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Building a Better "Star Wars" 

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"Star Wars" needs kids. Without the sparkling wonder, imagination and attention of children, the "Star Wars" saga would have flickered out long ago.

Or maybe "Star Wars" just needs adults who fell in love with the series as kids and still keep a little child like glee at heart.

"Star Wars" also apparently needs Legos. With the arrival of "Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy," the two franchises once again come together to produce as memorable and enjoyable a video game as either has delivered independently.

Which raises two questions: Why was this combination fun in the first place? And why do we need a sequel? As it turns out, the answer to both inquiries boils down to nostalgia.

When the original "Star Wars" films blasted into theaters, they thrilled audiences with gee-whiz visuals, and brought the phrase "special effects" into mainstream vocabulary. The epic story and outer-space setting helped bridge movies from the passionate, cinematically literate films of the era to the age of spectacle. George Lucas ushered in the contemporary format for big-budget filmmaking.

For kids in the 1970s and early '80s, "Star Wars" burned into the brain like a white-hot light-saber. And even after these young fans grew up, they continued to love "Star Wars," going to the new movies and eventually taking their own children. The progeny of the "Star Wars" generation were just happy that the adults wanted to see the same movies they did, for a change.

The people who grew up with "Star Wars" also grew up with Legos. So, the generation weaned on the antics of Luke Skywalker also found it terribly charming that they could buy little Lego "Star Wars" sets for their kids.

Turn all this passion into a video game that captures the fun of the movies and the toys, and you have a hit. And since the first game covered only chapters 1-3 in the "Star Wars" series, you pretty much needed a game sequel to pick up the story from the original trilogy of films.

"Lego Star Wars II" moves the formula of running around as your favorite "Star Wars" characters in Legos forward by adding new twists, more vehicles, more characters and a new feature that lets you mix and match bodies, heads and parts to create new "Lego Star Wars" characters. Given enough time, every "Lego Star Wars" player will mash up Darth Vader with the metal-bikini Princess Leia to create something truly odd.

With plenty of nerdy inside jokes, and packed with light-saber and blaster action, the game never ceases to deliver smiles. As a fairly simple game, the two-player mode encourages intergenerational fun, letting parents and kids everywhere relive their favorite "Star Wars" fantasies together.

Who's It For: Easy enough for the youngest fans to pick up and enjoy, and packed with a wry humor that more mature players can appreciate, "Lego Star Wars II" will please anyone who ever loved the films.

If You Like This, Try That: When you finish playing "Lego Star Wars II," you should then go play the original "Lego Star Wars."

Best Part: Putting Darth Vader into Princess Leia's metal bikini in the build-a-character mode is only one of zillions of combinations, but it's the one everyone wants to do first.


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David Thomas


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