There are so many licensed LEGO games across so many different characters at this point, it’s sometimes hard to remember there was a time when LEGO games were borderline-edutainment titles found on PC bargain spinner racks, Traveller’s Tales/TT Games were creating games whose only redeeming elements were nice production values, and the closest thing to a wacky Star Wars crossover game was Star Wars Monopoly. Heck, that time wasn’t even ten years ago. In 2005, Eidos and LucasArts released the first Traveller’s Tales LEGO game, LEGO Star Wars, across a variety of platforms. Given the dubious reputation of all involved and the marketing that strongly suggested it was for kids, it managed to catch a lot of people off-guard by being a pretty fun game packed full of fanservice and self-aware comedy. The game was a huge hit, made all the more impressive by the fact that it was based on the generally-disliked Prequel Trilogy.
Naturally, with such a big success, a sequel had to follow, and fans made it clear exactly what they wanted to see in that sequel. One year later, LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy was released on all of the previous platforms, plus newcomers Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, and PSP. This coincided with the maddeningly long-awaited release of the Original Trilogy on DVD, and rode a huge marketing wave to success. In terms of gameplay, it largely stayed pretty close to the first game, but added a couple of strongly requested features. Building objects from piles of bricks was no longer limited to Jedi characters, allowing any non-Droid character to perform this now-staple LEGO game action. The other major addition was the ability to make a custom character, another new addition that has stayed with the games ever since. It’s no surprise that this game was another massive hit.
What to do next, however? After all, that’s all the Star Wars movies. Traveller’s Tales and LucasArts would come up with a different idea down the road a few years, but at the time, with two new consoles hitting the market in 2007, and the original game never released on the 360 and DS, the decision was made to bring everything together for LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Free). The Original Trilogy portion of the game remained unchanged from the previous version, and the Prequel Trilogy levels were incorporated into a larger version of the Mos Eisley cantina. Traveller’s Tales took this opportunity to alter two of the vehicle stages from LEGO Star Wars that had received heavy criticism, making the podrace sequence a bit less irritating and rebuilding the Gunship Cavalry stage from scratch. Other minor changes were made to bring the game in line with its sequel, such as the aforementioned ability of any non-Droid to build objects.
On top of that, two levels that were cut from the original game were reinstated and 20 bounty hunter missions were added, along with a new arena-based arcade mode. All in all, it was a huge game with lots to collect and pretty much every character a Star Wars fan could ask for. After a horrible showing on the Nintendo DS with LEGO Star Wars II, TT Fusion did a fairly good job making a version of The Complete Saga that, while scaled back, was still quite enjoyable. As the PSP didn’t see a release of this title, the DS version was the only handheld port, and it sort of kicked off a tradition of cutting down the console LEGO experience for handhelds, a tradition that has held to this day, but only to this day.
That’s right, break out the party hats, because we finally have a full-blown console LEGO game on iOS after years of increasingly IAP-filled ports based on the Nintendo DS versions. Oh, there are still IAPs, but the structure is completely different, with the entire set of story missions from Episode I initially included in the app and other episodes available a la carte. Buying the entirety of what you would get on the console versions will run you $14.99, a price that compares quite favorably with current prices on other platforms. If you don’t want the whole thing, you can buy the trilogies separately for $4.99, or individual episodes for $2.99 each. The extra bounty hunter missions and arcade mode are also available separately. Be warned, it seems that some characters are only available in the Complete Saga Bundle.
Now, that price is certainly higher than we’re used to for LEGO games on iOS, but it’s more than worth it, in my opinion. With more than 40 levels, this game dwarfs the other LEGO games available. The game’s economy is unchanged from the console versions, so there is no need for any stud doublers here. You’ll easily be able to unlock characters through regular play, with virtually no grinding. Last month, I reviewed LEGO The Lord of the Rings ($4.99), and it’s kind of shocking doing these back-to-back as it makes the price inflation on everything in the modern games so apparent.
To an extent, I also think that the LEGO Star Wars games are the best in the series, even though they are the oldest. I feel like a lot of the mechanics that have become standard in the LEGO games are included in the games now whether they fit the license or not, whereas everything in LEGO Star Wars grew naturally out of these characters and settings. It’s incredibly cohesive in a way few of the other LEGO games are. I also like how, since what a LEGO game is was yet to be established, there are a lot of unique, sometimes rough ideas in this game. By now, the edges have been sanded off this franchise thoroughly, and in some ways that is of course a good thing, but it’s neat to go back and play LEGO games where gameplay ideas were being tossed in without worrying if they fit the mold.
It’s not all joy in Dagobah, however. I’m not sure if it’s a bug or what, but playing it on my iPhone 5S, the resolution seemed very low compared to more recent LEGO games. Now, this is a pretty old game, and the developer may have ported from the Wii version, which used lower resolution assets, but I’m surprised they didn’t lift assets from the 360/PS3 version. It’s not terrible by any means, and once your eyes adjust you’ll barely notice it, but it is kind of odd. Then there are the usual LEGO problems. There are two control styles, touch and virtual controls, and the touch controls this time are particularly insane. The virtual controls aren’t too bad most of the time, but certain vehicle sections don’t control as well as you might like.
Another bugbear from previous iOS versions is the lack of mid-mission saving. The levels are fairly long, from 10 to 15 minutes if you’re a lunatic about smashing literally everything you possibly can (and who isn’t?), but if the app gets closed out completely, you lose all of that progress and are booted back to the cantina. This is something I really wish the developers would address at some point with this series. In addition, the multiplayer modes have, as usual, been stripped out, which is another thing I really hope will change in the future. LEGO games are fun on your own, but they’re a million times more fun with a friend. Co-op play is assumed in the design, and while the AI is there for you when it needs to be, you can really feel the absence of the second player at times.
Even with their faults, LEGO games are still a pretty enjoyable way to pass the time. They’re not too difficult, there’s a lot of stuff to collect, and who doesn’t like the soothing sound of picking up a bunch of the little LEGO studs? Between finishing the story, finding all the mini-kit parts, collecting all the characters, and hunting down all 200 gold bricks, there is a ton of stuff to do in LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. As I’m getting a bit burnt out on the concept, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed taking this little trip back to where things began. Maybe it’s the more risky design, maybe it’s having the full console experience for once, or maybe it’s that everything is better with Star Wars. Whatever the case, I’m going to go ahead and say this is the best LEGO experience on iOS to date, and if you have a problem with that, you can take it up with the wookiee.