Better than stubbing your toes on lost bricks.
I played through Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars almost a week ago, and between then and now, could not figure out how to write the damned review. I had outlined, of course, all the points I wanted to cover; all the items worth mentioning that would help you guys determine whether or not the game would be worth it to you. But I couldn't figure out a coherent and entertaining way to tie all these points together; I was suffering some major writer's block, and virtually nothing I did could motivate me to take care of things.
[image1]But I think I've figured out what the problem is. You'll notice, if you glance at my past reviews, that I rarely give a game a grade higher than a 'C'. This could, of course, be because my boss hates me and likes to give me crappy games, but I think a part of it may very well be that I'm just a straight-up hater. I feed off of loathing and pain and disgust like some twisted E-masochist. I'm not entirely sure I have the capability to write any given review without expressing distaste in some way, shape, or form.
So here goes: I really, really, really hate how the 3DS makes you dizzy when you play it for too long. I mean really now, that stuff, um… sucks… man… dawg, brah.
…and that's about the extent of my complaining. The fact that I'm complaining about the hardware instead of the game should be telling, in and of itself; especially considering that this horrifying extra dimension of dizziness can be turned off with the slide of a switch. In short, The Clone Wars is incredibly fun and well-done, and a prime example of a project that's been "done right". Its flaws are largely theoretical at best, and while the style of gameplay might not appeal to everyone in the audience, it would take some by surprise.
[image2]The Clone Wars takes advantage of the 3DS's capabilities and looks absolutely gorgeous in 3D. The graphics seem to pop out (pop in?) wonderfully and, barring my eventual headache, adds more to the game than they detract. At no point in the game will 3D mode cause confusion over how to play – the graphics are such that any deaths or screw-ups will rest solely in the hands of the player, as opposed to "stupid graphics I thought I could jump on that platform". Moreover, when you inevitably get nauseous and turn 3D mode off, it still looks absolutely wonderful. The 3D mode simply enhances the "prettiness" of it all; there isn't a great deal to add about "2D mode" that hasn't already been said about 3D.
It's interesting to note that, in terms of pure aesthetics, the graphics don't appear to be suffering for the sake of a mobile platform. Granted, this could be the stylistic choice of the Lego Universe, where "gritty realism" is the last thing on anyone's mind, but even when considering the graphical choice as its own curious paradigm, the game does an adept job at bringing these otherwise lifeless hunks of plastic to life.
Part of the joy behind The Clone Wars is its somewhat self-effacing nature; it takes on a story as epic as the Clone Wars and portrays scenes and memorable moments in a way that is positively giggle-worthy. You may feel sadness at the death of some particular character, but when said character physically replaces his own head after it gets knocked off, you're reminded that these are Legos, and "death" in this world is hilariously normal. It's in this manner that the entirety of the Clone Wars plot is treated to a wonderful sort of Bowdlerization.
[image3]Everything from dialogue to action is toned down to a bright, colorful, "kid"-friendly environment in a way that is as much parody as it is childlike fun. As such, describing the plot of the game is somewhat irrelevant. The story is played out much like a puppet theater, with dialogue replaced by Sims-esque babbling and surprisingly articulate gesticulation; despite the Legos having no actual "lines", the way they gesture and show expression delightfully conveys a scene with feeling. Star Wars fans new and old (myself firmly entrenched in the latter category, because Thrawn was crazy awesome!) will appreciate the game's approach to the story, regardless of whether they've seen the material being parodied or no.
But the most surprising aspect is how polished the game is – not just in its approach to storytelling, but in general gameplay and its mechanics. While I can rattle off an endless list of titles with potential fun that had terrifying flaws or bugs (Fallout 3, I'm looking at you!), The Clone Wars seems to be one of those rare gems that feels professionally done. Given how easily developers can deploy "bug fixes" post-release, it's refreshing to play a game that doesn't need a bug fix, by virtue of it being on a handheld that doesn't require it to be online.
The control scheme feels natural, with almost no moments of confusion that will yank the carpet out from under your fun. Even those game-changing elements – brief moments of on-rail shooter, space battles, mounted turrets – feel natural. Piloting a spaceship actually feels like flying in space. The same goes for driving and operating a tank, instead of, say, those godforsaken, grease-slicked ice-skating machines Rockstar loosely refers to as "cars".
[image4]It is this smooth gameplay that makes additional playthroughs all the more satisfying. Should you be the sort of gamer who must get an absolute 100% completion or the world will end, jumping into the game for a second (and third and fourth) romp will not be foreshadowed by memories of painful jumps and falls. One particularly attractive feature drops hints about hidden pathways that can only be reached by choosing specific characters. Might want to grab a Sith just to see what the hell is behind that boulder in the first level.
My greatest contention with the actual game versus its hardware is a purely theoretical one; there is little difference between the various Lego titles. It would be worth noting that, save for a few minor differences, this review could aptly describe almost any Lego game. This isn't to suggest that The Clone Wars itself is somehow made poorer on its own merit – but if you've already got a Lego Star Wars game, I can't imagine this one being all that different for you… but damn is it fun.