Family Friendly Force Fun
Taken as such, the game -- really six games, or at least six meaty chapters from two different games -- is a means of providing literally dozens of hours for both parents and kids to sit down and get their co-op brick build on. The fact that Traveller's Tales really did nail the perfect approach to retelling the Star Wars movies with those lovable little LEGO blocks is the highlight here. The cutscenes mirror the general events of the movies, but they're pulled off with plenty of genuinely funny moments that could easily have turned a quintessential sci-fi epic into a slapstick comedy on the level of offensiveness of, say, a bumbling Gungan sidekick.
If you've played the games in the past, you'll know what to expect here: plenty of button mashing combat with a heavy focus on cooperative play (or switching between characters if you're going about it solo), and a whole lot of rapid-fire brick building to create LEGO-ized versions of vehicles and architecture from the Star Wars universe. This, of course, is the game's double-edged sword; the simple gameplay will be plenty familiar to those who played the games in the past because it's almost entirely unchanged. Yes, Traveller's Tales added in a few new sections and tweaked a few others for balance reasons, but by and large this is the exact same gameplay that was released two years ago, and then again a year back set in the original trilogy.
Really, the only things that are all that different about the game are the fact that it all runs in proper HD now (the impact of which is debatable when the game features flat shaded deliberately simple models with only upgraded lighting and depth of field effects all over the place, though admittedly it all does look fairly nice) and that you can now do drop-in/drop-out co-op play online. After starting a normal game, you can choose to open up your session with anyone or keep it invite-only, using your friends list and even your recently met list to find people to invite. It's a simple way to link up with friends and get going quickly, which is great.
Actually getting into someone else's game is as easy as picking the PlayStation Network option from the main menu and browsing a list of open games. The list shows the PSN ID of all the people with open invite games and where they are, and you simply hop in. One caveat, though: I had an issue with the game showing a bunch of rooms and then everything disappearing, likely because the ping was too high or something. It can be overcome by quickly refreshing the list and picking a room before it disappears, but it's still a little annoying.
The bottom line is that for sheer cross-demographic fun, the LEGO Star Wars games are hands-down some of the best you can buy. The question of course is where you've already bought the games in the past, because you're basically buying them all over again just to get the full collection. Online play is indeed fun for just screwing around with buddies or even other family members, but don't make the mistake of thinking this is an entirely new game.
Instead, think of it as getting two games, plus online play, plus HD visuals all for the price of one next-gen game. In the end, so long as you haven't tired of the series yet, it's a damn fine value, and something that you can buy for just about any gamer guilt-free. Dare we call it the perfect go-to holiday gift for a PS3 owning family? Sure, why not?