snowball taking its first few tumbles down the mountainside. Recounting all the major events in the modern trilogy, and due for release just before 2005's Revenge Of The Sith, superficially it's a straightforward game - a series of thirdperson fixed-camera adventures through landmark set-pieces, instantly recognisable environments populated with heart-warming lego structures, circular studs and the tiny minifig Star Wars characters.
Investigate further, though, and the game's linear handholding melts away, replaced by a freeform friendliness that encourages exploration and experimentation. While the levels are compact from start to finish, the idea is that players who want to spend more time playing in the environments are provided with enough toys to play with. Lego pieces act as interaction signifiers within the playfield - Jedi can attempt to manipulate Lego bricks with the force or smash things with their sabers; robots will pull and push Lego levers; and royal guards will shoot the cutest laser pistols ever, or use grappling hooks to reach higher platforms. There are many more characters and many more ways of manipulating the environment, but the point is that if it's made from Lego you can play with it. And when you realise that, you realise what's fundamentally different about this Lego game. It's about transferring the Leg Godt philosophy into videogaming, not taking a videogame and colouring it with bricks.
Smith explains how that concept came about: "It started with the idea that Lego could make a great computer game. There was something in that fantastic experience of playing with Lego that we all know about, that could be brought to the world of videogames that we all love. That could match. That could create something new - that could draw on what was in Lego, but take it into a new place."
But why bring Star Wars into it? "The thing with Star Wars meant that we could bring the world's favourite characters into that idea, and create something that would be extremely accessible, attractive, exciting. Lego's range of Star Wars play materials has been one of the most successful ranges of toys for the Lego toy company. Much loved by us, much loved by everyone we know, by many millions of people throughout the world. So the next question was what would the Lego Star Wars game be? What are all these great vehicles, all these great characters, scenes from movies that we live out when we play with the toys, what would that be like in a videogame?"
So Lego brings the structure and Star Wars brings the universe. Interestingly, though, just as Lego's designers have been allowed to experiment with the vehicles in the universe themselves - check the back of any Star Wars Lego set and you'll find other, non-Lucas creations that can be built with the same pieces - so Lego Star Wars turns the cinematic story into a playset. As players progress through the game they unlock characters, and these characters can be taken back into previous scenes. By combining their unique skills with those of the characters already present in the level it's possible to reach new areas in a gameplay twist that may remind some of The Lost Vikings on a grander scale.