If you've ever visited this fine establishment before, you'll be keenly aware of our opinion of the LEGO games. In short, they're the greatest things since sliced butter (or something like that) - a perfect mix of co-operative gameplay, puzzle solving, and slapstick humour that comes together with a killer license to make something even greater than the sum of its parts.
As you can probably tell from the name, LEGO Star Wars 3 is the third LEGO game to take place in the Star Wars series, which immediately presents something of a problem, seeing as the first two games have covered the old (good) and new (bad) trilogies already. Instead, the third game takes its inspiration from the incredibly popular kids TV series, the Clone Wars, and follows the story of the first two seasons. This decision's something of a mixed bag, as while it helps the game make an instant connection with fans of the TV series, it also serves to make it pretty difficult for the rest of us to understand what's going on, as the animated series simply doesn't have the same pop-culture presence as the films.
Not that the story's ever really the biggest feature in a LEGO game, anyway. Instead, the fun here is in getting to play with LEGO in its digital form, although not in the way you'd expect. Divided into thirteen levels of platforming goodness, LEGO Star Wars 3: The Clone Wars puts you into the, er, stud holders of a variety of plasticy Jedi and otherwise, as you leap through the levels, deflecting lasers with your plasticy lightsaber, breaking droids into small, plasticy pieces, and blowing up everything you see in your relentless pursuit of studs (the game's currency).
While you don't get to build with LEGO freely (which is still something of a disappointment - these games need more creativity), you can build objects during levels by approaching a pile of dancing bricks, and holding B to assemble them into something that's inevitably essential to your progression through the level - you just don't get to choose their form. Whether you're building a bridge to cross a chasm, or a bomb to blow your way through a wall, building things is essential to your progress - as it really should be for a game about the bricks. Far from simply running around smacking things up, LEGO Star Wars 3 is all about the little puzzles like this - but since this is a game aimed mostly at children, there's little here that'll test the grey matter.
Instead, the solutions for most puzzles are either easy to figure out on your own, or get telegraphed on the touch screen, thanks to the little blinking character icons that tell you who you need to switch to next. All of the characters in the game are divided into certain categories, each with their own special power which you'll need to make use of during the level - for example, Jedis have lightsabers and can use the force, astromech droids can hover across large gaps, while characters with blasters can use grappling hooks. In each level, you'll have a selection of these characters on your team, which can be switched between at any time using the touch screen. Approach a grappling hook, and your blaster character will start to flash; find an orange LEGO brick, and you'll be prompted to switch to a heavy trooper, with a repeater blaster cannon, that'll heat the brick up so much it explodes. It's finding the things you can interact with, or hunting down that last crate that you can blow up, to build a switch to open a door that keep you on your toes.
The master play here, however, is that you'll never be able to see everything in just one play through. As Elton John once said, "There's more to see, that can ever be seen, more to do, than can ever be done" - at least when you're playing in Story Mode. You see, in Story Mode, you're restricted to a much narrower selection of characters (usually around three of four), which obviously means there'll be some kinds of character you simply don't have. With each and every level packing hidden passages, walkways, and rooms that you simply don't have the required character to access on your first time through, the game's been designed to keep you coming back for more, as you hunt out every last secret. With 10 minikit pieces and a red brick hidden in each level, there's plenty to keep you coming back for a long while.
It's not all running around, blowing things up, and building them back again though, as several levels offer a drastic change of both pace and scenery, as you take to outer space in a dogfight with the droid armies. With controls that are simple enough for a LEGO game, yet deep enough to keep your interest, these sections work incredibly well, and offer a break from the platforming at exactly the right time. Within a few seconds, you'll be whizzing around like a pro, as you dodge missiles, attack enemy ships, and swoop round to be on the tail of a dastardly vulture droid.
But as good as the game may be, LEGO Star Wars 3 does still have its problems - and sadly, they're pretty big ones. Noticeable by its absence is the wireless co-op mode, which robs LEGO Star Wars 3 of one of its main attractions, and, in all honesty, the game really shouldn't have left the development studio without it. LEGO games have always been about playing together, whether it's with a friend, a boyfriend/girlfriend, or a child, and that's something LEGO Star Wars 3 greatly misses out on. A far bigger problem, however, is that the levels are simply far, far too long for a handheld game. Each level's divided into three parts (or acts, as the game calls them), but there's no way to save half way through a level, or even at the end of an act, meaning you'll need to set aside 30 to 45 minutes for each level - or, risk leaving your 3DS in sleep mode, which is something of a gamble thanks to the console's infamously poor battery life. It's something of a stupid oversight for a game that's been designed for a handheld, and something we hope to see rectified for the next game, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean.Despite it's shortcomings, though, there's still something magical about playing LEGO Star Wars 3, and that's not just because you're playing a game that's every bit as good (if not a little bit better) than the console versions on a handheld. Easily the strongest of the 3DS launch titles, LEGO Star Wars 3 is definitely worth getting.