Yes it's that time again! Time for yet another positive TFN review of a newly released Star Wars video game. Do I have Star Wars blinders on at all times? Yes. Yes I do. But is it difficult to fall in love with a LEGO Star Wars title? No. No it's not. With say an average game, you can increase your thoughts about a game by saying "While not great, it's still the perfect game for playing with your kids..." With LEGO: Star Wars III: The Clone Wars no disclaimers are needed. As expected, if you're a Star Wars-loving gamer, young or old, we have another fantastic addition to the LEGO Star Wars series on our hands.
We've moved from the Cantina to a starship for your "home base" in this latest installment to the LEGO Star Wars franchise. And man is it expansive! While the Cantina in the previous LEGO Star Wars games seemed quaint and easy to navigate, your starting point in this game is huge and incorporates outerspace and a Separatist ship as well. Red bricks have to be found and so do a number of unlockable characters. The more you play of the levels, the more you can unlock by way of spending your hard earned LEGO studs, use gold bricks to open new areas of the ship, and add vehicles to the hangar. There are side quests, characters to create, and various other engaging activities. As with previous titles, playing to unlock the unlockables is a lot of fun and is highly addictive. The major adjustment here is that if you plan on doing some unlocking, you have to set aside a lot more time.
The Light Side
As can be expected, the playable levels of LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars feature episodes from the first two seasons of The Clone Wars animated series. The exception to this being the Geonosis arena from AOTC and the subsequent Battle of Geonosis. You might think, well haven't we played the Geonosis arena in LEGO SW before? The answer is yes; twice. Luckily the level has been adjusted so that you don't completely feel like you're kicking off a new game by playing a level from a game you've already played. The levels this go 'round can be quite expansive and there's more of a puzzle feel to the game. In some cases that might mean using the various skills of different characters to forge ahead. Some of these abilities have been expanded. For example, different Clone Trooper weapons will blow up specific colored obstables. Jedi now perform multi-facted attacks when stepping on a Jedi symbol. In other cases, it's just a matter of figuring out what to blow up in order to move ahead.
There are levels which seem rather linear where you fight your way from point A to point B. Other levels are open world battlefields where achieving objectives wins you the level as opposed to reaching a goal. Space combat controls feel quite natural and you do much more getting in and out of your vehicles to achieve objectives. There's also a hyperspace ring-style booster that will propel you to other areas of the space battlefield. The variety of vehicles and creatures that can be utilized is wide. Boss battles are fun and there have been some big additions to the enemies you will face. We've previously shown you some screenshots of these baddies, but if you've seen the show, then you have a good idea of who to expect. Rest assured, there is a nice variety from the small (Dr. Vindi from Blue Shadow Virus - Naboo) to the large (Octuptarra Droid from The Hidden Enemy - Christophsis). Just enough of the game has been tweaked so that this new installment feels fresh and not like a LEGO SW re-tread. In other words, the levels are fun and the replay factor between Story and Free Play modes are every bit as addictive as it was with the LEGO Star Wars predecessors.
As always with LEGO video game titles, they're fun to play alone or with a friend. The fun continues with LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars whether you're playing co-op through the level or if you're battling your opponent on an Arcade Mode battlefield. The best improvement to the multi-player game comes from a new split screen view that moves and rotates as you and your partner navigate different areas of a level. I can remember many a LEGO Star Wars argument with my nephew as we each urged each other to stop messing around and forge ahead already. With the new view, your arguments can shift to more important issues, like who's going to collect the most LEGO studs. The view can be a little disorienting at first, and while you're not getting the full screen picture, you get used to the view quickly. Considering the fact that many of the new levels are more expansive than in previous LEGO games, the view enhancement seems ncecessary.
The Dark Side
So I think my break-down of LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars has been overwealmingly positive up to this point, but not everything can be perfect. Here are a few negatives about the new game. Most are quite valid, but I admit that my last gripe is rather self-serving and nitpicky. Just thought I'd throw it out there since it was something I thought of during my first session with the game.
- You'll have a few camera angle issues depending on the layout of the level and the obstacles in your way. While they rarely detract from the game-playing fun, it can tend to get annoying at times.
- There were a few times that I found myself going, "What the heck do I do now?" While the expanded puzzle elements of the game are quite welcome, there are times let's say when you might be required to tag back to your LEGOSW character companion to achieve an objective. Typically you have to be rather close to your companion to switch over to them. On the otherhand, there are times when you're required to do so but your partner seems far away. Due to the distance, you might not even consider trying to tag to the companion. Again, not a huge gripe, but something to keep in mind as you play through the game. Better to have the warning than get stuck by something so simple.
- Speaking of being stuck; I had to start over a few levels at times based on needing something to happen that didn't. For instance, I was playing the Christophsis level with my son and at the beginning of the level you need a Clone Trooper to ride a zip line over a chasm which in turn sends a platform to fetch the other player. Well, my son was blowing stuff up for studs and missed his ride to where my character was located. After trying for 10 minutes to get his character moving forward (which was necessary to continue), we gave up and started the level over. Situations like this have happened to me a few times. These glitches don't occur often but tend to frustrate if you're in a LEGO SW TCW groove.
- Is it wrong that I would have preferred to hear the intro music from The Clone Wars series at the beginning of each level as opposed to the main title Star Wars theme? Sure, nothing beats the main title theme of Star Wars, but when I'm playing LEGO: Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, hearing the opening from the films actually took me out of the TCW world for a second. I know that its all the same universe and this is not a major negative by any means. I simply wanted to be immersed in anything and everything Clone Wars while playing, and would have loved TCW intro music with or without new Tom Kane-voiced intros for the levels. Sure, LEGO SW games include grunts and gestures as opposed to speaking, but I'm not talking about the cinematic videos. I'm purely speaking of wanting to see the newsreel style intro as opposed to the crawl. I'm out on a limb here and, 3 or so years ago before TCW premiered, I never would have guessed that I would have come to love the TCW episode intros so much. When it boils down to it, I like my Clone Wars to include nods to the film scores, not be driven by them.
At the end of the day, I love this game. I look forward to getting a little time with the game in the evenings when I get off work. More than that, I enjoy letting my almost 5 year old son stay up late on a weekend evening to play LEGO SW: TCW with daddy. I'm constantly amazed at how much of the game he's ended up teaching to me. Heck, he showed me where to find the starfighters to fly off of your home base starship. This game has all of the familiar elements of previous LEGO Star Wars installments that you've come to know and love while adding a few new gameplay tidbits that help keep things fresh. This is by far the most expansive of the LEGO SW games in terms of the individual levels as well as the all around gameplay options. While I absolutely adore The Clone Wars, this game might lack a bit of the nostalgia-factor of seeing iconic Star Wars film scenes portrayed in LEGO form. But what may be lacking in the iconic film scene department, is more than made up for in the use of familiar Clone Wars voice actor grunts and the all around humor of the game. LucasArts and Traveller's Tales have put together another fantastic looking and sounding installment to the LEGO Star Wars franchise. I give LEGO Star Wars: The Clone Wars a very favorable 4.5 out of 5.
Oh, and I already can't wait to see Savage Opress and characters from the Mortis trilogy in the next sequel!