Please do not let me play Lego Star Wars anymore.
I always thought that I might have an obsessive-compulsive personality, but I never knew the dark depths to which I could sink until I played Lego Star Wars.
The game is so extensive, with so many levels, secret levels, bonus levels, mini games and hidden upgrades, it is almost sadistic. I’ve played the game for 10 hours and 16 minutes this week and I am only 22.5 percent finished with the game (there is a little counter where you can check your progress — or lack thereof). The painful part is that none of these achievements will ever leave you (me) satisfied, but like all addictive substances, they will only leave you (me) wanting more.
Perhaps a more careful, and less spiteful, explanation would be helpful. The new and updated version, “Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga” is essentially a two-for-one package combining the two previous installments, collectively spanning all six Star Wars movies. Developed in 2005 by the company Traveler’s Tales, the Lego Star Wars franchise is a heartwarming scheme that aims at combining the adventure and thrill of Star Wars with the whimsical and interactive elements of Legos. The result is an approachable, dare I say adorable, action/puzzle/platformer that will warm the heart of any Star Wars fan who has been in mourning since the theatrical release of the abominable Episode 1.
Each movie is reduced to six of its most important segments, which provides for a total of 36 levels — not counting secret, hidden or bonus ones, of course. As you progress through each segment, either solo or with a second player wingman, you will face off against Lego Stormtroopers and Lego Sith Lords and the fate of the Lego universe will be in your hands. If saving the universe is not a personal goal, then you will at least find pleasure in destroying your enemies, all of whom break apart into little Lego pieces in an effortlessly satisfying way.
In an attempt to put aside my obsessive grievances, I have to say that the gameplay really is enjoyable. Controlling a Lego version of Luke Skywalker might sound childish and juvenile, but that’s exactly the point. The game was designed as a way of bringing Star Wars-loving families (my family) together, and the intrinsic humor of reducing the epic Lucas world to an absurd Lego world is played up to the max. You can switch Luke’s head with Boba Fett’s, pull the arms off C3-PO and unlock silly bonuses such as moustache disguises for all your characters (and vehicles, what?!). These are simple and childish jokes but they work at such a basic level it is impossible to resist falling for the goofy gags. The game does not take itself seriously for even a second and this is definitely its greatest charm.
As with actual Legos, the game’s pleasure also comes from constructing and deconstructing (smashing) Lego creations. Throughout the levels you can build AT-ST’s, hovercrafts, and other fun, nerdy nostalgic gadgets. For the more destructive at heart, almost anything and everything in Lego Star Wars can be gleefully blasted to bits and reduced to its respective Lego components.
And here I get to my main argument, if not my major complaint: Studs. Seductive little Lego coins, Studs are the splashy by-product of your wanton lego-smashing, and they are the source of all the pain in my life. In the world of Lego Star Wars, Studs are a form of currency which can be used to purchase locked characters, bonus upgrades and the like. And I can never have enough of them.
Just as Mario is more focused on collecting stars than it is on saving Princess Peach, so is Lego Star Wars focused on collecting Studs. There is a Jedi bar that measures your Stud count at the top of the screen and filling the Jedi bar quickly becomes an all-consuming occupation. It’s not about saving the universe, nor putting funny Stormtrooper hats on all your characters. It’s about collecting all the freakin’ Lego Studs you can. If nothing else, the importance to which they are elevated is an experiment in human nature, a test of temptation and restraint.
“Why do you have to collect them all?” my foolishly naive roommate asked.
Because you have to. Because there is a looming counter, a constant reminder, that tracks your progress. Because they jingle irresistibly like a Las Vegas slot machine. Because when you collect all the Studs you are declared a “True Jedi” and can buy useless power-ups like the Gold Bricks. But when you realize being a True Jedi means nothing, and buying all 99 gold bricks will take weeks to complete, your (my) life quickly becomes futile and meaningless.
Damn the developers at Travelers Tales. Damn the developers at Travelers Tales for making this charming, enjoyable and entertaining game, and then ruining it with Studs. A stronger man than I might be able to enjoy the game for all its endearing goofiness, but I am bleary-eyed and weak. The Studs! The Studs!