You wouldn't think that mimicking the Lego platformers would be all that difficult. Few gaming franchises have been so high profile over the past four years, with developer Traveller's Tales using the colorful blocks to playfully re-create all six Star Wars movies, the original Indiana Jones trilogy, and nearly 75 years of Batman comics. So there really is no excuse for such a lame rip-off as Star Wars The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes. While the Nintendo Wii version of the game is a little better than its Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 brethren, thanks to some control refinements, Krome Studios still messes up nearly every single aspect of the familiar Lego formula, turning what should have been a quick-paced romp with cartoon Jedi into a dreary mess.
Nunchuk-and-remote controls make it easier to slash things up Obi-Wan style, although there are still a lot of problems.
Just about the only thing that Republic Heroes gets right is its tie-in with the Clone Wars TV series. The three-act campaign feels a lot like lost TV episodes, taking place in such familiar locales as massive Republic battleships and the Twi'lek homeworld of Ryloth. So if you're a fan, you'll love the story and setting. The look of the game copies the quasi-anime character art of the show, with all of the big eyes and odd proportions perfectly preserved. There are lots of inside references to various plot points from the show's first season and the theatrical movie that launched this franchise in the summer of 2008. The Movietone News-style war montages that open each episode are drafted into service here to introduce the acts, with the outstanding martial take on the Star Wars theme of the series front and center.
Virtually all of the show's characters make appearances throughout the course of the campaign, which can be played either solo or drop-in cooperatively with a friend on the same system (there is no online multiplayer support). You play as everyone, from series stars like Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Padawan Ahsoka Tano, to lesser lights like clone trooper Cody or Jedi third-stringers Plo Koon and Luminara Unduli. Villains are drawn from the show's entire rogues' gallery. Count Dooku makes an appearance, as do dark Jedi Asajj Ventress and bounty hunter Cad Bane. All of the actors from the TV show reprise their roles, too. So you hear the same Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen mimics here, along with the same guy who voices Jango Fett. You'll also hear all of his clone offspring and whoever says "Roger-roger!" in that annoying droid voice we all learned to loathe in The Phantom Menace.
Republic Heroes sure looks the part, and the basics of play nicely copy the Lego games. You spend levels fighting, jumping from one platform to another, and collecting glowing stars to earn points. These points can be spent in a store on such things as combat upgrades and goofy frills, like C3P0 heads or droid dances. There are bosses to battle, the odd vehicle to pilot, and many simple puzzles to solve, but there is a complete lack of refinement to all of the action. Controls are a major problem on all platforms, although the situation is not quite as bad with the Wii's remote-and-nunchuk combo as it is with the Xbox 360 and PS3 controllers and the PC's gamepad. Still, all characters, even the supposed-to-be-acrobatic Jedi knights, are tough to handle due to a general lack of fine-tuning. Even though Jedi can fight with combos, crank up multipliers to juice scores, and use the Force push to toss droids around, attack animations have brief hitches in them so you can't fluidly cut a swath through your enemies like a powerful Jedi would.
Clone trooper shooting levels are a lot more manageable on the Wii, thanks to good use of the remote to target blaster fire.