The Star Wars saga is, inarguably, one of the greatest sci-fi epics of our time. From movies to TV shows to games, it's obvious that although George Lucas might have finished his tale, the world is still mad with Star Wars fever.
And while there is a plethora of Star Wars games to choose from on the market, none have managed to carve for itself such a unique niche as Traveller's Tales LEGO Star Wars series. These light-hearted titles might not be Lucasarts' most serious gaming venture, but it makes up for that in pure fun factor.
The game's storyline doesn't follow any one of the specific Star Wars movies, but is instead based on the first two seasons of the popular animated TV series, The Clone Wars. While not as well-known as the movie releases, most of the cast from the game will be familiar to anyone who has watched the latest films, with the player controlling iconic characters such as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker most of the time.
Characters such as the dual lightsaber wielding Sith assassin, Asajj Ventress, and the trustworthy Commander Cody, familiar to fans of the series, also makes welcome additions to the star studded cast.
The missions in the game tell a wide-ranging story from the Clone Wars conflict, occurring chronologically between the second and third film releases. Throughout the game we follow the exploits of various Republic do-gooders as they do battle against the Separatist droid armies under command of General Grievous.
Although anyone who has played one of the previous Lego Star Wars releases can attest that the games' charms stems not from epic story telling, but rather from its light-hearted tone and humorous gags thrown in between. As veteran Star Wars fans ourselves we can safely say that this isn't something the hardcore fan should look to for a new experience, rather it's a surprisingly enjoyable platformer fit for young and old, from serious fans to series newcomers (if Star Wars newcomers even exist).
Like its predecessors, Lego Star Wars III employs very simple platformer-style controls, with one button relegated to attacking, one to jumping, one to a unique ability and the final button for switching between characters.
Throughout the game players will control a party of characters, and you’ll be tasked with switching between them to successfully utilise your team’s abilities. By pressing the 'Y' button players can cycle through characters, with Jedi for example being capable of using the force to move objects, and Clone Troopers employing grappling guns to traverse treacherous gorges.
Chances are you'll spend most of your time playing as a Jedi character, as these are quite obviously the most fun, and the most effective at killing huge numbers of attack droids. Running and jumping around, lightsaber flashing every which way, we carved paths through the Separatist forces, with intermittent force-blasts sending battle droids flying into the air. Other characters sported less impressive combat abilities, but were no less vital to our effort, such as droids being able to open locked doors for example.
Controlling our characters was a largely smooth affair, with fluid motions being hampered only by slight camera issues. For the most part we could see and move around the world fine, but the one thing that did cause some consternation was the absence of clear directions. At times we were confused as to what to do next, with annoying endlessly spawning enemies not really helping us in figuring things out. As stated previously, different characters are sometimes required to complete tasks, but this isn't made easy when said characters aren't even in your party. While it may cause some confusion initially, most of these issues can be figured out eventually.
These problems are also made easier when playing with a friend, with the entire campaign supporting co-operative play. At any time a buddy can grab the spare controller and step in to help out, making puzzle solving and droid slaying a much easier affair.
Land, air and space
One of the game's best qualities is its surprisingly large variety of settings, with missions taking place in ship corridors, the surface of lush planets or even in the blackness of space itself. The game is made up of 18 missions strewn across 13 planets, giving players a comprehensive gaming experience which may run in excess of 20 hours.
The Clone Wars pulls itself from the confines of previous Lego Star Wars games by introducing some new gameplay elements as well, so you won't be running and jumping all the time. The most striking of these is a real-time strategy inspired mode where players have to build up a base before defeating their opponents.
Players control parts of the map by clearing out enemies and then capturing control points, enabling you to build different structures such as cannons, shields and barracks. This mode isn't something that's going to satisfy the hunger of the intense strategy gamer, but it does a nice job of breaking up the pace of the campaign.
If being a field commander isn't exactly your cup of tea, worry not, because Lego Star Wars III also sports some exhilarating space combat sequences. All the Star Wars bells and whistles are here as you'd expect, with laser blasts flooding the screen, ships swooping left and right and of course the awesome orchestral music that accompanies all the best sci-fi space battles. We really enjoyed this mode, although you shouldn't expect an entirely unrestricted flight sim experience.
The game continues its unique art style of intersecting Lego blocks with non-Lego textures, with the environment made up of a colourful meshing of the two. The team once again pulled off the comedic yet impressive visuals perfectly, with a great kid-friendly art style which may appear basic at first glance, but is actually capable of creating some spectacular scenes. Fans can also expect all their favourite licensed Star Wars themes and orchestral soundtracks to accompany the fighting, which is always a good thing.
Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars marks yet another successful chapter in a gaming series that has become known across the galaxy. With its unique aesthetic charms, quirky characters, varied game modes, puzzles and block busting action, this is the perfect game if you feel like relaxing with a platformer, or if you need something new to entertain the kids.