Writing a lead-in for a game with both â€˜Legoâ€™ and â€˜Star Warsâ€™ in the title feels a bit redundant; both franchises have been making kids and adults go squee for over thirty years now. I have to admit though, the Lego game series is starting to feel more comfortably-familiar than cutting-edge, and, as a fan of the first three movies but not the new Star Wars material, I never watched the Clone Wars animated series (which this new title is based on). So when the game arrived I was more than a little curious as to whether thereâ€™d be anything in Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars to make me go squee - and happily, there was.
As far as first impressions go, the game and I definitely got off to a good start. LSWIII:TCW is a great-looking game, especially in HD: the lighting is fantastic, and the characters have a new freshness that I donâ€™t remember seeing in earlier Lego titles. The initial moments of seeing characters in Lego form (especially the aliens) are as cool as ever. And the cut scenes still retain that cheeky humour these titles manage to pull off almost effortlessly - poking fun at the source material while still remaining respectful of it.
There is a huge cast of characters that players can eventually unlock, but the game begins with control over Anakin Skywalker, Obi Wan Kenobe, and Padme (Anakinâ€™s squeeze), as they await their inevitable ends, chained to pillars in the Geonosis Arena. While Padmeâ€™s main skill appears to be â€˜holding on to chainsâ€™, playing as the Jedi really is a lot of fun. Their lightsabers are handy for knocking down enemies, they can be hurled through the air at flying creatures, and even used to cut things open, and the Jedi force blast skill is great for large crowd control.
After escaping Geonosis, the characters are returned to Anakinâ€™s ship, the Resolute, which serves as a game hub between quests. The Resolute isnâ€™t just a place to stop and catch your breath, however, as there are heaps of unlockable areas that require the elusive gold bricks (gained by completing quests) to open. Players select quests from a large star map - think Mass Effect - which extend, stage-by-stage, and from planet to planet.
While the core gameplay still consists of switching focus between several characters as they make their way through a specific level, LSWIII:TCW also includes massive land-based ground battles, where players take on a more strategic role in achieving battle objectives, such as recovering held territory. For some players, this may be their first introduction to this type of play - and while seasoned strategy gamers wonâ€™t find this at all difficult, kids who have cut their teeth on Lego Harry Potter may need a parental helping hand here.
I was completely surprised by this shift of focus, but in retrospect, I probably shouldnâ€™t have been - even though it felt at times as though someone had pressed the "Epic" button on Lego while I wasnâ€™t looking. The whole game feels larger in scale - and not just because it takes place in space. The game moves effortlessly between sweeping vistas and the character level, such as when you fly a fighter around the side of a hulking star ship, then land to let your character hop out and start sabering clones. It works really well, and is just one example of how well things can work when you let the material have an impact on the gameplay.
All the small stuff is still here too: the endless, almost OCD-inducing collection of Lego studs (currency), gold and red bricks, minikit parts, and unlockable characters, ships, vehicles and mini-games. There are so many things to interact with, both with the force, and specific characters, that encourage a second run-through once everyone has been unlocked. There is just so much content to the game, that players will find themselves inevitably in the middle of a frenzied grab-a-thon.
Scoring this game is a bit of a tough one - the gameplay is great yet in many ways familiar. The Star Wars story is well-known yet (for me) still jars as the newer, fresher sibling of an iconic original. The elements of strategy introduced are a great new inclusion, yet they still remain quite easy to get through. And there are just so many Lego and Star Wars products on the market, it may be difficult to see this title as more than just another addition to the overwhelming amount of existing material. But casting these personal concerns aside, LSWIII:TCW is cute, thrilling, and polished - and very hard to resist.