Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars

Year: 2011
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC
Publisher: LucasArts
Developer: Traveler's Tales
Genre: Action/Adventure
Review Date: 4/6/11
Rating: ***

The third installment in the "Lego Star Wars" series tackles the first two seasons of "The Clone Wars" TV show. In addition to the familiar Story and Free Play modes, this game adds space missions, bounty hunter missions, and ground assault missions to the mix. The lighting has been improved to create more drama and the game engine now supports hundreds of characters onscreen, which makes for some very chaotic battle scenes. Unfortunately, even with these new additions, the gameplay seems just a little too familiar, and the weak source material doesn't help. While the first two "Lego Star Wars" games did an excellent job of both honoring and parodying the "Star Wars" movies, it's hard to do the same for "The Clone Wars," which is already a parody of the "Star Wars" universe. Each chapter in the game is based on an episode of the TV show, and reflects the same overly juvenile (and overly violent) attitudes inherent in the series. The writing suffers as well, and one chapter hilariously mentions an assault on a secret enemy base. Clearly, if you know the location of an enemy base, then it's not much of a secret... Sadly, the game did nothing to make me want to watch the show and simply validated how vile it is. It's still a fun game to play, but there's little to no emotional connection with the characters or their plights. Battle droids and clone troopers are disposable resources that get wiped out at an alarming rate, and the game doesn't place any value on staying alive. The frantic action means that you'll be dying about every 20 seconds, which means the invincibility brick should be the first or second upgrade on your list of things to track down. Unlike other Lego games, it's also one of the cheapest and easiest ones to obtain, which is rather telling.

The game is overly vague and the menu screens are confusing and unintuitive. The instruction manual is literally one page that merely shows the controller configuration. It offers no clues on how to play the game or what any of the objectives are. If you haven't played a previous "Lego Star Wars" game, then you'll be hopelessly lost and frustrated. Even after playing for thirty hours, there are still menu options and play modes that I don't understand. While serendipitous discovery can be very exciting, it makes me wonder just how much of the game I'm missing. The fact that the strategy guide is over 300 pages long implies that I'm missing A LOT. The Story and Free Play missions make up about two thirds of the game, with bounty hunter missions, space missions, and ground assault missions taking the final third. Unfortunately, these extra missions are all time based trials and not any fun. Even in Story and Free Play, a large portion of the game revolves around the new ground assault mechanics, which are more tedious than enjoyable. Completing missions and collecting hidden canisters unlocks characters that you can purchase, but you have to physically track them down in the game in order to acquire them. They mostly hang out in the same places, but it can be very aggravating trying to find and identify specific characters. One of the worst examples is Robonino. There are numerous panels that "only characters like Robonino" can access. What the hell is a Robonino, and what other characters are like him? No clues are provided. Even after I unlocked him, I didn't know who he was, which continued to cause a lot of frustration. Similarly, if you're not familiar with the bounty hunters in "The Clone Wars," you'll have difficulty picking them out. This sort of "assumed knowledge" is prevalent throughout the game, which leads to a lot of clueless frustration and trips to the Internet. A prime example of this is the final battle with the Zillo Beast. While the game offers the completely obvious and unhelpful hint that you need an RX-200 tank to subdue the creature, it's not in your inventory and nothing tells you how to obtain one. It turns out that the tank only becomes available if you build one cannon on at least four different Republic bases. Of course there's no way of knowing this unless you refer to a strategy guide or online FAQ, which is a clear indication of bad design.

While "Lego Star Wars III" looks great and maintains most of the fun and charm of the previous Lego games, the new enhancements and features add little value and the sprawling nature of the game adds too much ambiguity to the gameplay. It seems like a smaller, tighter, and more well defined game would have served "The Clone Wars" better.