Don't worry, we won't begin with any of that 'A long time ago...' crap, because quite frankly, it wasn't a long time ago at all. April 2005, in fact. The arrival of the first Lego Star Wars still swims in our gaming consciousness like a sunny day. Fresh, innovative, and more surprisingly, a total pleasure to play, it went straight to the top of the charts and stayed there. Three enjoyable romps retold via the medium of vacuum-formed plastic lumps, Lego Star Wars was loved by everyone who took the chance to play it. But those were just three episodes we experienced - there were a further three in the pipeline that cried out for a little plastic fantastic action. Three far superior ones, at that...
"There are so many things that are better, it's hard to quantify", David Perkinson, the game's producer at LucasArts tells us. But it's not as if the first had much wrong with it. Having gone on to sell in excess of three million units, it would have been easy to just churn out another using the same engine and call it a day. But no. Traveller's Tales has been busy, honing the craft of what it means to be at the top of your game. Impressed, you will be.
The basic premise of using Lego blocks has been expanded upon no end. Want to build, shape, and pilot your very own craft? Then collect enough Lego pieces and go for it. Fancy storming the Death Star in a homemade ship in the shape of a banana? Feel free. In fact, Lego Star Wars II is precisely what Lego was made for, to let your imagination roam free, giving you the chance to do what you want, when you want, all within that galaxy far, far away of course.
Vehicles are now completely off-rails, so while you need to use them to complete certain missions, you now have the freedom to deviate from the plot and do things your way. Surely taking down those AT-ATs with a heavy-fire banana ship would have been easier than trying to tie their legs together? Okay, enough about the banana ship, but you catch our meaning. Once a vehicle is used, built, or unlocked, it gets stored in an intergalactic garage of sorts, ready to be wheeled out for whatever mission you then want to use it in once you've completed the game.
"The reworked vehicle levels are a huge improvement," Perkinson tells us. "Giving you the opportunity to wander freely throughout vehicle levels is a great change, as is including vehicles and creatures that any non-droid character can build and ride through certain levels. Then, of course, there's character customisation. You'll finally be able to create your own Star Wars character."
Ah yes, Darth Threepio and Princess Kenobi. Not heard of them? That's because you haven't built them yet - just as vehicles and creatures can be worked and reworked, characters can be taken apart too. By achieving certain goals, completing tasks or finding secrets (of which there will be plenty, we're told), you can then unlock Star Wars body parts. These can be assembled in any order you want, giving you the chance to save the galaxy with a Danish pastry-haired droid if you like.
Because the original trilogy featured only a smattering of Jedi and a couple of old wheezing Siths, the combat for Lego Star Wars II has altered considerably. Perkinson is aware that the other characters are now going to have to step into the breach and have their combat match those of the few Jedi around them. But just how easy will it be taking the likes of Threepio and Leia and pitting them against Vader and Luke?
"We've worked hard to bring out distinctive individual personalities of all those great original trilogy characters, and that's given us a lot of new moves. So as you'd hope, the Emperor now has a Force lightning attack, Vader has his Force choke, Han's got some athletic blaster combat moves, and Chewie's got a signature melee attack where he pulls arms out of sockets!"