Effective Marketing?

I have a secret shame and his name is Doctor Angus (AKA Harry Enfield). I enjoy every one of the Burger King commercials featuring the faux motivational speaker, especially the most recent one in which Doc Angus declares, “It’s that easy; it’s that cheesy!” What the hell is wrong with me?

Despite the fact that I will rewind the TiVo to watch Doctor Angus commercials, I’ve never tried the Angus burgers at BK. Oh, I’ve been tempted to, but I almost never think about Doctor Angus while I’m actually at the drive-thru. Weird.

I also enjoy the new VW ads featuring my favorite pancake lover, Peter Stormare. Stormare, dressed in white and speaking with a thick German accent, “unpimps” a series of rides by flinging them with a trebuchet (“Oh, snap!”), flattening them with a shipping container, or otherwise demolishing them. Yes, I rewind these ones, too. No, I don’t plan to purchase a Volkswagen anytime soon. Snap, indeed.

Oh, and did I mention that the upgrade to WordPress 2.0.2 is complete and comment screening is deactivated? The upgrade to WordPress 2.0.2 is complete and comment screening is deactivated.

Game Review: LEGO Star Wars (Xbox)

LEGO Star Wars (Xbox)

LEGO Star Wars (Xbox)

I was on the fence about picking up LEGO Star Wars because it covers Episodes I – III of the movie trilogy, and I’m not a big fan of the prequels. However, I’d heard some pretty good things about the game and I was curious to give it a shot. Then two things happened: the game moved to the “Platinum” series—which essentially means a new box, a twenty dollar price tag and (I believe) compatibility with the Xbox 360—and I found out that the game features cooperative multiplayer capability, which is almost enough to get me to buy any Xbox game.

Miscellaneous G™ and I played LEGO Star Wars for about five hours one evening, completing both Episode I and Episode II. A week or so later, it only took us a couple of hours to finish Episode III after which we started running through the game in “Free Play” mode, playing whichever characters we liked (G avoids playing Jar-Jar Binks, for some reason) and trying to find all of the hidden mini-kit parts. Successfully collecting these parts doesn’t affect gameplay, but the parts are assembled into various vehicles from the Star Wars universe that can be viewed outside of Dexter’s cantina (the LEGO Star Wars equivalent to Cheers).

LEGO Star Wars is geared toward the younger gamer, but has proven to be quite enjoyable for the more “mature” player as well. The total absence of clumsy dialog and wooden performances (can little plastic people emote?) made the prequel trilogy a bit more enjoyable for me, and “accidentally” killing Anakin Skywalker from time to time is quite cathartic.

Most of the story focuses on tromping through various familiar settings armed with a lightsaber or blaster, but each episode throws one vehicle-based mission into the mix (e.g., the Episode I podrace). The Episode II vehicle mission, which takes place on the surface of the planet Geonosis, reminded both Miscellaneous G™ and I of the classic arcade space-shooter, Zaxxon.

Whether traipsing through the Kashyyyk forest as Chewbacca or fighting a space battle as Obi-Wan Kenobi, points are scored by collecting LEGO “studs” of varying colors. Studs are used as currency at Dexter’s cantina to purchase game cheats and hints or unlock new characters. Characters are also unlocked in the course of regular gameplay, and there are more than thirty playable characters in all, good and bad guys alike.

Levels are designed in such a way that it is impossible to collect all the secret mini-kits during “Story Mode,” thus requiring that the level be replayed in “Free Mode” with different characters. This isn’t as annoying as one might expect, as there are a lot of characters to choose from, each with his or her own interesting ability. Blaster-wielding characters, for example, have the ability to rappel at certain points, while Jedi and Sith characters can use the Force on various objects. Young Anakin can slip into spaces larger characters cannot access, droids can open doors, and Jar-Jar Binks can jump higher than almost anyone else. Then there’s Yoda, who hobbles along at a snail’s pace until the Jump button is pressed, at which point he zips along on his personal repulsor craft. Once the aged Jedi Master activates his lightsaber he is a barely-contained, highly dangerous Super Bounce Ball. With the lightsaber in hand, Yodo jumps everywhere. It makes him a formidable opponent, but it also makes him rather difficult to control.

The biggest problem with LEGO Star Wars is the camera. All too often in multiplayer mode a misstep by one character can lead to a chain of unstoppable deaths for one or both players. If one player moves toward the edge of the screen, he may drag the other player along with him, often resulting in the other character falling to his or her death. As some of the levels are very platform-heavy (with bottomless chasms abound), this can become a major problem. If the character is not dragged to his death he may disappear, only to reappear in a very inconvenient location that will ultimately lead to his death anyway.

Despite the poorly-implemented camera and drag mechanic, LEGO Star Wars remains a light-hearted, enjoyable and often challenging (in a good way) game, and thanks to the wide array of playable characters, replayability is high. I give LEGO Star Wars three dismembered limbs out of four.