Star Wars: The Clone Wars

It's understandable why most Star Wars games place you in the role of the Jedi – it is the story of the Skywalkers, after all. But there are a lot of characters in the expansive saga that managed to get their own lunchbox with matching integral flask without ever calling upon the Force to do their bidding, so surely they're as entitled to have their own game as anyone.

Stormtroopers are almost as iconic as the Knights of the Old Republic, too, so it's a welcome change to see them lead the way in this latest Star Wars game based on the animated movie, The Clone Wars. Here, you're taking control of a regiment of clone soldiers in something of a cross-genre strategy game. It's actually very difficult to pigeonhole The Clone Wars, as the movements, missions and battles are not unlike a real time strategy, while the immediacy of the action and fast-paced fighting suggest more of an arcade/action label.

The genre's not really that important anyway – not once the assault through the galaxy far, far away has begun. Taking place between Episodes Two and Three (when George completely lost track of what was going on and felt the need to fill in the blanks afterwards, but whatever) the game has you working your way up through the Clone Army ranks on a series of missions to help the Jedi and the Republic combat the ever encroaching Droid Army of Count Dooku.

A squadron of clones are bundled together, and move as one character under your command. It seems developer Universomo has attempted to sustain the cartoony visuals of the animated Clone Wars film, but on the small screen that really doesn't come across particularly well.

Instead, the movement of the troops – on both sides – resembles something from the Three Stooges; shuffling along at each other's heels in badly-timed unison, and turning together on the spot like the cast from It Ain't 'alf Hot Mum. But I'm simply making light of the tacky animation that made me, a Star Wars fan of the highest pretension, chortle to myself, and it really doesn't reflect on the overall quality of the game.

Each level has its own objective, and while accomplishing the goals is achieved in a pretty similar fashion throughout, those objectives are suitably different to keep things interesting. This aspect is carried over onto the huge variety of maps, with wide-ranging terrains that offer plenty of choice as to how you reach your goal.

An assault through the front door, for instance, might see your team wiped out quite quickly, while following an alternative route and sneaking up on the enemies from the back can save enough men to hold a defensive position until reinforcements arrive.

Traversing these maps isn't especially slick, but fast and accurate movements aren't a necessity. A direction indicator surrounds your troops, rotated by the left and right controls. Pressing forward and backward then moves the clones in the direction of the arrow while training their guns the same way.

Your men then open fire automatically as you encounter regiments from the Droid Army, and as fiddly as it can be, navigating between rocks without constantly stopping to align your direction, the firing mechanic is quite forgiving and you're rarely left pointing the wrong way while robots laser you in the back. The clones will also take cover automatically behind their surroundings, where available, and it's these movement and defence aspects that lend the game its strategic feel.

Another nice touch is the choice you're granted when it comes to the next level. You're not obliged to progress in a linear manner, and deciding which mission to accept next can have an outcome on later levels. Taking out a Droid factory, for instance, means there are less enemies to fight when you attack their base later on – assuming you play the game in that order. All subtle, yet vital nuances that add a great deal of depth to the game where even the film was lacking.

It would seem Star Wars: The Clone Wars is one of those anomalous movie tie-ins that's actually better than its big screen counterpart. Plenty to do, and surprisingly 'Star Wars' considering the lack of Jedi and lightsabers – a welcome divergence from normal Lucasfilm merchandising and a unique enough game to hold its own even if it didn't have the saga's endorsement.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

A genre-hybrid that creates some exciting and action-packed battles between armies, while maintaining a subtle level of strategy just beneath the surface
Spanner Spencer
Spanner Spencer
Yes. Spanner's his real name, and he's already heard that joke you just thought of. Although Spanner's not very good, he's quite fast, and that seems to be enough to keep him in a regular supply of free games and away from the depressing world of real work.