A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… well, in fact, it was six years ago when the LEGO Star Wars: The Videogame debuted on the GameCube, alongside Xbox, PlayStation 2, PC, Mac and a portable version on GameBoy Advance. Heralded for humorously immortalising the Star Wars universe in a parodied LEGO guise, such a formula has proved to be growingly popular with the gaming audience, and has since spawned iterations that have taken archaeological adventurer Indiana Jones, comic book superhero Batman and the wizarding delights of Harry Potter as their source.
However it was LEGO Star Wars that set the ball (or should that be brick?) in motion, and with the material provided by both the original and new trilogies having been already exhausted, the developer now turns their attention to the animated television series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
For those that have played previous entries within TT Games’ LEGO series, you’ll more than know what to expect but a handful of subtle alterations, enhancements and additions ensure that LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars offers a far better experience than that provided by its predecessors. It’s more evolutionary than revolutionary, so if you’re a fan of the series then you certainly won’t be disappointed.
The majority of your time will once again be spent playing through the Story levels which form the bulk of the game, neutralising enemies, negotiating tricky platforming sections and deducing how to complete puzzles – all whilst collecting Minikits, Red Bricks and Studs on the way. Once you’re past this lengthy portion of the game, you’re then able to play each level in Free Play mode, allowing you to take an array of characters into each level as you hunt out every collectable by using their respective skills to overcome obstacles.
Each level is prefaced by a cutscene, perhaps one of the most applauded efforts by the developer across the LEGO titles, and these are typically beautifully crafted and fully utilise the glasses-free stereoscopic 3D effect of the Nintendo 3DS. Full of the TT Games’ quirky humour, you’ll look forward to each as you progress through the game and even those unfamiliar with the Clone Wars storyline can still appreciate the cheap laughs at the expense of George Lucas’ universe.
Combat, especially with lightsabers, has been vastly improved and flows with far more fluidity than that experienced previously. Jedi are also granted new abilities, such as being able to carve specific sections of a wall to reveal a hidden switch with your lightsaber, or performing a leap up to a high ledge. The inclusion of Clone Troopers also shakes things up, with a variety of additional ranged weaponry placed at your disposal alongside tools such as the Grapplehook. You’re easily able to alter your selected character by using the L and R shoulder buttons, although it is a disappointment that only one character within your party is every present on the screen at any one time.
As can be expected for the Nintendo 3DS version, there has been a concerted effort to implement a range of touchscreen functionality although its quality of design varies. Whilst the touch screen commands are largely optional, with the player able to alternatively use buttons to perform the same function in a majority of cases, there are a number of situations where they must be used. This leads to a confusing experience at times. For instance, when attacking the Bodyguard Magna-Droids, identified by their electro staffs, you’ll lock your lightsaber in combat and must slide upwards on the touch screen to allow you to gain the upper hand and neutralise your foe. Continuing to hammer the attack button simply has no effect, and will eventually cause your character to be knocked back onto the floor.
Causing, even more, distress is the mini-game that pops up whenever you use a Droid to open a designated door. Here you must rotate a selection of symbols to match that presented at the top of the screen, which sounds simple enough. Yet, with the game predominantly not requiring the Stylus, it is near enough impossible to complete the mini-game without it. Such occurrences, therefore, result in you scrambling unnecessarily for it, seeing as the mini-game is on a timer, and will soon begin to detract from an otherwise enjoyable experience.
Providing a further degree of variety are the space battles that you are thrust into on a number of occasions. Each forms a particular highlight within the game, with the player freely moving around a designated combat zone as they perform a range of simple objectives. However, such battles are short-lived and seem to be over as soon as they start.
The hub world, which you return to between missions, actually becomes one of the more disappointing aspects of the Nintendo 3DS version. Disappointingly barren, there aren’t many NPC’s that roam the few rooms and there is a severe lack of objects to make the environments feel particularly interesting to investigate. Still, you’ll find important facilities such as the Character Customiser, Minikit Viewer and Shop, the latter of which allows you to spend your hard earned studs on Characters, Extras and Hints, as well as providing the opportunity to watch any previously unlocked Story Sequence.
Perhaps the most fundamentally rewarding and interesting activity to do in the hub are a selection of Arcade Cabinets that allow you to play mini-games such as Droid Volleyball or Snowball Fights. These provide a quirky transition from the standard gameplay on offer, but it’s a shame that you can’t play against friends in Local Play or through a Wi-Fi Connection.
Basic support is also offered for the Nintendo 3DS’ StreetPass functionality, allowing players to gather bonus LEGO studs from others that they pass who own the game. A satisfactory addition, but perhaps an area that can be explored further in future.
All in all, LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars provides one of the most entertaining titles amidst the launch line-up for the Nintendo 3DS. Long-term fans of the series and newcomers alike will find plenty to enjoy here and is certainly one game that shouldn’t be missed.