Video Game Review: Clever, Addictive ‘LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars’

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CHICAGO – Just as we were about to write off the LEGO games after some lackluster installments (“LEGO Indiana Jones,” “LEGO Batman”), last year’s excellent “LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4” was the best family video game of the season and news of the March release of another sequel in the franchise that started it all — “LEGO Star Wars” — allowed hope that this series was still very much alive. And the final product, “LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars,” does not disappoint at all. Video Game Rating: 4.5/5.0
Video Game Rating: 4.5/5.0

LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game” was one of the most surprising smash hits of the ’00s, creating a juggernaut of a franchise and really reinvigorating the entire LEGO brand. Millions of gamers of all ages lined up for the brilliant fusion of two of the most incredible nostalgic triggers of their use — LEGO toys and the world of George Lucas. The series arguably peaked with “LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy” the next year and everyone must own “LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga.” These were games that played spectacularly to a HUGE demographic, appealing to adults who longed for days of LEGO and Yoda and kids being introduced to both the Force and interchangeable heads.

LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars
LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars
Photo credit: LucasArts

After a few hits and more misses in the years since, Lucas and Traveller’s Tales return to the source of their initial inspiration with the very-good “LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars,” arguably their most ambitious title to date with some truly-complex puzzles, vehicle-based story missions, and, once again, a simply enormous amount of characters to play and studs to collect. Kids like to watch the same movies over and over again and I imagine the same holds true with the LEGO games with their incredible amount of collectibles that force a player to play each level repeatedly with different characters to get to 100%.

LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars
LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars
Photo credit: LucasArts

Story-wise, the game covers the first two seasons of “The Clone Wars” animated series and I really couldn’t tell you much about the plot. This former disciple of the Church of Lucas checked out somewhere around “Attack of the Clones” and hasn’t really checked back in (although I have seen a few episodes of the show, the horrendous animated movie, and, of course, the third prequel). So, more than any other LEGO game, I was unfamiliar with many of the new characters and plot points. And yet, I still enjoyed the game. The LEGO games are not about character, depth, or detailed storytelling. The games don’t even have dialogue. If you love the show and get something deeper out of the story of “The Clone Wars,” you’re likely to enjoy the title even more, but it’s not a requirement.

What’s refreshing about “LEGO Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is the unexpected growth in the mechanics and chances taken in the gameplay. To be honest, Traveller’s Tales didn’t need to do much to sell copies of this game. It has a built-in fan base and they could have done the bare minimum with simple puzzles, lightsaber action, and some force-wielding mechanics. But they added a new depth to the visuals and even to some of the missions, including some combat scenes that are remarkable in their controlled chaos. You will mow down wave after wave of clones. This is not just Luke and Yoda in the swamp. This is warfare. And it’s incredibly well done.

The developers also added new layers of gameplay mechanics, including Lightsaber Cutting, Lightsaber Throwing, and Lightsaber Climbing. Players also have access to new weapons like rocket launchers and rapid fire guns and the ships and characters from “The Clone Wars” have been perfectly recreated (and some of the classics, including even Darth and Luke, are eventually playable).

LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars
LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars
Photo credit: LucasArts

With a variety of characters with a variety of weapons, the game feels surprisingly fresh and less repetitive and some of the weaker LEGO titles. Now, don’t get me wrong, you’re still basically bashing as much of the environment as possible to collect studs and destroy to build new things, but there’s more variety in this gameplay than expected.

The game also features a great new development in storytelling with “Scene Swap,” which allows you to move between different characters, for example, in different parts of a ship. Why this wasn’t implemented earlier in the LEGO franchise is the best question to ask as it adds a great depth to feel like you’re working collaboratively on different parts of a mission instead of merely following one path with one group of characters from beginning to end.

And this is possibly the biggest “LEGO” game to date. Just the hub alone is huge as players can wander around their ship or even fly it to different planets. The game features over 20 story-based missions and 40 bonus levels. It will take hours and that’s for the first play-through. You won’t even be close to 100%. There’s no denying that players get the bang for their buck with this title.

LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars
LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars
Photo credit: LucasArts

It’s also worth noting that this is easily the best-looking LEGO game to date. The graphics have a depth that has often been missing from the franchise, especially in some space combat levels that feature multiple layers of action.

Despite the overall quality of design, there are a few levels that contain small design glitches that make figuring out what to do next harder than it needs to be. More than once, I wandered around swinging my lightsaber until I stumbled upon what I needed to do next, and it sometimes took way too long. Also, the force mechanic can be a bit unrefined, as I found myself regularly lifting my LEGO mates instead of what I was aiming at. The aim is not quite there on the PS3.

Overall, I was stunned at how consistently clever “LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars” is with a new gameplay element, character, or surprise on nearly every level. It is the least repetitive LEGO game to date and the puzzle design is excellent, second perhaps only to last year’s great “LEGO Harry Potter.”

Gaming gets more and more niche-based every year. Some people like their shooters. Some people like their sports games. Very few games play to the eight-year-old, eighteen-year-old and 38-year-old with the same level of success as “LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars.”

Check out this great gameplay footage before you pick up your lightsaber and get to work destroying clone soldiers:

LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars’ was released by LucasArts and developed by Traveller’s Tales. It is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older). The version reviewed was for the PS3 but the title is also available for the Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo 3DS, PS2, PC, and PSP. It was released on March 22nd, 2011. content director Brian Tallerico

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