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Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars Review (PS3)

With recent games like Crysis 2 and Bulletstorm showing that console games can still impress visually and artistically, my graphical hunger had been sated. Moving on to the newest Lego Star Wars I was ready to experience something much less visually ambitious. How mistaken I was. On PS3 and 360, Lego Star Wars III is a great looking game. Combining gorgeous environments with sharp detail and an unbelievable amount of geometry and enemies on-screen at once, it’s a real visual treat. Occasionally the action quietens down and it all looks more conservative, but at its most frenetic and cinematic moments, its one of the best looking games out right now.

Having never played any of the previous titles to any great extent, I had a lingering affection for the series without any real experience of the intricacies of how the game played. I knew it was a deceptively enjoyable series that appealed to kids and adults alike, but I didn’t realise quite how competent and polished a release this newest version would be.

Using a hub structure, you spend much of your time between missions on your space ship in orbit around a planet or in the middle of a giant space battle. Even these moments of down time look great with huge windows showing panoramic expanses of space or gigantic Death Stars blasting chunks out of Rebel freighters.

The ship itself is full of nooks and crannies to explore. It has a navigation map that works in a similar way to Mass Effect’s and lots of broken ship components to fix. Completing missions earns you new characters on the bridge and these open new areas – for example the clone troopers use grappling hooks to pull hatches open and R2-D2 opens doors via control panels.

Throughout the ship (and every level) are thousands upon thousands of the delicious Lego blocks you collect throughout the game. These studs, blocks and pieces are hoovered up by your character and provide a type of  kleptomaniacal satisfaction that’s beyond compare. Collecting rings, coins or mushrooms is fine, but smashing a huge Lego engine and collecting thousands of the little pieces of Lego-debris is satisfying beyond all reason.

For all the great presentation and clever design the Lego Star Wars III is not without frustration. Having assumed the game was a somewhat mindless brawler I was surprised to see just how much puzzling was involved. Most of these involve smashing and/or building Lego objects, but the game is often poor at signposting exactly what it wants you to do. This is exasperated by the number of characters the player can use. Being able to instantly swap from controlling a clone trooper to Yoda to Obi-Wan is great fun, but when only one of them has the right skill to progress the story it can involve a lot of trial and error. While this could be frustrating for a younger child, working with a parent to solve these problems could also be a great bonding and (dare I say) even learning experience. Finding out their dad is too dumb to figure out how to beat a sliding block puzzle is a serious issue though.

Multiplayer is a must throughout the game. Every level has more than one character that you can play as and every moment of the game is more fun with two players. Occasionally the camera can be a little unwieldy even with one player so two player has some issues with visibility. This is offset somewhat by the ease of the game. There’s no penalty for dying other than losing some of your collected blocks. This doesn’t completely eliminate frustration though. Running around unsure of what to do next while being repeated blasted by droids that which off-screen isn’t great fun.

When invoked the Star Wars license imposes certain responsibilities on a developer. It holds a cultural cache of sounds, images and themes that resonate with those that grew up with the movies. A developer has to work hard to build a quality product that doesn’t diminish or sully those memories. Over the years the very best games like KOTOR have used the music, fiction and atmosphere of the movies to push their games to greater heights.  The Lego Star Wars series does this too.

Whether it’s the humour in the non-voiced cut scenes which make Jar-Jar and Anakin seem tolerable or the gorgeousness of the detailed, studded Lego spacecraft, Lego Star Wars is a celebration of everything that’s great about George Lucas’s creation. No detail is overlooked and no opportunity is missed to exploit the fun inherent in the Star Wars universe. Whether its firing a giant blaster from the side of a Clone transport or flying a Naboo fighter, its pure wish fulfilment. Outwith the sheer joy of playing out all your Star Wars fantasy’s there’s real attention to detail shown in every aspect of the characters and environmental design. From the differing lightsabre styles (including Yoda’s glorious jumping-rolling craziness) to the perfect recreation of missile explosions and blaster bolts, it’s obvious that a huge amount of work and love has been put into the game.

In ten years time it’s not clear how well-regarded George Lucas’s newer prequel movies and their cartoon spin-offs will be regarded. Despite being based on that cartoon and quite probably the worst of the three movies though, the game Traveller’s Tales has created is much harder to fault. In single player its an enjoyable and surprisingly gorgeous arcade romp. Played with a friend though – and preferably one under twelve – it’s a fitting tribute to the very finest moments of the original classic’s.

8 Hans-shooting-first out of 10

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