To say that Lego and "Star Wars" are a match made in heaven is an understatement. When the first "Lego Star Wars" game was released in 2005 it nailed the sweet spot between entertaining and adorable, while still making the fans happy, which, of course led to sequels. However, there's only so many "Star Wars" movies that you can turn into Lego games, but over the last couple of years LucasArts has put a lot of support behind the canonical expanded universe of "The Clone Wars." The original animated series bridged the gap between "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith," but since then there have been new large and small screen adaptations of the series, and now the spin-off is complete, with its own Lego video game, "Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars," but this expanded universe may be extending itself a little too far.
Developer Traveller's Tales returns to adapt one of the lesser-known storylines of the "Star Wars" universe for the family using the same formula that made the original "Lego Star Wars" games success: take a beloved franchise, and mix in humor, collectibles, and lots of Legos. Jedis, Sith, droids, and clone troopers are all playable characters as the various storylines of "The Clone Wars" are retold. The TV series (and TV movie) is the focus for the majority of the platforming gameplay, which comes complete with drop-in, drop-out co-op and a competitive two-player mode.
The Clone What?
While "The Clone Wars" may not have been as successful as its live-action counterparts, it's still accepted as fact within the "Star Wars" universe, making it great fodder for its own Lego game. While the characters you would expect to see between "Episodes II" and "III" are all present and accounted for, there's a multitude of new characters and story lines that fans of the original trilogy might not be familiar with if they never jumped on the "Clone Wars" bandwagon. "Lego Star Wars III" is a great way to introduce yourself to some of the lesser players in "Star Wars," some of which have names you recognize, but many of which you won't.
Note that there is a flip side to that coin. If this is your first exposure to "The Clone Wars," you're most likely not going to know what's going on. The typical scrolling intro only sets up the beginning of each chapter, the rest is up to you to interpret based on Lego pantomimes. Because of this, a good deal of the humor is going to be lost on anyone who hasn't previously been exposed to "The Clone Wars" series.
Completionists beware: if you pick up a copy of "Lego Star Wars III" you may want to clear your calendar for the rest of the year. Like the previous titles in the series, "The Clone Wars" is packed with a multitude of different items to collect, from mini figs to red bricks. The levels have all been tailored to encourage multiple run-throughs, with secrets for Jedi, Sith, droid, and bounty hunter characters alike. With the expanded level size, a hub that features two huge ships to explore, and countless other nooks and crannies for things to be hidden in, the time it takes to achieve 100% in "Lego Star Wars III" could rival some modern RPGs.
One of the most noticeable changes in "The Clone Wars" can been seen instantly upon jumping into the first level: it's much bigger. Whereas the earlier "Lego Star Wars" games played out on a small scale, with the camera tight on the players, "The Clone Wars" recreates the biggest battles a "Lego" game has ever seen. The concept is great, but the gameplay breaks down as you try and track yourself on screen. When you're fighting these battles, you're usually controlling between two and four different characters amongst hundreds of attacking Republic droids, and it's very easy to get lost when the camera pans out so you can see the entire battle raging all around you. On top of that, the levels themselves have gotten bigger as well, and you shouldn't be surprised to sink up to an hour battling your way through some of these planets.
Traveller's Tales has had a few years, and a few games, to perfect their craft, and playing through "The Clone Wars" you'll see that the levels and boss battles aren't as simply designed as their predecessors. In fact, a good deal of the puzzles in this game are so challenging, and offer such little help, that this game may actually be a bit too complicated for younger fans, along with the casual gaming crowd. Nothing is insurmountable, but prior to this release if you were stuck somewhere, you most likely missed something that you had to smash. That's not so much the case in "The Clone Wars."
Jedi Master Controls
The trademark humor isn't the only thing that’s returning in "Lego Star Wars III." The series' memorable control issues also make another appearance. Platforming on the ground, and navigation in the air still don't seem to be as fine-tuned as they should be, and you'll be accidentally jumping off ledges or unable to pick up the floating blue piece before it disappears over and over again.
The hardcore "Star Wars" fanboys out there that loved the first couple of "Lego" games are going to be extremely happy with "The Clone Wars." That goes without saying. However, those middle-ground "Star Wars" fans might find themselves a little lost with this title, especially when it comes to the plot. The challenge level may also be a bit too high for the younger set to go at it alone. However, if you still think this is the right title for you, make sure you familiarize yourself with the TV series first.