When Traveler's Tales and LucasArts released the first LEGO Star Wars game, it was a beautiful marriage. Like chocolate and peanut butter, or Charlie Sheen and tiger blood, they were two great tastes that tasted great together.
Since then, TT Games have built a franchise on taking pop-culture icons and condensing them into episodic gameplay nuggets involving those Danish building blocks and the endearing humor the series have become known for. While the LEGO series of games has branched out as far as what they've covered (from movie series' to Rock Band), none were quite as captivating as the original game. In fact, after a while, some felt the recipe had gotten a little stale.
Now, like George Lucas, they're returning to the well once again to get a little more juice out of the Star Wars cash cow. Is it as good as the original games, or is it joining the later titles as too much of a good thing?
LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars (Xbox 360 [reviewed], Playstation 3, Wii, PSP, DS, 3DS, PC)
The original title, LEGO Star Wars took the first three episodes of the film series (and by first, I mean Episodes 1-3, not the original trilogy) and "rebuilt" them, making them co-op platforming affairs. Players could relive their favorite movie moments, but in smaller, cuter (and in many cases, funnier) form. From using the force to build items out of LEGOs, to drop-in/drop-out co-op gameplay, it was a winning combination. After visiting the original trilogy with -- wait for it -- LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, Traveler's Tales had found their groove, and the popularity rose from there.
Here, however, instead of playing through six chapters making up one movie "episode," each chapter is an episode of the TV show. Because the series jumps around in focus for each different antagonist, the game has structured itself to be divided between the three main villains, and each of the six episodes per villain follow that villain's story arch. So while you may play an episode from season one in the game, the next episode in that villains arch in the story may not take place in the series until season two. This may make some fans of the television series upset, but as I've never watched an episode, I personally found this structure to be more concise.
Some levels set themselves up as a sort of beginner's version of a real-time strategy game. As you capture enemy bases, you can then build your own outpost and using the LEGO studs you find buy barracks to unload troopers, canons to bring down enemy reinforcements and more. The Jedi also have a few new moves, as they can now throw their Light Sabers at targets, as well as using them to cut through walls and scale large objects. They can also (finally) use the force to throw enemies around the environment, smashing droid troops into each other or force-pushing them away if large groups surround you.
While the visuals still retain that "kiddie-game" feel, the animation is much improved, and the lighting and shading are surprisingly deep for such a younger-geared title. It's a much more vibrant-looking LEGO title, and the animations are on par with the same type of CGI that the TV series itself is animated with. The sound is your typical grab bag of score from the films and TV show, sound FX from both, and the usual grunts and campy bits as far as "voice acting." One of the strange things I found with this title is that (despite being essentially a "kids game" based on a kids' show) this title actually has the least amount of humor in it compared to the other titles in the LEGO series.
Still, that LEGO charm and humor is still throughout the gameplay, and if you haven't tired of it yet, it still makes for a fun title. They haven't strayed much from their formula, and as they say "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"...unless, you know, it's made of LEGOs.
THE VERDICT - Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars
Reviewed by Ian Bonds