- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 19, 2008

Superhero and cartoon characters have become integral parts of the electronic entertainment industry. Around the world, youngsters and guys who can’t get dates spend countless hours in front of their computers and video-game systems.

With this in mind, I salute the meld of pop-culture character and Silicon Valley with a look at some …

Comics plugged in

George Lucas’ popular space fantasy gets re-imagined in a Danish brick-building universe with Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii, rated E +10, $59.99).

For the first time, LucasArts enables a pair of players to cooperatively become part of all six Lego-ized movies on one disc as they eventually control more than 160 characters and work through more than 50 missions.

What’s the story? Paraphrased from the game’s screen rolls: The epic struggle of the Skywalker family sends turmoil throughout the Force. And in another galaxy far, far away, echoes of this drama live on and a new world awakens.

Characters’ character: In no media arena is the “Star Wars” legacy better served. Traveler’s Tale’s beautifully developed game for younger audiences mixes humor, puzzles, action and explosive effects to re-create the definitive Skywalker experience.

Players take part in every major moment of the films as blocky Lego figures represent the full gamut of characters created by Mr. Lucas.

Legends such as younger and older versions of Ben Kenobi, C-3PO, Hoth Han Solo and Senator Palpatine mix with lesser-known stars such as Boss Nass, Watto and Taun We (Kaminio cloner) to give die-hard fans of the films a treat.

Their adventure always begins in the Mos Eisley Cantina, which acts as a gateway to mission rooms, free-play arenas or activities such as customizing and buying new characters.

Depending on the character selected, he or she might come with force powers, a light saber, blasters or sheer strength to tackle enemies. (Chewbacca will rip arms off opponents.) Additionally, vehicles are available to drive in many levels, and some missions are completely vehicular-based.

The currency used to purchase stuff is Lego studs. Bunches of them are hidden throughout the very destructible and buildable environments.

Also, pieces of minikits are concealed through each level. When collected, they build vehicles and spaceships that can be viewed outside of the Cantina.

Some of the more outstanding mission designs found in the game include a high-speed Mos Espa Pod Race, the AT-AT battles on Hoth, an exhilarating Jedi-versus-Trade Federation fight in a Geonosian coliseum, and the boarding of Princess Leia’s ship (by controlling the characters of Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper).

The action is supported by John Williams’ powerful musical score; Ben Burtt’s award-winning sound effects; and the grunts, groans, beeps and whistles from cast members, who also do a great job of pantomiming their emotional state.

Most important, a new online multiplayer option gives fans a chance to combine skills as they enter the game from around the world.

How would Lt. Frank Drebin fare?The incredible mix of powers granted characters are all activated with a very simple button scheme; just remember not to shoot fellow teammates in co-operative modes.

Cool character movements and attributes include Yoda’s flipping attacks, General Grievous’ spinning of four light sabers, Jango Fett’s duel pistol attack, Darth Vader’s ability to Force-strangle pesky Rebel troops, Count Dooku’s Sith lightning blasts and even R2-D2’s zapping of an enemy.

Parental blood-pressure meter: 120/80, normal. All of the violence is tongue-in-cheek, and all revolves around the disassembling of Lego blocks.

For example, characters do not die but explode into pieces and collectible studs when they have taken too much damage.

Read all about it? Dark Horse Comics publishes Star Wars sequential art on a monthly basis, including the titles Dark Times, Legacy and Rebellion (all $2.99 each). Younger readers will appreciate the “Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures” ($6.95) quarterly series, which offers a back-pocket-sized book of illustrated stories based on the Cartoon Network’s famed “Clone Wars” animated series.

What’s it worth? The Complete Saga provides nearly infinite gaming possibilities for the fan. Multiple generations can share their enjoyment of the world of “Star Wars,” and they do not even need to be sitting in the same room.

Pop bytes

A brief review of game titles that didn’t have time to get fully plugged in.

m Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (Sierra for PlayStation Portable, rated Teen, $39.99).

A second movie based on Dark Horse Comics’ sequential-art pairing of sci-fi horror icons is now a passable third-person action game for Sony’s hand-held system.

The player controls a well-equipped Predator who is sent to earth to perform major damage control on one of his species’ ships that has crashed.

That means eradicating any evidence of its existence. Unfortunately, Aliens were on the ship and also have infested the town and surroundings of Gunnison, Colo.

With a selection of weapons and technology that an Elder Predator would admire, including a shoulder canon, shuriken, wrist blades, a cloaking device and three levels of infrared vision, the hunt is on. The game mixes stealth moments with enough slashing and explosive action.

About 15 single-player missions combine with a couple of Alien hunting expeditions (including a wireless two-player version) to satisfy the fan of the movie franchise, but the overall events won’t impress the serious gamer.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016, fax 202/269-1853, e-mail jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com, visit Zadzooks at the blog section of The Washington Times’ Web site (http://video1.washingtontimes.com/zadzooks/) or write to Joseph Szadkowski at The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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