Last year, LEGO Star Wars taught us what should have been apparent to everyone from the dawn of the universe - LEGO, Star Wars and video games go together like chocolate, peanut butter and creamy nougat. So it comes as no surprise that this new and improved version of last years kid-friendly darling captivated us from the introductory text crawl (you know... that part where the yellow letters march up the screen telling the harrowing tale of one of the most celebrated trilogies in the galaxy).
LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy uses the same basic gameplay as the first with some tweaks to fix up some nagging vehicle control issues. The concept is simple: you control a LEGO version of one of the bajillion characters from Episodes IV, V or VI (or your own custom creation built from parts) and toddle around some deceptively simple platforming levels taken directly from the films. You jump, shoot, slice things up with a lightsaber, slap LEGO bricks together into ladders and stairwells and other helpful constructs and solve surprisingly challenging puzzles. There are vehicles strewn throughout the game that you can hop on at almost any time, although some are much more fun than others (AT-ST Walker = laser-blasting awesomeness).
The real juice of LEGO Star Wars II, however, is not the gameplay as much as it is the cutesy extra bits like unlockable characters, collectible easter egg-style LEGO kits and countless inside jokes and sight gags. Most characters will smack enemies around when you get close enough, but if you're using Lando Calrissian and you try to hit Princess Leia in the face, he'll daintily grab her hand, kiss it and wink at her - hilarious. Just don't ask why we were trying to smack Leia up.
Similar to the last version, LEGO Star Wars II enables you to go back and play through completed levels again in order to collect all the goodies you missed your first time through. This is promoted further as characters you'd need to access hidden treasures (like minikit parts and special blocks) are locked out of the story mode; in earlier stages they aren't even available to you. Instead of being frustrating and boring, this actually boosts replay value as developer Traveller's Tales has included plenty of silly gags to make playing through a second or third time a treat. We were floored when accessing a "Bounty Hunters only" zone that led us to a series of hatches that, once opened, spaced a few rebel soldiers into the cold reaches of the void as we watched them twitch through a viewing window.
LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy is pretty childish, but the kiddy overtones are balanced by the remarkable reminiscence factor for fans of Episodes IV, V and VI (commonly known as "the best episodes"). With solidly rebuilt controls only a little marred by a still-fussy camera, LEGO Star Wars II is even better than last years prequel trilogy-based offering. And, as the first LEGO Star Wars was an amazingly entertaining homage to Lucas's genius, this sequel stands atop the original's shoulders as the pinnacle of LEGO Star Wars fun.