Mos Eisley is filled with Lego. The hive of scum and villainy has become as one with the toy universe, and is all the more alive as a result. In fact it's clear that the collaboration of Lego and Star Wars is becoming increasingly profitable, both creatively and financially. Not only was the first Lego Star Wars game smart, fun, and duly acclaimed, but it also sold three and a half million copies. That makes it the most successful game to emerge from the UK in 2005.
Lego Star Wars II is better and brighter, and a clear step up from the Lego challenges and sci-fi environments presented in the first game. Taking Luke Skywalker's landspeeder into Mos Eisley and witnessing the mischievousness of the Lego Jawas just confirms what lies ahead - an action platform game that rewards the inquisitive and plays Star Wars' concepts on many levels. See the Womp-Rat shooting subgame, see the cute Vader, see the silly hats and the incredible sandbox freedom the game's freeplay mode allows? Lego Star Wars II brings us the original Star Wars films, but does so with a wink at the camera.
All this is partly because the Lego games are designed with younger folks in mind. The creative brains behind Lego want kids to explore, to play, and that's what they'll do. It doesn't matter a jot whether the junior generations have overwrought nostalgia for the original Star Wars trilogy, because they're going to enjoy Lego Star Wars II as a colourful action-platform puzzler. It's tremendously detailed, with scores of secrets and unknown alcoves to explore. Blend this with storyline puzzles that require multiple character use and lateral thinking, as well as introducing vehicle possibilities and surprising action sequences based on events from the original three films, and you have something out of the ordinary.
Of course, for those of us who grew up dreaming of Leia's slavegirl bikini, there's also the delight of seeing how Lego Star Wars II manages to reinterpret the scenes that have already been delivered in dozens of previous games. From Endor to Tatooine, Lego has brought its own brand of entertainment to the Lego Star Wars universe.
The battle to destroy the Death Star, for example, has been reimagined on the surface of the vast space station, making it an explorable terrain with things to discover and puzzles to solve. The vehicle sections are no longer on rails, instead they allow us to play around and overcome obstacles in just the same way that we do with the humanoid characters.
But most rewarding of all is seeing the delight that Lego Star Wars II takes in sending up the original events of the films. And they're all there, beautifully animated in virtual Lego. Han shoots Greedo, the Millennium Falcon lifts off into a Lego sky, and the cutest Death Star you ever did see is waiting in the galaxy beyond. This, we think, is going to be a game worth sharing - which is convenient, since there's two-player co-op throughout.
So much fun your childhood will grow back and your cynicism will melt away like snow.