LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars Review
By Chris Commodore |
Developer Traveller's Tales' LEGO games have never succeeded because they had the best puzzles or incredibly satisfying combat. In fact, in these regards, they were usually pretty mediocre. But they made up for the lack of awesome gameplay with adorable aesthetics and great use of the license. The latest, LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, continues the trend, immediately grabbing fans like me with its smart use of the subject matter and cute visuals, and kept me engaged despite its issues with its large mix of simplistic gameplay elements. The final combination is just good, simple fun.
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LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars covers seasons one and two of the popular animated series. Fans of the show get to act out their favorite moments (albeit as adorable LEGO characters), playing a variety of characters ranging from powerful Jedi to the lowliest droids. And like the other LEGO games, players have to use each character's unique abilities to overcome enemies and environmental puzzles.
The puzzles and combat in LEGO Star Wars III aren't amazing. You might occasionally be surprised at a moment where a puzzle is genuinely clever, but they mostly either held my hand entirely or made the solution so obfuscated that they were frustrating rather than rewarding to solve. Likewise, the combat isn't all that exciting with its one-button-does-everything system. But, like so much of the LEGO games design, when you combine these two relatively unexciting portions together, something strange happens: It becomes a simple, engaging game. Maybe it's because together they break up the pacing and keep you in situations that are constantly forcing you to adapt, or perhaps it's because they're so easy to understand that you can kind of zone out and lose yourself to what's going on on-screen. Either way, I became lost to the grind of the adventure. And I enjoyed it.
LEGO Star Wars III also helps keep things fresh by tossing in even more activities. On more than one occasion, you pilot star ships in big space battles, while at other times you command a landing force in an effort to take a planet. Attacking planets is a particularly surprising element of LEGO Star Wars III. In these stages, you capture control points on a map, then call down troops and vehicles to use in an effort to take the battlefield from the enemy. Like everything else in the LEGO games, it's easy to point to another game that did this sort of strategy play better, but it's just fun enough that it helps break up the pacing of the campaign.
The capture and control mode can also be played with another player or via a Galactic Conquest mode. It's entertaining enough with another player, but I didn't find it to be more than a passing distraction from the main game – which also supports cooperative play. Galactic Conquest mode is OK for a little while, but I can't say that I want to play level after level of this relatively simple strategy game, especially when LEGO Star War's larger appeal is getting to relive cool Star Wars moments. It's there if you want some extra game time, I guess.
Well, I should clarify that extra modes like Galactic Conquest are there if you manage to find them. When you're not in a mission or playing the story, you return to the hub world. Like the other LEGO games, the hub world is open to players to explore, but this time around, Traveller's Tales have really outdone themselves. The hub world in LEGO Star Wars III is a pair of battleships engaged in a space battle, and you can eventually unlock enough parts that you'll be able to explore both ships, as well as fly around in the space between them.
Awesome moments from the show like this are common.The hub world isn't just for wandering around in, though, as you can create custom characters in the medical bay, purchase vehicles for wandering around in just for fun, unlock additional characters, and even do a side quest. It's a lot of fun; I just wish it'd come with a map so I could figure out where all the cool parts were, without all the wandering. I mean, unlockables are cool, but this is definitely one of the times I really wouldn't have minded having my hand held.