Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a massively successful CGI show on Cartoon Network. Can its tie-in game live up to the hype?
I'm still confused about how to think of Republic Heroes. On the one hand, it's a tie-in game for a show that turned out to be way cooler than a I thought — so it follows I should have high expectations of it. On the other, it is a tie-in game — and I've been burned by plenty of those before.
What Is It? Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes is an adventure game for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 2, PSP and whatever else they can figure out how to program for. It's a tie-in game for the Cartoon Network series that takes place between the first and second seasons of the show. Players either take the role of Jedi or of Clone soldiers to get through the story.
What We Saw I played through a mission on Jum-9 as Jedi and through a mission on Behpor as Clone soldiers in co-op mode with another games journalist on the Wii version. I'm told it's an older build with some known issues.
How Far Along Is It? The game is out October 6.
What Needs Improvement? Not Pretty Where It Counts: The backgrounds and character models look pretty good, but because the camera is pulled so far back, it's hard to appreciate either. In extreme cases of camera pull-back, the characters start to look like stick figures and all of the spaceship innards are reduced to a dull grey plane dotted with blue pick-up orbs.
Where Am I…? When playing as Clone soldiers, it can be hard to keep track of your clone depending on which one you choose to play as for a mission. Some of them have clear colour differentiation—like blue shoulder pads—but they're all wearing helmets, so it's easy to confuse your clone with another clone and then wind up walking over a ledge.
2D Jumping Puzzles On A 3D Plane: The jumping in Clone Wars seems a bit fiddly on the Wii compared to the 360 demo build — but this might be one of those "known issues" I was told about. All I know for sure is that I was supposed to jump to the right for a pipe when my targeting reticule showed up. I saw it and pressed the jump button and right on the analogue stick (if you don't press a direction, you wind up jumping in place) and instead of jumping right, my character climbed out into the 3D plane of the pipe and then jumped straight out into empty air somewhere to the right of where my reticule was fixed.
What Should Stay The Same? Droid-Jacking: Rather than just murdering your way through a slew of different droids, Republic Heroes asks players during the Jedi levels to hijack droids and solve puzzles with them. The droid-jacking mechanic itself is simple – just jump on top of them with a double jump and press B to ram your lightsaber into them to steer — but it adds a layer of depth to gameplay that's greatly appreciated.
Swooshing Lightsabers: The famous lightsaber effects play from the Wiimote speaker whenever you opt to use motions controls to swing the lightsaber. Using the Wiimote to swing the lightsaber turns into a bit of a waggle fest, sure, but it's still neat to have the sounds there. Also, you can opt not to use motion controls at all and just mash the B trigger to pull off ‘saber combos.
Split Gameplay: Switching back and forth between the Jedi and the Clones is pretty fun. Playing as Jedi is like being in a brawler where you're mashing B or swinging your arm around to pull of close-quarters combos and jump on top of droids. Playing as Clones is like playing a shooter where the Wiimote becomes your targeting reticule and B becomes the blaster trigger. Both gameplay approaches suit the Star Wars universe and it's fun to switch between the two.
Final Thoughts As far as tie-in games go, I know Republic Heroes could be a lot worse. But, based on what I enjoyed in the cartoon screening, I think it could somehow be a lot better, too. I just wouldn't know how exactly to make that happen without ruining the ESRB rating. Maybe they'll get that figured out in time for season three's tie-in game.