The franchising daisy chain continues with The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes. Prepare for downgraded CG renders from the TV show partaking in a war of clones, droids, jumps, and falls. The Force is weak with this one.
The Clone Wars are heating up, and it's up to the Jedi, including Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, to put the screws to the Confederacy of Independent Systems. Bountiful dialog and occasional cutscenes show the Jedi and Clones going up against the Sith. The constant chatter will make you feel involved, even when the overarching plot seems shabby. There's a consistent feeling that something is about to go horribly wrong, which fuels the action, but for the most part, the game takes the cartoon's fodder and distills it down into levels. The action is occasionally punctuated with a boss fight and spot of conclusion, but it's fleeting. Before you know it, the next villain or act of sabotage enters the scene and starts the cycle anew.
The heroes of the Republic fall into two camps: the Jedi and the clones. Jedi levels involve hopping around and thwacking droids with lightsabers, and then occasionally droid-jacking them for some robot-on-robot action. Clone levels have you marching around and shooting droids with guns, and solving a simplistic locked door puzzle every now and then. Bosses are few and far between, and when they do manifest, you foil them by simply solving environmental puzzles or exploiting their weak points.
Levels are always played with a partner, either A.I. controlled and quite dumb, or with a buddy in the same room. There's no internet play. You can replay levels with unlocked characters, and also buy cheats and costumes, though characters tend to play the same, and the clones, shockingly, look pretty similar. Progress is made almost always at a screen-by-screen pace, and there are checkpoints for when you fall into a bottomless pit or manage to lose all your health. Sometimes when entering a new scene, the screens will swap with a patented Lucas film wipe, leaving you temporarily disoriented--much like in the newer films. The game tries to push some combo systems, as well as hidden Jedi artifacts to ferret out, but with little penalty for death or reward for creativity, it's mainly a march from point A to point B, slaughtering droids in the process.
Force pushing a small platoon of droids off a cliff is satisfying, as is chopping off their heads with a thrown lightsaber or droid-jacking them and making them dance via an unlockable. But since this is basically all you're doing, the satisfaction quickly expires. Enemies pose little threat, and droid smashing techniques require little thought or changeup. The platforming sections are much more annoying, with jumps that feel inconsistent, and, frankly, not very Jedi-like at all. Fixed camera angles and problematic depth depiction don't help, either. Gravity can also change, making the game's general floatiness feel even more pronounced, which, while appropriate for an outer space game, is a poor thing to add to the pot when the core controls are so feeble. What could be considered puzzles are solved by alternately pounding the Force button or just holding it down.
The clone commandos get a light cover system and occasional jetpack use, but most often, their sections play like a stunted-Geometry Wars with dual analog stick control minus the finesse. Actually, it's downright clumsy and often easier to stun droids with a grenade and then run up and bash them into scrap metal. There's no platforming when you're playing as a clone, and the locked door puzzles that stand in are asinine, simple, and not very much fun at all. It's much better to face and fight the droids, no matter how repetitive it gets, than solve remedial logic puzzles.
Both sections of the game consist of wave upon wave of repetition and blandness. Even the odd bits of variety, like a vehicle section or a new droid to fight, are at best met with stifled yawns. The platforming can be maddening even with the checkpoints. The list goes on. Playing a game should be fun. This one isn't.
Krome Studios has managed to preserve the look of the show, which is a good thing. The plastic Jedi look dominates, just with a much lower poly-count. The planets are colorful, in a primary color sort of way. Voice-acting fits the juvenile mood and the music is rife with Star Wars' themes and melodies.
These aren't the droids you're looking for. It's hard to recommend Republic Heroes, especially to the 10-and-older crowd. The Clone Wars is easily one of the least entertaining parts of the Star Wars mythology, Yoda's constant tongue-tied tutorials are more troublesome than a Dagobah skinny-dip, and the whole game feels like a pale imitation of the superior Lego series. The tiniest of caveats can be cut for the young Padawans infatuated with the show. The plentiful checkpoints, character options and couch co-op will appeal to the Jedis-in-training who have the gumption to force their way through it, but for everyone else, this game's midichlorian count is about on par with the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special.
Reviewed on Microsoft Xbox 360.