What do you do when you have an award-winning game? Well it’s quite simple really, you merge your two companies and get to work on a sequel. This is Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy.

About the time of Lego Star Wars publication, Giant Entertainment and Traveler’s Tales Games merged into one company called TT Games. It is my understanding though, Giant Entertainment is still used as a publishing name sometimes. Although, I haven’t found any other titles published under the Giant name myself. Traveler’s Tales Games of course still uses its name for developing titles. This is why you don’t see the Giant logo on any further Lego titles.

Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, is the obvious follow-up to Lego Star Wars. As the title implies this game is based on the three original movies, Star Wars, now known as, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. Like Lego Star Wars before, you can only play the first chapter of A New Hope to get started, but once you complete this first chapter the other two episodes will unlock and you can play them in any order.

In many ways Lego Star Wars II plays exactly like its predecessor. However, many changes have been made to improve playability and the fun factor. I believe that LucasArts had a lighter load at this time and helped out with development as well as taking over publishing duties from Eidos.

One big difference you’ll notice right away is that in the first game only Jedi’s were able to build things from Legos, but in this game just about any character except droids can build useful items. From what I can tell this was done due to player feedback. Apparently people didn’t care to constantly switch to the Jedi to build something. I think though, that it also may be a simple factor that there were not Jedi in every single level of this game and so a change had to be made. Personally I kind of liked that the Jedi were the only ones that could build things. It sort of gave the impression that it was part of their Jedi power.

Controller compatibility is much better in this game but still not perfect. The configuration is in a much more comfortable set up this time around. Also the controller seems to be better recognized if it becomes unplugged during gameplay, and you plug it back in, it will be detected and start working immediately. This is a leap over the first game, which would revert to keyboard controls permanently if the controller was not detected. The buttons of a Xbox 360 controller are still not identified as such. Instead the configuration just identify them as button one, button two and so forth, but everything works fine otherwise.

In the first game Dexter’s Diner served as the game’s main hub. In this game, it has been properly replaced with the Mos Eisley Cantina, which of course is a location in Star Wars A New Hope. You can explore the Cantina, and find bonuses like studs, the games currency, by smashing chairs and other such things. As a Jedi, you can trigger things like objects on the walls with your powers to find extra studs. There are other interesting things to do in the Cantina as well. At the bar you can do several things with your studs, like buy hints, characters, gold bricks, and other things. In another section you can create your own characters by combining existing characters tops and bottoms. The game will even generate names of these characters based on the tops and bottoms that you use, but it will allow you to name the character as you wish.

During the game each level has kits that you are supposed to collect. If you can collect all ten from each level. You will be able to build and I believe use the objects that these kits form. Most of these kits are extra ships and vehicles. Outside the Cantina, you can collect more studs as well as view your kits.

One funny thing about exploring the inside and outside of the Cantina, is that you may at times cause shootouts. One example that comes to mind is shooting chairs for extra studs. By accident you may shoot your partner who is loyally following you around or even a passerby. When this happens they will usually retaliate and many times it doesn’t even matter if there part of the good guys or the bad guys.

Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy comes at an interesting time. The Windows 9X series was coming to an end with Windows Millennium and Windows 2000. Because of this, when you install it you will find you have two desktop shortcuts to launch the game with. The first one is for Windows 9X. The second one is for Windows 2000 and up. The reason I say Windows 2000 and up, is that Windows 2000 is basically the forerunner for Windows XP. Windows 2000 and Windows XP are based on what was once the Windows NT operating system, which was far more stable than Windows 9X and originally intended for business use only. You are welcome to attempt to run the game with the Windows 9X shortcut, but I found the game more prone to crash in Windows 7. Using the Windows 2000 shortcut, the game is pretty solid with its stability, so be sure to use it if you can.

As before, you control two characters. These characters have their own abilities and as long as you’re standing close enough to your partner you can switch between yourself and the other character. It is slightly less necessary to do that in this game, but there are still times when you will need to switch characters. Jedi’s, for example can leap higher than anyone who carries a blaster. Characters that carry blasters however, can shoot things, and use grappling hooks to get themselves to even higher locations the Jedi can’t reach. Droids can’t pull switches, but they can open doors that other characters can’t. You get the idea.

Sometimes your party can get rather large. In later levels, my party sometimes consisted of five to six characters. This as I already stated was to be able to do several different things as I made my way through the levels, but one thing they were all together for was for switches. Rather than have just one floor switch that opened a door, sometimes there were several switches to be stood on at once. Once I stood on a switch, all the other characters did the same in the door would open.

The levels, as in the previous game are divided into six chapters for each movie. For example, in A New Hope, you will play as Princess Leia as she makes her way through the ship to find R2-D2. The rest of the level requires you to get R2-D2 and C-3PO to the escape pod. It is interesting to note that in the Lego Star Wars bonus level you played Darth Vader in pursuit of Princess Leia.

In the second level you play Luke and Obi-Wan as they make their way to the Mos Eisley Spaceport. This is an interesting level, as you will come across Jawas, and explore their transport, where you must rescue the droids. Once you reach the spaceport, you obviously reach the next level which consists of course of exploring the spaceport itself. Once you find and meet with Han Solo at the Cantina, you become that character and must now make your way to the Millennium Falcon and escape the planet.

As you might have guessed, the next level involves the Death Star. The Death Star is actually divided into two levels. The first being the rescue of Princess Leia and the second half being the escape from the Death Star. Once you completed the fifth level it’s on to the sixth and final level for A New Hope. While chapter two had a small part where you drove Skywalker’s land speeder, chapter six is the first true vehicle level of Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy. Obviously the level is based on the trench battle of the Death Star. I’ll leave the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi levels for you to discover.

Let’s talk about some of the vehicle-based levels now. The levels featuring vehicles in this game are far improved over the previous Lego Star Wars title. First of all, most of them don’t seem to be on rails. Just to remind you, a game on rails means that you have a constant momentum forward and if you miss a target or turn, it is possibly going to get you killed because there is no way to turn around and go back. In these levels you seem to have quite a bit of control. For example, the first vehicle-based level as said earlier, is the trench battle from Star Wars A New Hope. You can steer your ship in any direction you feel necessary and run your ship up and down the trenches. The controls here feel surprisingly good, with perhaps just a bit of intended lag. One thing you do in this level is collect missiles that you drag behind the ship and launch at targets the game makes very obvious for you. Get used to this, as it is going to appear again in several of Traveler’s Tales’ Lego titles.

Another of the vehicle-based levels is of course the battle on Hoth. This one can be a little frustrating until you get used to it. Just like in the movie you must grapple the invading walkers and then circle them in order to get them to fall down, but that’s not enough. This is where it gets frustrating, you must race to an area where mines are kept, collect one and hurry back to the Walker to hopefully drag the mine into it. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not too bad, but it first it can feel almost impossible.

In another one you pilot the Millennium Falcon as it tries to escape the pursuing Imperial fleet. This one is similar to the Death Star mission in which you must collect missiles and shoot them at specific targets to destroy the ships pursuing.

In The Return of the Jedi missions, it should come as no surprise that one of your tasks is to fly speeder bikes. Unfortunately this is one of the most repetitive parts of the entire game. Basically you must chase down biker scouts and destroy as many of them as the game indicates. Once you do this, you take down a shield generator and get back on your speeder bike. The only thing that changes here is that the number of speeder bikes you must shoot down increases by one each time, and I believe you must do this at least four times. If you had to do it once or twice it could be quite fun, but the repetitiveness kills it.

The final vehicle mission is the attack on the Death Star. This one is not too bad, but it is pretty predictable. You basically fight your way to the center of the Death Star, and once you get there you must collect missiles and shoot them at the core. It is not too different from what you have already done.

The worst use of a vehicle in the game does not come from a full vehicle mission. During chapter five of A New Hope, there is a part where several buttons are laid out on the floor and you must press them as quickly as possible. However, it is impossible to press them by just running over them. What you must do, is find a vehicle that you can ride. While riding on this vehicle, you are supposed to run over all the buttons in a row. The torture of this small task, comes from the handling of the vehicle. It is very difficult to turn just when you want and I found it hard just to drive straight, causing me to miss at least one of the buttons on several attempts. It can get quite annoying if you have to try several times.

The multiplayer co-op also returns. It works just like it did before, where a friend can join you simply by picking up a controller and tapping a button. The camera also works the same, by zooming out if you and your friend go in different directions. However, you really are not meant to split up. When your friend is done playing with you, he can simply opt out and walk away. This is a really nice feature, because there is no specific reloading of levels or the need to restart your game if your friend leaves. It is all just neatly handled.

Disguises are another interesting element. Inspired by the first movie, by pulling a lever you can wear the helmet of a storm trooper. You must do this to sometimes open certain doors, but for some reason it doesn’t fool anyone that you encounter. Which is too bad, I think it might have been neat to try and blend in for a level or two. The helmets seem to be very fragile too. If you get shot on your way to the door, you will lose it and then you have to backtrack to the switch where you got it. Most times it’s not a big deal, but there are a few places where the storm troopers just keep coming and it’s hard to get to that switch and wave in front of it with your helmet on.

If you read my previous article on Lego Star Wars, then you know I experienced great difficulty with the game running properly, in which certain characters could not jump to where you expected to, or climb an object, or even get through a doorway at one point. The fix I found was to manually turn on vertical sync in the graphics card settings. I am happy to report that with the sequel, this was not necessary and it made for a much more enjoyable experience.

Free play mode makes a comeback of course, and can be interesting at times. I’m not too keen on replaying a level already completed, but I did have fun with the few levels I did retry. In free play mode you can change to several different characters you’ve unlocked throughout the game by pressing a button. This is useful because during your first play through you encounter places that you can’t go, such as small passageways, or locations that only Darth Vader, storm troopers, or bounty hunters can enter. In free play mode you can switch to the necessary character to enter all these locations that you had to pass during story mode.

There are three other bonus levels in the game that appear after you complete each story, and earn enough gold bricks to open the door to these levels. The first two are basically standard collection challenges. You have to collect a hundred thousand studs in less than five minutes. Finally there is super story mode in this mode you must complete the entire story of the movie and less than one hour and collect about 100,000 studs. Good luck on that.

Once you have completed the main story mode, you can finally open one more door in the Cantina, Jabba the Hutt’s door. The trick to opening this door is unlocking all the bounty hunters with the studs you have collected. Behind the door, Jabba the Hutt is waiting for you with ten bounty hunter missions. These missions are fairly simple, giving you one more excuse to run around, shoot things, and collect studs. You must search each level for a certain character. When you find the assigned character, you simply stand next to them to complete the level. Also note for extra pressure, these levels have a countdown clock of about two minutes.

Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy is definitely a fun game. It is a worthy follow-up to its predecessor, improving on the basics, as well as fixing flaws with the first title. Co-op certainly adds to the fun if you’ve got a pal looking for something to do on a lazy day. While gameplay hasn’t changed much the fun factor is still there. It is definitely a game worth trying at least once, after all it’s not too hard and there’s lots to do.

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