LEGO Star Wars: The Quest for R2-D2

If you were to stop me on the street and tell me that someone had created a LEGO Star Wars browser-game that was completely free, took hours to complete, and was even better than the originals, I would have laughed until I fell down. And yet here I am, realizing how ridiculous these claims must sound, about to tell you these very same things.

Set during the Clone Wars saga, The Quest for R2-D2 tells a new story in the Star Wars universe. Lost in space, R2 is transmitting a distress call in the hopes that he’ll be picked up by a nearby ship. What he doesn’t realize is that this signal also contains the blueprints to a powerful new starship. Whoever finds the droid, finds the blueprints. Both the Republic and the Sith are in a race to find R2 first.

LEGO Star Wars, like the other LEGO-branded action games on the market (Batman, Indiana Jones), has always been about simplicity and family-friendly gameplay. Mechanics were never more difficult than walking, jumping, and attacking. The Quest for R2-D2 maintains this simplicity, and yet somehow manages to make improvements and tweaks to the formula that add a whole new layer of play to the franchise.

Unlike previous games in the LEGO series, you’ll be given the choice to represent either side of the battle – each vying for the secret plans within the little astromech droid. Sure you can play as Anakin Skywalker and help the Republic, but why not slip into the Sith sneakers of Asajj Ventress? While the games 15 levels are identical for each character, you’ll play them from different directions. Anakin’s levels will start where Asajj’s end, and vice versa. This really extends the replayability of the game, as old levels tend to feel new when run from different directions.

You’ll also get to do some basic RPG-style skill enhancements to these characters. Between rounds you’ll be able to upgrade things like health, jumping ability, and the damage you can cause. The more you play as one side, the more likely you are to find the hidden blocks need to power up that character.

The Quest For R2-D2 does more than just tell a new tale in the Star Wars continuum. It also solves one of the biggest problems the LEGO franchise has had since day one: poor camera angles. In an effort to remain relevant in a 3D world, the LEGO series has had one of the worst camera systems in recent memory. This was partly due to the game’s 2-player nature, which tried to keep up with both characters on screen and failed miserably. More often than not you’d find your character stuck behind one object or another because your partner had moved too far ahead. Previous LEGO games have been built around the idea of playing with a friend, but The Quest for R2-D2 is an entirely solo experience. Removing the second playable character, whether AI-controlled or not, means the camera has only one thing to focus on. In addition, the game plays less like a 3D adventure and more like a 2.5D one. There’s certainly depth to the environments, but the camera will simply scroll from a fixed position as it would in a 2D game. This camera tweak has done the series a world of good.

The flipside of this improvement, however, is that those looking for the traditional two character LEGO experience will be sorely disappointed. The Quest for R2-D2 is a totally unique experience in the world of LEGO Star Wars, and it’s one that single-player fanatics such as myself are going to love.

The production value in The Quest for R2-D2 is mind-boggling. Rather than developing this web-game with a traditional program like Flash, the team at Three Melons have embraced the Unity platform. This relatively new program for browser-based gaming allows for download-quality games to be embedded right into web pages. You’re playing a proper, gorgeous, detailed LEGO game in a browser, absolutely free of charge.

All of this production doesn’t come at the expense of length, either. You’ll need to spend a few hours of to reach the end of this one. You’re supposed to be able to save your progress level by level, so long as you sign up for a free account. While we were able to save, the system would frequently tell us we weren’t logged in when we were and that our game was not being saved when it was. It was a frustrating experience, and one we hope they’ll fix soon.

What has been put together by LEGO and Three Melons as a browser-based exclusive is outstanding. Not only are you getting a completely new LEGO Star Wars adventure for free, but you’re getting one that improves upon the series pre-existing formula. Sure The Quest for R2-D2 lacks the co-op and massive character selection of the series previous entries, but the tweaks it makes in their place are truly remarkable. If you’ve ever enjoyed a LEGO Star Wars game, you owe it to yourself to check this one out.