LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy

What's your favourite part of the original Star Wars trilogy? Is it the bit where a gold-bikini-clad Leia walks on thin air over the carnivorous Sarlacc Pit? Or when the Death Star II is destroyed and the actual miniatures used for the special effects shots collapse and vanish in an amateur fashion? What about when Luke slides down the invisible hill? And as for that bit when Harrison Ford got stuck in the set and the film had to be restarted...

Wait a minute! That doesn't sound like Star Wars at all! It is, however, the Nintendo DS version of Lego Star Wars II. And unfortunately, while this particular series is designed to poke playful fun at the movies, none of the above is intended or played for laughs. Funny, yes, but only in a crushingly depressing way – nonsensical occurrences caused by a near-broken game.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. First, a scrolly vanishing-point, yellow-text-style moment to get you up to speed on Lego Star Wars:

It was a time of civil war and all that jazz, when games based on films battled it out in the handheld sales charts, compromising quality for commercial success. Cars, Stormbreaker, most other Star Wars games… People that liked to play games and see films had a depressing time, labouring under the tyranny of a Hollywood empire leeching money from their pockets.

Until the chosen one appeared, that is.

Built improbably from a child's plastic construction block set, the original Lego Star Wars was a stroke of genius. It stuck to the spirit of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but made gentle fun of it. It took you on a tour of the universe, rendered in colourful giant blocks but with a fan's attention to detail. It was a movie-based game, but it was fun, held together with infinite lives and an item-collecting set-up that made it easy for kids to play (its intended audience), while still offering some challenge and enjoyment for older players.

Lego Star Wars II DS does all these things, and even throws wireless multiplay into the mix. Yet it also does everything in its (limited) power to undermine these great elements and smash them into tiny bits.

The familiar gameplay certainly shouldn't have taxed the game makers – you guide a small squad of Star Wars characters through the Original Trilogy universe, alternating who you control, with the DS handling the others, and running, blasting, lightsabering or, erm, Jedi-ing as required. You collect LEGO studs and other power-ups, and unlock various extras as you go.

Although technically not what the trade description act would call 'faulty', Lego Star Wars II (in DS form, we stress: the console version is excellent) does everything it can to stretch the very credibility of what 'working' means, because it's infested with bugs.

As well as all the truly bizarre moments outlined above, characters, scenery and vehicles regularly flash in and out of existence. At one point we flew through the Hoth level on an invisible Snowspeeder, its sputtering laser beams the only clue to its existence.

Elsewhere: backtrack during the Return of the Jedi's opening level and the environment itself actually vanishes! It's just Luke and Leia running in a vacuum, with the rooms you haven't visited a speck on the horizon.

Maybe it's a socio-political existential comment on the hollow nature of movie tie-in games? Or maybe, just maybe, it's a game that was rushed to release.

These irritants would be just that if everything else didn't grate. While the animation is quite cute – the blocky characters just about suit the blocky graphics, even if they have been glaringly pared down to fit – the game's engine is incapable of handling any major action. Everything visibly slows down when lots of enemies are on-screen.

This in turn makes the controls sluggish, given that there's already a noticeable delay between button presses when you're trying to jump and fire in the game's few hectic moments.

The game is also too short, although given the many technical faults, playing through the meagre hours' worth of play seems to be a saga in its own right.

Of course, the technical restrictions of the DS hardware itself are one reason for this; if you've got to get a Lego Star Wars fix while on the move, we suggest keeping your eyes peeled for the long-delayed PSP version, which is based on the PlayStation 2 version.

As for the DS version, it's a thumbs down and prolonged raspberry from us. When the only thing you can applaud is the competent way the trademark music is used, you know you've a stinker on your hands.

LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy

The only way a description of LEGO Star Wars II involves fun is in the phrase 'fundamentally flawed'. Avoid at all costs