In the interests of full disclosure, here's what I knew about Star Wars: The Clone Wars before playing this game: it's a cartoon; it's set after the film where Christopher Lee fights Yoda, but before that scene where Anakin Skywalker goes bad and murders a room full of children; and there's a female Jedi who looks a bit like somebody out of Thundercats, so if you Google her name with SafeSearch off you get some very nasty results.
This is worth noting because I used to believe it was vital to understand their respective source materials to enjoy the LEGO series, but it turns out my complete ignorance of Clone Wars did little to hamper the enjoyment received from the game's many humorous cutscenes.
Yes, it's still peppered with that nice mix of slapstick and whimsy which has proved so effective in former games. While I might be about fifteen years above the target audience - since Woolworths went bust I don't know where you're supposed to even buy LEGO - I still found myself chuckling at plenty of the game's visual gags. I wasn't much into Attack of the Clones, for instance, but having an ice cream van peddle lollies during the Geonosian arena sequence (which functions as the game's introductory level) is more than amusing enough for it not to matter.
Gameplay is pretty much what you've come to expect from the series. You take an assortment of character classes - with Jedi, Clones, and Droids forming your main arsenal - and whisk them around a mix of rudimentary action sequences and simple puzzles. The game splits itself into three paths of six levels, pitting you against franchise villains Count Dooku, Asajj Ventress and General Grievous in concurrent plotlines.
Upgraded visuals make the levels bloom, with vastly improved lighting allowing galaxies to be lit up with streams of lasers going off like firework displays, mammoth numbers of enemy droids to pour through doors due to a significant bump in on-screen detail, and beefed up animations ensuring Obi-Wan Kenobi's creeping animation gets me every time. The game is still expectedly gargantuan, too: upon finishing the hefty campaign and epilogue level I was only at 45.6% completion, with a scant 34 of the game's 130 gold bricks, half of the 18 red bricks, and a measly 44 of the game's 114 characters. I also cleared the campaign without locating all the parts to any of the hidden minikits, so the less said about those the better. Curious children, or adult completionists, will find themselves invested for upwards of twenty hours.
Level design in LEGO Star Wars III also succeeds over its predecessors by allowing for a greater wealth of variety mid-mission. Large scale space battles can segue into typical smash-and-grab corridor walking, progressing into a boss battle and then back out into the galaxy. Compare this to the charming but basic design of the original LEGO Star Wars and it is clear to see just how much TT Games has developed the enduring formula over the last few years.
Jedi themselves have also been given more flair since their last LEGO outing, with greater options to twizzle their lightsabers around in the air and slam them into the ground after a jump. With slow speed and limited combat abilities, Droid usage is reserved for opening doors, whereas Clones can use their grappling hooks alongside blasters, chainguns, and missile launchers, and one type can also command others into attacking specified targets.