The only thing I remember about playing with LEGO bricks when I was a kid was the excruciating pain I would experience when I stepped on one of the damn things. So it is entirely ironic and amusing that as an adult, I get an absolute kick out of the LEGO series of video games. The latest one to come floating my way is LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, which is based on the animated series of the same name. While the game follows a somewhat standardized method of gameplay spread across the Story and Free Play modes seen in other LEGO games, this latest installment still does the series justice with great level design and plenty of stud collecting mayhem.
The first chapter of the game introduces you to a few of the game’s main characters, and it soon escalates into an all-out battle littered with Jedi and hundreds of droids. The game handles the multiple characters on screen without any issues at all, so an epic battle really feels as such. Once you’ve cleared the first level, you’re taken to a main space hub, which from a larger viewpoint is actually two space ships locked in battle. Initially you’re confined to just the central deck, but as you obtain gold bricks for collecting studs and completing levels, you can build elevators that will take you to other areas of the ship. It’s a rather novel way of making the game seem even bigger, so there’s plenty to see and unlock in the gigantic space hub itself. The other great thing about the hub is that you’ll see other characters walking around, and by just approaching them you can choose if you want to purchase and unlock that character for use in the game. Another change this time around is that rather than follow a linear story, you’re allowed to play whichever branch of the main story you want to, which essentially revolves around tracking various Sith characters across the galaxy.
A new feature this time around are certain strategy-type missions, where you go up against the enemy armed with a seemingly endless army of troops and vehicles. The battlefield has certain strategic areas marked by power generators, and commanding a power generator will grant you the ability to build a building that will provide a particular kind of reinforcement. While it is a seemingly novel addition to the game, some of the earlier battles can be extremely frustrating to carry out. In one mission I had to hijack an enemy vehicle, collect a torpedo, lower the enemy’s shield, and then blast them into space with my torpedo. Of course, I had to carry all of this out amongst a flurry of lasers pointed my way. If you can get into it, this mini-battlefield mode can be fun, but more often it turns into somewhat of a chore.
The game of course comes into its element when you play a level the second time around in Free Play mode. There’s the seemingly never-ending task of collecting as many studs as you can to obtain True Jedi status, as well as tracking down the infamous min-kits. I have to say that I found the mini-kit challenges to be quite hard in some areas, and ridiculously simple in another level, so the puzzle difficulty does tend to fluctuate a bit. You also get plenty of kicks if you get a second player to join in the fun, and in some levels the game provides a split-screen view so that each player can complete a different task in order to clear the level. These little tweaks help to keep the game interesting despite the number of LEGO games that have been released. Visually the game looks extremely polished from previous installments, and the signature LEGO style of humor also makes a delightful comeback, poking fun at Star Wars characters both great and small.
LEGO Star Wars III is certainly plenty of fun to play, and the overhauled visuals make it an absolute treat. While some of the puzzles can be borderline obscure, it’s not enough to deter both LEGO and Star Wars fans from getting some serious kicks from this game. It’s easy to get so immersed into the game that you forget to blink; it’s that much fun.