Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
It's always particularly disappointing when a Star Wars game fails to meet the standards that you think it should. Sure, The Phantom Menace has some gorgeous graphics, awesome sound...and even a copy of the music video included on the disc (if a little grainy), but it suffers from numerous tiny niggles that ruin it. First, there's the sort of top-down view, something that makes you feel like you're wandering around looking at your feet all the time. You can never see very far in front of you, and there is nothing on screen to give you any sense of direction...something that's especially annoying in the less action-oriented 'adventure' sequences. Speaking of those sequences, the fact that key gameplay points are fixed to conversation set-pieces is irritating too. You know you have to find Anakin in Mos Espa, but if you haven't had the right chat with the right person, he doesn't appear. It makes sense, but the way the game guides you...it feels very clumsy. Throw in some overly sensitive controls that make the 'platform game' bits unnecessarily challenging and you have something akin to Jar-Jar on the annoy-o-meter. If you battle on, it follows the movie in a satisfactory manner, but it inconveniences you so often that you might give up halfway through. After all, you know what happens at the end.
As a big fan of the flick, I can overlook most of this game's flaws, except for one biggie--the poor control. Jumping from platform to platform is more than a chore; it's annoying, falling forces you to loop back through terrain you already covered. The game does look nice, and the voice acting is well done (the voices for Jar Jar and Watto were done by the same actors from the film). Deflecting lasers with your saber is the best thing about this game.
I agree with John that Episode One lacks that special something you expect from a game based on such an incredible universe, but it's stilt cool walking around and kicking ass as a Jedi. But let's step back a bit and pretend the thing isn't associated with Star Wars--that it's just some generic action/adventure game. As such, it's only average. It has decent game-play and incredible music and dialogue but not much else. Some levels are pretty tedious.
TPM wasn't as bad as I had expected (the PC version was panned awhile back), but that's not saying a whole lot. Doing an action/adventure based on the movie can be tricky. To make the game playable and lengthy, they had to tweak with the flow of events. This automatically backfires because nobody wants scenarios that aren't in the movie. Plus, you can't change views so the top-down camera position can be obstructive at all the wrong times.
Download Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
You've seen the movie, lived through the hype, and probably had just about enough of Star Wars this summer--but you haven't played the adventure game for the PlayStation based on Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. If you're a fan of Star Wars, it was well worth the wait. And if you're someone who can't find anything else of interest in the action/adventure genre on the PlayStation, you'll feel the Force. If you hate Star Wars, however, you may want to stop reading now.
It's Raining Menace
What the Phantom Menace adventure game does for true fans is re-create the movie experience, making it completely interactive. You play as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, Captain Panaka, and Queen Amidala as you race against time to save Theed, reach the Senate, and bring a new Jedi named Anakin on board. If you haven't seen the movie yet, don't play--all the film's plot points are revealed. Otherwise, you're in for a pretty solid action game involving lots of lightsaber slashing, item-to-item bartering, and good-old-fashioned blow-things-to-pieces fun.
As Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon, you'll swing the saber in a variety of ways and use the Force Push, which knocks enemies down and triggers switches that are just out of reach. As Panaka, you'll find a variety of weapons like blasters, thermal detonators, rocket launchers, and more to blast through the Federation's defenses, making quick work of enemy tanks, droids, and assorted henchmen. As the Queen (actually, Padm6, the disguised Queen), you'll fight through the last level of the game to reach the throne room and thwart the viceroy's amazingly wicked plans.
Mixed in with all the fast-paced action is a lot of talking. You have to barter with a variety of beings just to accomplish simple tasks, so the action slows down in areas. The excessive verbal fencing will cause some players (mainly non-StorWors fans) to put the controller down and head back to the theater for another fix, which is unfortunate. This isn't Jedi Knight, and that's ever so apparent when you have to trade a pair of binoculars to take a city tour on Coruscant in order to get to the Senate.
Guilty as Cin(ema)
Beginning on the Trade Federation ship, the game progresses much as the movie does. You escape, meet Jar Jar Binks, deal with the Gungans, rescue the Queen, travel to Tatooine, find Anakin Skywalker, batde Darth Maul in the desert, return to Coruscant, and end up back in Theed--where you eventually face Darth Maul in the final battle.
With brilliant explosions and fantastic lighting effects (especially in the lightsaber battles), the graphics, though not superior, do hold their own against games such as Metal Gear Solid and Syphon Filter. Each of Phantom's segments are also beautifully illustrated with cinematic cut-scenes that'll literally take your breath away. Despite plenty of jaggies and rough edges, the overall graphical feel is clean and simple.
Bringing Balance to the Force?
If your eyes aren't impressed, your ears will be as the game presents hours of voice enhancements and special effects. The former are particularly well done, featuring talent that closely matches the original movie actors (Jar Jar Binks and Anakin Skywalker are actually voiced by their movie counterparts; other actors are just really good mimics). Plus, Phantom Menace's music swells in anticipation of the action--the Duel of the Fates piece sounds especially heroic in the Maul scenes (see sidebar. "Duel of the Fates Video!").
So your eyes aren't impressed, and your ears are in heaven--now its time to figure out your fingers. To say the least, they'll be frustrated. The controls lean a little toward the Dark Side, especially with the tricky jumps and rapid response of the computer A.I. In areas where you escort a person to safety, that person will often linger in the background, which forces you to backtrack to look for them all over again. You may also find that the rotating camera makes it hard to pinpoint targets with a blaster or other weapons. But a skilled player will soon master these weaknesses (by feeling the Force flowing through them, of course).
Thv Force and Sith, er...The Fourth and Fifth
Phantom Menace leaves you exactly where the movie did. It has its moments of excitement and its spots of drudgery, and in the end you wished they'd put more Maul in the game. But you'll never once say you didn't enjoy it, and that's all that matters.
Not as visually impressive as Final Fantasy VIII, but a hell of a lot better than Tomb Raider III, Phantom Menace is more about the overall experience than the imagery.
Minus a half-point for Jar Jar Binks (who is annoying on his own merits) and for the few times when Qui-Gons voice sounds like a tired Sean Connery. Otherwise, the music, voice, and sound effects are awesome.
Fluid gameplay is offset by tricky jumps and hard-to-target enemies. You'll find yourself backing up and moving forward so much, you'd swear you were trying to parallel park a podracer. It's nothing a true Jedi can't master, though.
You have to be a fan of either the Star Wars movies or solid action/adventure games to like Phantom Menace. Fans will forgive minor graphical hiccups and plot variances faster than adventure gamers, but both will love this game.
It's Menace time! Recently, GamePro played Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace for the PlayStation, and even at 70 percent complete, it looked and felt solid. Not surprisingly, the story line in the LucasArts' game mirrors that of the Lucasfilm movie. Plus, the game will offer tons of action and adventure with a dose of role-playing. When Menace arrives in a few days, no StarWars fan will be able to live without it.
May the Fourth Be with You
By now, everyone should know that the fourth Star Wars movie debuts this month. The story in the game and the film acts as a prequel to the original Star Wars flicks, recounting the events in the life of nine-year-old Anakin Skywalker, the future father of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia; of course, after being seduced by the dark side of the Force, Anakin will become the infamous archetypal villain, Darth Vader.
You begin the game as Qui-Gon Jinn, a Jedi knight who's been charged with protecting Queen Padme Amidala--ruler of the peaceful planet Naboo--who's being attacked by the forces of the Federation (which will one day become the forces of the evil Empire). Your pal is fellow Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi, who is also training a new apprentice. Anakin Skywalker. As the game progresses, you'll assume the roles of the other three playable characters: Obi-Wan, Queen Amidala, and Captain Panaka, a member of the Queen's royal guard.
Phantom action takes place via a V-i-overhead view. Much in the style of Metal Gear Solid, Phantom contains plenty of obstacles and enables you to hang from walls, swim, run, and jump.
Each character can also discover and use different weapons. For instance. Captain Panaka uses a rocket launcher to blast tanks, while the Queen uses a droid stunner that causes droids within range to go berserk. The two Jedi are "restricted" to lightsabers, but have the opportunity to master the Force Push, which can trigger out-of-reach switches and send a wave of energy to knock down your enemies.
Conversation sequences move the story forward. For example, you'll have to trade for a generator on Tatooine, where you can interact with over 103 characters. The talking takes place via the LucasArts' SCUMM interface in classic, menu-driven Monkey's Island style, letting you choose from a variety of answera to any one question. Be sure to watch the smart-ass answers, though, young Jedi. Saying or doing the wrong thing may lead to dire consequences, like having a cantina full of aliens draw their weapons on you.
Phantom Menace spans 12 levels, which occur on planets such as Tatooine and Coruscant from the movie. Although LucasArts said its adhered as much as possible to the film, there are a few secrets lurking around the game, too.
The Reel Deal
In addition to its solid game play. Phantom Menace presents an impressive list of features. The music is sampled from the movie, and some of the film's stars do the voices: For example, Anakin and Jar Jar Binks--Qui-Gon Jinn's alien side-kick--are voiced by the actors playing them in the film (Jake Lloyd and Ahmed Best, respectively). Plus, LucasArts showed GamePro cut-scenes that were digitized straight from the movie.
All this technical craftsmanship looked great on the PC, but a programmer at LucasArts said that PlayStation visuals might suffer slightly, with graphic effects like water transparency taking a hit. In the preview version, however, the particle effects in explosions and laser blasts looked good, and the 30 frames-per-second gameplay moved fluidly.
Don't Give Away the Ending
Even in its early stages, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was awesome. A word of warning to fans, however: The game follows the movie exactly, complete with plot twists and the movies ending--so if you haven't seen Phantom Menace on the big screen, don't pop this CD into the PlayStation. All that remains now is for LucasArts' programmers to go full Force and finish Menace with flair.
Can you feel the fourth? The newest chapter in Star Wars history has a pretty decent, albeit high-maintenance, game to go with it. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is snazzy, action-packed, and follows the movie story line so that the cinematic experience is re-created--but like the film, it's also a little dull in the middle.
Menace II the Galaxy
Menace is a 3D platform action/adventure game. Think Metal Gear Solid without the stealth. You play as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, Captain Panaka. and Queen Amidala (as Padme), so there's plenty of variety. When you play as the Jedi, Menace really soars--it's lightsaber slashing and droid bashing at its very best. Playing as the two non-Jedi, the game turns into your basic run-n-gun action with lots of switches to trigger, droids to shoot, and people to converse with.
In the fully accelerated version, the graphics shine like the Naboo moon, but only those few blessed with maxed-out high-end PCs will fully appreciate all the lighting effects, reflective surfaces, and subtle transparencies. The other 90 percent of us will see an easily crashable. poorly constructed game flawed by slowdown and mediocre camera angles.
Of Mice and Menace
Phantom Menace's saving grace is its music and sound effects. The game contains excellent voice characterizations and fantastic sound effects (especially those subtle ones, like the sound Destroyer Droids make rolling down the halls, or the ambient effects in the Naboo swamps), but, again, delicate sound-card management is required.
The developers of Phantom Menace also made the controls fairly manageable: Simply assign some directional commands to your keyboard, and you're ready to swing the saber (you can also use your mouse), open doors, trigger switches, and fight off the Dark Side.
Leaps of Faith
Speaking of the Dark Side, the game has a few. Because much of the game requires patient leaping and jumping, frustration may tear away at your Jedi soul--by the time you meet Jar Jar and the Gungans, you're in no mood for their silly patois. Another problem is the large amount of bartering when you get to Tatooine: You have to constantly trade just to get off the damn sand planet. Consequently, as in the movie, you start to feel weighed down by a plot BEjV that feels thicker than Bantha crap. Two words would have fixed that: more Maul.
Force fo Reckon With
Yet Menace stands as a testament to fan loyalty. Those Star Warsians who must have everything from Phantom Menace ticket stubs to illustrated toilet paper will definitely need to feel this force. Others tired of the hype will feel nothing but the Farce with this game.
- Shields can take lots of damage and appear when a ton of trouble is headed your way. If shielded, get to your next objective and save your game.
- Forget the Destroyer Droids. Outrun them at all costs.
- Some switches can be triggered only by using the Force Push.
- Check carefully amongst the foliage in the Naboo swamps for hidden health power-ups.
- In Tatoolne, hanging from overhead cables can be hazardous. Scan the street for henchmen and blast them with a grenade or laser shot.
- Watch the Queen closely. If she gives you the option to scout ahead, do so; if she doesn't, keep her close, or she'll be killed.
If you've got the muscle, Menace has the means. A powered-up computer will definitely showcase the game's impressive graphics--without it, you have a standard action game with a cool lightsaber.
Great sound, awesome music, and really annoying Gungans. All that's missing is a deafening THX logo.
Minimal fuss rewards you with maximum achievement. But those frustrating leaps of faith between platforms will ride your patience like a Tusken Raider on a Bantha.
You've got to be a fan to enjoy this game, which re-creates the movie experience perfectly. Then again, if you can't stand Star Wars, why are you even reading this?
You’ve seen the movies, you’ve lived through the marketing, you’ve probably even bought some of the toys, but no Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace experience would be complete without living the adventure yourself. Join Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, Amidala, Anakin, Jar Jar, as well as many other characters to help free the planet of Naboo from the Trade Federation’s embargo.
This is an action adventure game based on the movie of the same title. The game itself follows the plot of the movie fairly closely. As the game progresses, you play different characters. Much like the movie, each character has his or her own strengths and weaknesses. You can also talk with certain characters you run across and depending on what you say, you may get some help in your quest.
Control in this game has a good feel to it and is responsive. There are a few options for changing the controls around, although none are user definable. The controls consist of basic walking/running, rolling left or right, changing weapons, using the force (if your character has this ability), jumping, and a general "use" function. The default control setting is handled in such a way that, depending on the situation, sometimes the analog controls are better and other times the digital work better. The one oddity to the control is the angle of the camera. It is a little higher than a standard "3/4-view" which in and of itself isn’t that bad, but makes it difficult to see what’s down the road. This does become a problem when you’re being fired upon by something that is out of your line of sight or if you want to view the landscape to see where to go next. Interestingly enough, I found myself craning my head a lot in a sad attempt to see what’s out in the distance.
Although the general gameplay and control don’t change much throughout the course of the game, the levels certainly do. There are a vast number of places you can explore in the various levels including some secret places that contain useful items. You’ll explore a Trade Federation ship, the swamp in Naboo, Otoh Gunga (The Gungan city), Theed Palace, Tatooine, and of course, Coruscant. Basically, if you’ve seen the movies, then you’ve more-or-less seen the levels. These levels closely follow the movie although you’ll spend more time on some levels than the movie ever did. Still, the more the merrier as it all adds to the challenge.
And speaking of challenge, this game certainly is one. There are no settings for difficulty so what you see is what you get. While this game isn’t incredibly difficult, it also isn’t that easy either. Just because you are a Jedi doesn’t mean that you’re invincible. There are often times when you have to really use your brains rather than your lightsaber to get through certain situations. There are also a good number of puzzles, such as rescuing Jar Jar in Otoh Gunga, which will put your mind to work. If you can’t seem to pass a particular point, try something else as many puzzles have multiple solutions. Fortunately, the game allows you to save your progress at any given time, which is VERY useful, as there are many opportunities to die. A good rule of thumb when playing Phantom Menace is to save early and save often. This game offers an excellent challenge that’s just right for the average to good game player.
The interface is easy enough to handle. When in the game, pausing allows you to look at your inventory and select items as well as save and load your game. As long as you can read, you should have no problems with the interface.
As an added bonus, the music video for Star Wars "Duel of the Fates" is accessible from the main menu.
The general look of this game is done well. The characters and various objects are all easily recognizable. There are a variety of neat special effects such as the glow of the lightsaber, large explosions, and lightning bolts shocking droids, amongst many others. The cut scenes at the beginning and between levels look incredible -- it’s basically like watching the movie all over again (although the scenes aren’t actual movie clips). The movement in the game is very fluid. Much like the movie, there are a wide variety of nicely rendered environments that the characters will traverse.
Superb. The sound effects in this game are wonderful and there are a lot of them. I was particularly impressed with the sounds of the lightsaber. The voices in this game are very similar to the actual actors. In some cases, such as Anakin and Jar Jar, the actual actors from the movie performed the voices for the game. The music in the game sounds just as good as the movie. In general, if you like the way the movie sounded, you'll like the way this game sounds.
This is an instruction book you will likely want to read. While figuring out the general controls is simple enough, there is a lot of information pertaining to items available, different weapons, different characters, and the various levels amongst other things. Since this is an adventure game, it won’t reveal everything, though.
This game is a must have for any action-adventure or Star Wars gaming fan. The game plays wonderfully and offers a nice challenge for a wide variety of skill levels, yet is not overly difficult. Phantom Menace will keep you occupied for quite a while with the amount of levels available and the time it takes to finish them. Really, the only (minor) gripe I have is that it would be nice to have the ability to change camera’s angle at times. Other than that, this game is loads of fun, which is why I give it a score of 88.
Ah, those words that, when heard, bring out the child in all of us...
"Come and listen to a story 'bout a man named Jed..." Uh, nope, that's not quite it.
"Here he comes, here comes Speed Racer..." Er, uh huh.
"I'm going down to South Park, gonna have myself a time..." Getting... closer...
"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away...."
Yes, finally... these are the words that many of us hold dear to our heart.
It echoes a simpler time when we could get ourselves lost in our own imaginations. Admit it, you used to picture yourself in the cockpit of a X-Wing Fighter going after the Death Star or maybe just laying some ground fire around Yoda's little hut. Back then, the best way to find yourself as a character within George Lucas' galaxy was to daydream of snow-speeders on Hoth as you held tightly on to your little 6-inch action figures.
With the recent release of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, kids today are lucky enough to have enough technology to get lost in the world of Star Wars... without having to wear Darth Vader Underoos. Who's lucky enough to bring this to us? George Lucas and his talented team at LucasArts.
LucasArts' latest foray into their enviable Star Wars license is Racer based on one of Phantom Menace's most memorable scenes, the Boonta Eve Classic Podrace on Tatooine. And believe-you-me, after watching the movie I HAD to have this game.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The premise is quite simple -- even simpler if you have already seen the movie. You have a podracer, you have a track, and you have to go around in a circle and hope to end up ahead of the pack.
What's a podracer? Well, for the 17 of you that are going to wait to rent the movie on video, it's a futuristic version of the dogsled. Imagine two huge 747-like engines tethered to your sled (pod), held together by a plasma-energy beam. Surprisingly, the design of these podracers "almost" makes sense. LucasArts also does a great job representing the physics that would be involved while playing the game.
What's a podrace? Sigh. Well, it's a race with... pods. You have these podracers and you race them against other podracers, um... just go see the movie, will ya?
You have over 21 podracers to choose from. All of these are distinct in their styling, handling and drivers. You get to race on multiple tracks strung across eight distinct planets, each with its own theme and style of racing. As you successfully finish each race, you will gain Trugats (money) that enable you to upgrade your podracer and prepare for the next race. Finish first and a new podracer is unveiled that you can use for future races.
This is where the "storyline" in Racer starts to get iffy. You never really get a sense of belonging to your pilot or podracer. Since you can choose from multiple pods and multiple pilots, it kind of lacks continuity. I would have liked to see the same pilot used and you be allowed to upgrade from there. If you decided to try a different "character" from the movie, you could have chosen that pilot at the start of the career.
How does it play? Simply put, if nothing else, Racer simulates speed better than any other game I have ever played. Any other racing games/simulations pale in comparison as far as the sense of acceleration. It's a hard thing to describe in words... but this game is fast.
As you may have read in my other reviews, I am a big fan of force-feedback. If implemented correctly, this can entrance me into a state where my joystick becomes an extension of my persona... my yin to its yang. Racer does this oh-so-well and has now become my 'reference'? title to which I compare all others. I cannot believe how good Racer translates the physics and handling of the podracers through a simple joystick. From G-forces and failing engines to running smack-dab into a canyon wall, it's all there in its lap-slapping, wrist-wreaking glory.
Sounds pretty good so far, eh? Wait until you finish a race, though...
What were they thinking?
The interface for preparing for a race, upgrading your podracer, and just about anything other than actually racing is confusing as all get out. At first, before reading the manual, I would just get mad and go on to the next race. After reading the manual, it started to make sense... that's when I couldn't figure out how to get where I was trying to go.
You see, in some menus you need to use the mouse; in others, the keyboard; in others only the game controller seems to work. I ended up juggling so many peripherals around to upgrade my pod that I wound up ctrl-alt-elbowing my way into a frenzy.
Coincidently, LucasArts posted a little blurb on their support site about this shortcoming. What's their answer? Allow me to quote: "For navigating through the interface we recommend using the keyboard and mouse; joysticks, gamepads and wheels are not fully supported for the Front End interface. You can interact with some items using the mouse and others with the keyboard. We recommend exploring the various menus thoroughly to find a method of getting around that suits you best."
What? I need to explore and see which controls work and which do not? Funny how when I get stuck, it's the joystick that gets me out of the jam -- something that isn't "fully supported."
I'll admit though, once you "explore" and "memorize" how to get through various screens, there is a lot to be done. The interface provides a lot of flexibility, but isn't fully realized compared to the quality of the race sequences.
So the game goes like this: Race, win, race, win, upgrade, race, lose, upgrade, re-race, win, and so on. The difficulty goes from absurdly easy to pretty challenging with little in between. You actually "desire" to get to the next track to see what LucasArts is going to throw at you.
Then it's over.
Although I am still struggling in the final stages of the Galactic Circuit, I have many friends who have since finished the game. What is there to do at this point? You either shelve it or play on the net, right?
You see, Racer supports Local Area Networks, but no Internet play to speak of. If you are lucky enough to have a LAN available, the game can be quite fun to play against friends or foes. Multiplayer mode supports up to eight podracers which would be quite a blast, I bet... (Reviewer's Note: The 'force'? was not with me during the reviewing of Racer. I could not for the life of me get my home network up and running. I am suspecting Bantha fodder, but I have used too many geeky Star Wars terms in this review already.)
Graphically, this game has very few equals. If you slow the podracer down, you may notice some minor graphical glitches... but who cares? Since this wasn't made to be perused at anything less than 600 mph, trust me when I say you won't notice. If you do notice, well, you must be one of those 3D rendering vs. FPS (Frames Per Second) geeks that really get on my nerves.
Each planet, each track, is exquisitely rendered with tons of eye-candy and if you spend too much time gawking -- well, trust me when I say that at 600 mph you need to be looking at the road ahead instead of the pretty countryside.
You can drive your podracer from one of four different views. This is where complete and utter Star Wars-Geek-Immersion comes in. Turn out your lights, crank up the rear speakers, and choose the 'driver's seat'? view. Wow. It left me speechless.
The only oddity for me was the garish low-resolution map overlay that appears on your Heads Up Display. Everything else in Racer's podracing sequences is so beautiful that this fluorescent green eyesore really stands out. Thankfully, LucasArts allows you to change this to a more suitable progress-bar view that is more helpful in the long run.
Oh, and get this: The game has the ever-so-popular "lens flare." All you FPS geeks can cheer and slap each other's palms with this "win." Me? I am just happy that Racer allows you to turn it off.
One thing that Racer does right is to immerse you in an audible world so convincing that you'd swear you are either in the theater all over again or actually racing down a canyon. It's hard to describe how sweet this game sounds when you have properly set up surround sound on your PC. From Doppler effects to the thump-thump-thump of Sebulba's engines... it's all there. My wife will sit and watch me play just because "it's like watching the movie."
It's not only a perfect example of how to use surround sound (a decidedly new technology for PC gaming) to enhance the gaming experience, but LucasArts does the right thing and makes it highly configurable.
Oh yeah, and John Williams. 'Nuff said about that.
Minimum: Pentium 166mhz, 32 MB RAM, and a 4MB PCI or AGP Direct 3D video card
I recommend: Pentium II, 64 MB RAM, a next generation 3D video card, and an audio card that supports at least four channel surround. And if you can still fit into those Underoos... go for it!
The documentation is quite good. In reality, the documentation becomes a lifesaver since a lot of the between-race interface can be quite infuriating without some additional guidance. There is even a good attempt to suck you into the storyline (like that would be hard). Each of the eight planets is given a back story along with a small blurb about each of the podracers you are allowed to drive.
I would have liked the manual to include a little more information on the various upgrades that you have available for your podracer. The interface limits most of the information to performance bar graphs without really understanding the impact of what you are adding.
I really, really wanted to score Racer much higher. In some parts of the game I would lose my sense of reality and become that young kid again who dreamed that one day Stormtroopers would invade a little town in Idaho and I would be the hero of the... er, never mind. Other aspects (like the between-race interface and clunky mouse/keyboard/joystick gymnastics one must go through) left me scratching my head that LucasArts released something that seemed so unpolished.
At first, the lack of Internet play really bugged me. How can a company release a title that screams 'net play'? without even considering the Internet? Then it made sense to me. We often spend a lot of time cursing at companies for doing Internet play badly (such as Unreal), so it's almost refreshing to see a company say, 'We can't do it... so we won't.'? Regardless of the technical reasons, though, a successful implementation of Internet play would have gone a long way in increasing the "it's still on my hard drive" life of this title.
What it boils down to is this... if you are a Star Wars fan (who isn't?) and you felt that youthful urging during the podrace scene in Phantom Menace, go get this. Be prepared, though, to be confused in almost every aspect of the game except for the actual racing. Since racing is where Racer shines, enjoy yourself and scream like a Wookiee as Sebulba knocks you onto the service-ramp... yet again.
But remember... in space, no one can hear you scream like a Wookiee.
The Trade Federation has planned an attack on the peaceful planet of Naboo. Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his Padawan apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi have been dispatched to the area to resolve the conflict before anyone gets hurt. Upon arriving on the Trade Federation ship, the Jedi sense that something is afoul. The Neimoidians have planned a trap for them and are proceeding with their plans of taking over the planet.
Meanwhile, on the planet's surface, the Queen and her faithful aide, Captain Panaka, are in a desperate battle of their own to try to escape from the planet and proceed to Coruscant to speak with the galactic government about their situation.
If I give you any more information, as to the storyline, it would spoil the game for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie yet. But I will tell you that you will meet up with a slave boy named Anakin Skywalker and that there is a new villain named Darth Maul. But of course, you already knew that.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The Phantom Menace is a new top-down shooter based on the movie. It requires a quick hand and a little bit of luck to get through the game. While I am the type of person who likes the first-person perspective, it was kind of nice to play a game from the top-down angle, although I would have liked to be able to change the camera view to make it easier to see things in front of me.
I had very little trouble setting the game up to play. After changing all my options for my joystick I was ready to begin mowing down some droids. Upon starting the game you are Obi-Wan and all you have to defend yourself is your trusty lightsaber. While this weapon is very good at close range it has something to be desired at a distance. But the programmers knew this would be a problem so they gave you the power to redirect the laser fire from your enemies back at them. Now that is where the game is really fun! There is nothing like standing in a crowded hallway just flailing your lightsaber around and seeing laser fire shoot in every direction. It takes a little bit of timing to "hit" the laser with your lightsaber but once you "master" it (get it? Jedi Master?), it can be a very helpful weapon enhancement.
One area that could be improved is the artificial intelligence for some of the characters. There is a level in the game where you have to escort the Queen to her ship. I wish I had a quarter for every time I had to go back and guide the Queen around a corner because she got stuck somewhere. And you have to be careful because if you get too far ahead of her, she will be killed and you will then, of course, die also.
The Phantom Menace is very pleasing to the eyes, as it should be when you consider that it requires a 3D accelerator card to play. The backgrounds and cutscenes were stunning. I was impressed by the perception of depth throughout the game. There is a level in the game where you (Obi-Wan) and Qui-Gon are fighting Darth Maul on these round platforms that are floating in this big tube-like structure. WOW!! I never really liked heights very much as it is, so when I had to jump from platform to platform it kind of made my stomach queasy.
Performance wise, the game never once bogged down on my system and there was plenty of action on the screen at all times.
My hat goes off to the folks who did the score for this game. Here is where the game truly shines. The music for The Phantom Menace sounded like it came straight from the movie itself. LucasArts game soundtracks always seem to impress me. The crackling of a lightsaber, screeching blaster fire, and mechanical droids all made the game more realistic and enjoyable. It brought me back to the glory days of the original trilogy.
Windows 95 or 98, Pentium 200 Mhz or faster, 32 MB RAM, 4 MB PCI or AGP Direct 3D graphics accelerator card, 16 bit sound card, 4X CD-ROM drive, DirectX 6.1
The book that is enclosed with the game is more than sufficient to get you up and running as fast as possible. It gives a brief storyline and the usual descriptions of some of the people you will encounter in the game. Of course, like everyone else, I had already seen the movie, so the guide was put to the side and buried under a pile of new action figures and empty Mountain Dew cans.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is just like the movie. Some people are going to love it and others are going to walk away from it with mixed reviews. I, personally, thought the game was enjoyable to play and was excited when I had a chance to write a review for it. As with any game that is based on a movie, there were inconsistencies in the storyline that a few Star Wars freaks might find irritating. I know I would have liked to have a chance to control Jar-Jar and take on a few thousand droids on Naboo, but they didn’t put that in the game. Maybe, if enough of us write suggestions to the "master" programmers at LucasArts, they will see the light (saber) and we can "force" them to make an add-on pack for it.