There have been so many different movies, comics, cartoons, games and collectable thingamajigs tied to the Star Wars franchise over the years that it's hard to believe they can come up with anything new to tempt the buying public with. But the force must be stronger than any of us ever dreamed. The force of George Lucas and his many marketing subsidiaries, that is. Since the big six cinematic episodes of Star Wars have already received their own LucasArts LEGO game versions, the animated film Star Wars: The Clone Wars now steps up for its moment in the interconnecting plastic block spotlight.
That movie, along with an ongoing TV cartoon series, fleshes out the story of a pre-Darth Vader Anakin Skywalker and his youthful Obi-Wan Kenobi mentor. And LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars incorporates bits and pieces of that lore. But even if you've missed three-quarters of the cable show's episodes, you won't be left stranded in a galaxy far, far away. This title (which we reviewed using the new Nintendo 3DS) pulls gamers along with its iconic sky-scrolling text before each chapter and does a great job of filling in all the little details that you might need to know.
LEGO of My Plastic Yoda!
The play is pretty much exactly what one expects from LEGO games. And what that boils down to is a whole lot of puzzle solving, laser blasting and lightsaber slashing—which usually mean smashing enemies and objects into their blocky bits, collecting the scattered LEGO studs and building something new from the leftover parts.
And the story here? Well, it's essentially a simple tale of Jedi Knights and Clone soldiers (the good guys) fighting and foiling a Separatist Army (the bad guys). Over the course of 13 different planet missions, gamers play as one of several well-known characters, each with unique abilities. And switching between favorites such as Yoda or R2D2 can help you complete objectives and solve the puzzling situation at hand. For instance, you may need R2D2 to cross a crumbling chasm with his little retro-rockets and unlock an electronic door, then tap Yoda to throw together some strategic LEGO bits and Jedi Force-jump to a higher level.
The various squad members wield unique battling skills. So a heavy Clone trooper might be just the choice for some long distance machine gun laser blasts or a little bomb tossing, whereas Obi-Wan is the man in those mano-a-LEGO lightsaber battles. And when you're not hooking your way through a mountainous passageway or leaping through a crumbling space station, you can also find yourself winging along as Anakin Skywalker when a little spaceship dogfighting is called for.
That may sound like a lot of blasting, smashing and slashing. And, in truth, slicing your way through robotic enemies or Force-tossing bad guys into a nearby wall is a big part of the play. But it's also quite cartoonish. One wacky little minigame actually stages a grin-worthy snowball fight. And there's nothing but scattered LEGO blocks as the worst result. There is absolutely no blood or suffering in this long-ago LEGO land.
There is a little lowball humor, however. A droid is caught sitting on a toilet, for example. And that's why the ESRB E10+ rating descriptor includes "comic mischief." There's also, of course, the franchise's ever-present spiritual elements that peak through from time to time even here in a game where little LEGO guys never talk.
Three-Dimensional Jumping and Thumping
LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars is the first 3-D game we've reviewed with the new 3DS, Nintendo's latest handheld console. And the stereoscopic picture it delivers is pretty impressive. In the course of the game, having the option of layered rock formations and multidimensional hiding places certainly adds a nice sparkle to things. The 3-D spaceship battles are particularly appealing as you dodge space debris and swoop in for attacks.
But I will note that, much like the 3-D images currently applied to movies and a few TV shows, the effect tends to lose its appeal with a little time. In fact, The Clone Wars gameplay felt hindered at times rather than enhanced, as depth perception sometimes felt just a little off. And the console itself warns that eyestrain potential is greatly increased with the 3-D effect dialed up. It even suggests that younger children should avoid using a 3-D device altogether. That's why it sports a 3-D intensifier slide on its side that sets the image (all the way back to 2-D if desired) to suit a gamer's eyes.