LEGO Star Wars:
The Quest for R2D2
In October of last year, George Lucas and Cartoon Network introduced us to a new chapter in the Star Wars universe. An epic tale taking place between Episodes II and III, that deals with the fabled Clone Wars. The series has been a ratings success for the network, and is now an established part of the Star Wars universe. So it should be only natural to bring it into one of the most successful spin-off franchises in Star Wars history: LEGO Star Wars. And that's where LEGO Star Wars: The Quest for R2D2 comes in.
For those unfamiliar with the franchise, LEGO Star Wars is a 3D action adventure series that takes the familiar characters, vehicles, and locations of the Star Wars universe, and reimagines them using the building blocks of our youth (assuming, unlike me, you ever grew out of them!). Easy to pick up, fun to play, hard to put down, the games have become a success on every platform they were released. Web developer Three Melons has harnessed the power of the Unity 3D engine to bring the LEGO Star Wars experience to the web browser, and has done a bang-up job of it!
In The Quest for R2D2, the titular astromech droid is lost and transmitting a distress signal in the hopes that his master, Anakin Skywalker, will find him again. Unknown to the little droid, the signal he is broadcasting also contains the location of blueprints to a new starship with the power to turn the tide of the war. It doesn't take long for the Sith to get wind of this, and a race ensues to locate R2 and the plans.
The player has the chance to choose to play the game as either Anakin Skywalker for the Republic, or as the Jedi assassin Asajj Ventress. Just as their ultimate goals are different, their paths through the game also differ. As Anakin, you go through the level from left to right, and you face the forces of the Trade Federation. But, play the level as Asajj, and you will start where Anakin's level ends, going from right to left. And instead of the droids of the Trade Federation armies, you face the Republic's clone troopers.
The weapon of choice for both Anakin and Asajj is the venerable light saber. Anakin wields a single blue blade, while Asajj takes on the Republic clone troopers with dual red blades, just like her master, Count Dooku. Tapping the [X] key will send your character through several pre-programmed moves in an attempt to take out whatever is in your path. Along with slicing and dicing, they will also block most laser fire and reflect it back towards the shooter. This is an effective, if slow way of taking out enemies that are too distant or difficult to attack directly. Holding down the [Z] and [X] keys will allow you to charge and release a Force attack. At first, this attack merely stuns and throws your enemies back. But, after increasing the ability (see below) it becomes a truly effective attack.
There are 15 levels to work your way through during the game. The locations range from the inside of ships from both the Republic and Trade Federations' fleet to various planets under both Republic and Sith control. As you make your way through the levels, you will encounter red and yellow crystals. Collect as many as you can in each level to increase your score at the end. You will also occasionally find silver LEGO bricks. These bricks will allow you to increase your stats between levels, much like the character stats in an RPG. Sign up for a LEGO.com account (which is free) and your progress through the levels, as well as your character stats, will be saved for you.
Analysis: Games using the Unity 3D engine have been helping to bring the console-style gaming experience into the browser for a while now. LEGO Star Wars: The Quest for R2D2 sets a new standard for browser-based gaming. This game is truly download-quality, and I could see paying money for such a game. How fortunate it is for us that it has been released for free!
The game plays great. Motions are fluid, and the controls are very responsive. Walk into battles, light sabers swinging, and take out the baddies. It all happens so fluidly and naturally that you can simply enjoy playing the game without having to worry about accidentally facing the wrong direction or making the wrong move and getting taken out by a stray laser bolt. Like other games in the LEGO Star Wars series, the hard-core gamer will probably breeze right thought without breaking a sweat. It is directed at younger gamers and the casual gamer, as well as fans of the franchises involved.
It's the graphic presentation that is truly astounding here, though. The game plays in 2.5D, but all of the graphics are rendered in full 3D. And they look excellent. The character models for your Jedi avatars as well as the enemies you face are sufficiently complex to look indistinguishable from their real-world toy counterparts. Surfaces are detailed, so as not to look simply like a mush of pixels. The one complaint that I do have is about the design of the background objects. In previous games in the series, these objects have always had the appearance of being built with LEGO bricks. This really gave the feeling of being in a LEGO version of the Star Wars universe. Here, even though you see random LEGO bricks fall away when you destroy something in the background, it is obvious that the objects are not built with LEGO bricks. A minor quibble, but it does detract some from the experience.
The sound here is excellent. All sound effects have been pulled directly from the Lucasfilm sound archives, with authentic laser blasts and the familiar hum of the light sabers as they cut through the air. The music is the same as in the television series, with Kevin Kiner's brilliant militaristic-take on the original John Williams material. The only thing missing from the presentation are the newsreel-style opening montages from the series.
Forget what you think you know about browser-based games and give LEGO Star Wars: The Quest for R2D2 a try. It won't be long before you get sucked into a time long ago in a galaxy far, far away, where plastic bricks vied for control of the universe.