These have been out for a while, so this recommendation is a little late -- but as I have been telling folks about it for a while, I wanted to get this in print.
The first release, LEGO Star Wars, was actually for the last generation of gaming consoles -- and covered the first three movies - Episodes I, II and III -- chronicling the rise of Anakin Skywalker and his fall to become Darth Vader. My sons (now 7 and 9) still haven't seen the movies, but they know good parts of the story from the games.
The second release was LEGO Star Wars II : the Original Trilogy - covering movies IV, V and VI. The graphics and gameplay were slightly improved, and a new range of achievement points. This one also gave players the chance to create their own lego heroes, by mixing and matching pieces just like you might do with real LEGO's. We originally played it on the original Xbox, not long after it came out, and later repurchased it for Xbox 360 so that we could earn the achievement points (see early gaming blog post on achievements).
The latest installment, if you don't already have it is LEGO Star Wars : the Complete Saga - and includes all six movies. There are nice new touches for each of the movies and the levels, and yet another range of achievement points.
For each movie that is represented in the games, the top 5 or 6 scenes are recreated with beautifully rendered lego pieces. You can be Luke climbing through Dagobah while learning from Yoda, or a young Obi Wan battling droids.
The games do get an ESRB rating of T (Teen) because of 'Fantasy Violence' - which basically means that they shoot each other with laser guns or missiles. There is no blood and if a character is shot enough, they fall into LEGO pieces. Your player will reappear, put back together, a few seconds later.
Throughout the level, players seek out hidden lego canisters that are used to build all of the cool ships that one might purchase in stores, from X-wing's to TIE-fighters to Anakin's starfighter. They also collect 'money' (lego disc's in silver and gold) that can be used to purchase your favorite characters and other extra abilities throughout the game.
Why this is THE best kids' game available today
The latest edition is available for almost every gaming platform - from handheld (Nintendo DS) and all three curremt generation consoles (Wii, PS3 and Xbox360). The original game was available for original Xbox, PS2, GameCube (which are all upward compatible with the next gen platforms), as well as DS and GameBoy. This is great because I have heard my sons talking to their friends about tricks on getting around and such -- where we have an Xbox360, but the other kids only have a Playstation 2/3. They can still talk about the game. For adult games, I don't mind platform-exclusive titles (although there aren't as many these days) -- but for kids' games, ubiquity is a plus.
It is true to the movies, but the movies are not a prerequisite -- and suitable for ages 5 through 95. It is easy to pick up and novice gamers will enjoy simply playing through the stories. More advanced gamers will go after the canisters and other extra activities to get the most out of the game. And of course, the achievement junkies like me and my sons will appreciate the achievement points that gives each release its own additional depth (and humor). And a second player can join/exit whenever they want - whether its one of my son's friends who is over for the afternoon -- or me, joining to help them find a secret location.
Its also easy to pick up and put down. My kids have lots of interests -- games and otherwise. So, it can be days or weeks between when we sit down to play. Since the movies are broken into scenes that you can bounce around between, one can play through a scene in 30-45 minutes for a fun diversion, play a complete movie (5-6 scenes) back to back for a fun afternoon -- or if you are a hardcore gamer like my 7-year-old, we'll play each scene 3 times:
- First, in Story Mode - with the original characters from the movie
- Next, in Free Play - with our favorite characters to seek out the hidden canisters, bricks and other secrets
- Finally, in Challenge Mode - with a timer, to see if we can complete the level (and find the canisters) within a fixed time frame.
It gives kids (and adults) a great way to play an 'action/shooter' style game without the graphical violence -- in a fun way with the extra friendliness of the movies as a backdrop.
The last but not least reason why this is such a great kids' game is that the story does not exist in a vacuum. There is obviously a whole range of movies, toys, books and other materials about the Star Wars universe. And since my kids can watch the movies/books, play with the toys (Lego and otherwise), and then play the video game -- its huge amounts of depth to their experience. I've watched them build their lego's to match what they saw in the game -- and when we first watched the original series movies together, they knew some of the key points, but were surprised by others.
If you have played some of these titles, consider going back and playing the others. My kids don't mind the similar levels, and more advanced gamers will appreciate the varied achievement points between game releases.
And since so many folks agree with me that these games are amazing (based on reviews, as well as sales) -- Traveller's Tales, the development company, are in active production for LEGO game versions of Batman (new trailer here) and supposedly the Indiana Jones franchise, as well And I can assure you that my family will buy each -- the day that they come out.
Check out the new LEGO Batman video game trailer to see what is coming next for LEGO video gaming.