The original pitch for fusing Lego with Star Wars in a hub-based action-platformer genre probably got a rather mooted reception, we suspect. As a concept, it doesn’t seem all that cohesive or interesting. Still, Traveller’s Tales must have put the proposition to just the right person, because the series not only entered development, but quickly went on to fascinate and enthral gamers of all ages.
There have been numerous expansions and side-games using the same system – Lego Batman, Lego Indiana Jones and the upcoming Lego Pirates of the Caribbean, to name a few. Star Wars has always been the heart of the franchise, though, so it wasn’t unexpected that Traveller’s Tales would find a way to return there even once all the main films had been covered. That’s how we ended up with Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars – a Lego Star Wars game in the now-familiar mould, but basing itself on the popular CG animation series for kids.
Not being massive fans of the prequels to the original films, we weren’t expecting anything too special from Clone Wars, but were pleasantly charmed by what is a remarkably solid game. Somehow, a game about miniature plastic Jedi and clone troopers comes across as less plastic than the billion dollar film projects on which it's based.
The fact remains, however, that Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars fits the established mould for the series a little too well. There’s little evidence of innovation and, while there’s plenty of cutesy appeal, it’s hard to shake the feeling that we’ve seen this all before.
It is very cute, though. The cutscenes, which prelude each level, have a quirky style that will get some genuine out-loud-laughing from all but the most obsidian-hearted players. It’s also continually impressive just how much story and narrative the stiff-limbed protagonists are able to create without ever saying a word. Even the plink-plink sound of dismembered plastic limbs tumbling across a battlefield is enough to raise a wry smile.
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Besides, there are a few new additions to the old Lego XX template; most of them small, but present nonetheless. Along with a few new weapons for the clone troopers, Jedi are now able to throw their light-sabres, for example.
The biggest addition, however, comes in the form of an RTS-lite mechanic that shows up in some levels. Here you’ll have to build defensive bases against invading enemies and command squads to win battles against huge droid armies. The engine has apparently been optimised to help support these large-scale fights, but the art style meant we were hard-pushed to find any particular graphical improvements beyond the scale of the battles.