Name: LEGO Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars
Genre: Family platformer/adventure game
Platform: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii
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Traveller’s Tales LEGO games occupy a unique space in many gamer’s collections. Aimed primarily at kids, they’re one of the few sets of family titles that big kids can play too without garnering raised eyebrows from the Call of Duty contingent. A testament to both the quality of the licences given the LEGO-makeover treatment and the quality of the games themselves, they’re titles the whole family can get behind, young and old alike. The LEGO Star Wars games are arguably the franchise’s best offerings. However this latest offering, LEGO Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars, explores uncharted territory by focussing on the recent Star Wars TV shows rather than the classic movies. Does it have the same punch as its predecessors?
For those unfamiliar with the TT Games LEGO set-up, they take familiar franchises (such as Harry Potter or Batman) and reduce all the characters and settings down to kid-freindly LEGO blocks and minifigs. Slightly mocking, but simultaneously with a great respect for and understanding of the source material, they’re always a good laugh. LEGO Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars is no different, condensing all the galaxy-spanning action of the animated series into LEGO form.
Like previous LEGO Star Wars games, The Clone Wars is predominantly an action/adventure game with some light puzzle and platform elements. You’ll take control of hundreds of Star Wars characters, swirling lightsabres and shooting blasters across stylised versions of locations from the Star Wars universe.
Being primarily a children’s game, it’s neither very hard nor complex; combat is a simple case of mashing one attack button, while puzzles usually revolve around balancing a string of characters’ one unique power to successfully traverse the levels. Small refinements have been made to combat, so that characters now flow from combo-to-combo, but other than a few graphical flourishes, the main action remains pretty much unchanged. It may not sound like a lot on paper, but there’s an indescribable magic to LEGO Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars; maybe it’s the deft combination of two childhood favourites, or the pitch-perfect pacing, but something just clicks. The balance between combat and puzzles is just right, the comic timing spot on, and the constant stream of rewards for progression (in the form of hundreds of unlockable characters, ships and side missions) leads to an almost never-ending string of reasons to keep on playing. Local drop-in-drop-out two-player co-operative mode is implemented perfectly; it’s a game that’s certainly best played alongside a pal, and you both wont be able to help but smile throughout.
As well as the Pseudo-3D flight portions, taking the action to the skies and putting you in command of the many iconic Star Wars ships in LEGO form,a handful of new gameplay additions cut up the core platforming and exploration mechanics. A picture-in-picture box, allowing quick changing between two characters in different life-threatening situations adds to the sense of urgency in the game, adding a cinematic flair to proceedings by juggling multiple storylines at once.
The most significant addition however is the new ground battle mode, very much the “money-shot” of the title. Here you’ll be in command of literally hundreds of troopers as you take on the evil Separatist forces. It plays out a little like the Battlefield games as you run among your troops and hop onto vehicles, plotting your foe’s destruction by placing down artillery points and troop recruitment bases. Of course, it’s a simplified RTS experience, given it’s designed for kids, but the scale of the battles is genuinely exhilarating. A whole multiplayer mode built around this called Galactic Conquest, in which you attempt to gain control of the entire galaxy by winning these battles, is included.
Just as impressive is the new hub world, the area in which you access stats, unlockables and move through to accept new levels and challenges. Not merely a transitional area, the hub world now takes the shape of two gigantic, warring space freighters and the cosmos between the two. In many senses a game in its own right, you can explore the two huge ships and the space space between them for hours alone, hunting down secrets and gasping at the sheer scale of it all. The fact that there’s hardly any loading time when travelling around the huge ships adds to the wonder of it all.
The settings may be a little less familiar, but the combined charm of LEGO and Star Wars remains the same. Traveller’s Tales have built solidly on the work seen in their previous titles, refining the core experience while adding excellent new features such as the ground battles. On their own, each individual addition may not seem massive, but together they combine for a satisfying whole. Despite its kiddy look, it’s technically a very powerful game, particularly given the smooth loading times of the huge starship hub world. LEGO Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars is about as much fun as you can have without actually opening up a box of real LEGO then.