Game Of The Year

Yes, I indulge in a spot of gaming every now and then. Like many of my generation, I've turned into a casual gamer that doesn't have the time, inclination or sheer bloodymindedness to mash buttons for hours on end. Furthermore, FPS games (like The One True Game) are uniformly hideous on consoles (once you've used a mouse to aim, anything else is just too primitive), so I've taken to puzzles and other, calmer stuff that I can fire up on the couch, play for a few minutes, and put aside when real life steps in.

I got a PSP last Xmas, and so far that's proven enough. I use it almost exclusively for browsing the web and (via my newspipe front-end) to read my RSS feeds in the morning over breakfast, but with my needing to relax a bit more of late, I've been using it for its intended purpose more often.

Besides Lumines and Mercury, I've gone through Loco Roco (fun, but extremely irritating to other people if you don't wear headphones) and Daxter (nicely done, but I stopped making significant progress), so after a while I decided I'd have a go at another title.

Now, games distributors over here take forever to bring in new titles and still haven't figured out how much to stock or sell at a discount (in fact, you'd be hard pressed to find discounted titles), so PSP shelves tend to be crammed with UMD movies (which nobody seems to buy) and last year's titles (original releases, no "Platinum" editions). The only titles that make it to the shelves in time here are sure-fire moronic "winners" like driving, fighting and sports (i.e., football) games, so for a while it looked like I was going to be stuck without interesting stuff to play.

Amazingly, however, a couple of weeks back I came across Lego Star Wars II at a local retailer, and picked up what seemed to be the single extant copy left after the Xmas throng washed through the store.

And boy, am I glad I got it. It's the quntessential geek game for grown-up kids. Despite it's "3+" rating (which I took to mean "for thirtysomethings with short attention spans"), it's is more than challenging enough if you play a level every few days or so, and its mix of Lego minifigs and Star Wars plot makes for an entertaining experience.

Without giving too much of the game away (as if you hadn't heard of Star Wars by now), there's a lot of fun in hopping around with a light sabre deflecting stormtrooper fire back to them, or even (as Leia) thwacking their heads off with a good slap. The animations are hilarious, the cut scenes are atmospheric and faithful to the plot (the Lego minifigs don't speak as such, but make meaningful noises that show their intents), and having infinite lives does not detract in the least from the game.

The puzzles are suitably puzzling, violence has been replaced by colorful explosions of Lego studs and there are plenty of areas that you'll only be able to explore once you've unlocked the free play mode, making for even more casual (re)play opportunities. There are also three mini-games based on scenes from the "first" trilogy (Obi-Wan's duels with Darth Maul, Count Dooku and Anakin Skywalker), where you'll have plenty of opportunities to use the Force to push things around (and droids off high platforms).

Now excuse me while I let Chewbacca loose on a few stormtroopers. We've been shooting our way through Mos Eisley on an Imperial walker, but I love the way he pops their arms off - very satisfying, in a non-violent, stress-releasing sort of way.

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