Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars encapsulates the far-reaching breadth of war. Space assaults pit plucky fighter crafts against monstrous battle cruisers; on land, a battalion of rocket-wielding clones take on a six-legged tank; and the entire affair is tied together with a sweeping story that includes dozens of characters from across the universe. This game is absolutely bursting with content, and the variety and scope of battles separates it from its much more restrictive forebearers. But all is not well in this far-away galaxy. Obtuse puzzles and directionless objectives force you to frequently stop your lightsaber-swinging fun to figure out what the heck you have to do next, and an assortment of control quirks have you fighting the game as often as you're fighting the empire. These problems pervade every inch of this epic adventure, overshadowing improvements in other areas. The Clone Wars contains the lighthearted fun the series is known for, but frustration bubbles just below the surface in this uneven sequel.
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The theatrical releases of Star Wars have been tapped dry at this point, so The Clone Wars draws its inspiration from television's well. The animated series hasn't ingrained itself into the popular culture quite like the beloved movies, however, which means there's a chance you may not be familiar with the plight of Commander Cody and Wag Too. It's easy enough to understand the gist of this mostly silent story, but a lot of the more esoteric references will be lost on casual fans of the franchise. Although this tale may go over your head at times, your eyes will be captivated nonetheless by the impressive visuals. In a marked step up from previous games in the series, Lego Star Wars III has a unique style all its own that meshes realistic environments with Lego characters and ships. Foliage-dense planets teeming with miniature droids are a sight to behold, and a variety beautiful vistas ensure there's always another piece to this delectable puzzle. The nod toward realism does remove some of the Lego personality that defined the other games in the series, but it's ultimately a worthy trade-off for the eye-catching landscapes throughout this adventure.
There are 18 distinct missions across 13 planets in The Clone Wars, and it can take more than 20 hours to reach the ending credits. Roughly half of the game should be familiar to series veterans. You stroll through tanker ships, desert towns, and all manner of alien environs solving puzzles and cutting down foes with your crew of merry do-gooders. Each character class has its own set of powers--for instance, Jedi can move items with the Force, droids can open locked doors, and clones can grapple up ledges--and you need to switch between them on the fly to solve puzzles and take down enemies. Whacking the environment to get studs is as addictive as ever, and there's a good mix between puzzle solving and combat to ensure you don't get bored. It's a fun, though somewhat predictable, jaunt, but a number of small problems continually interfere with your enjoyment.
Ride that horned beast!