keskiviikko 4. toukokuuta 2011

REVIEW - Star Wars Trilogy: Apprentice of the Force (2004)

GENRE(S): Action / Platform
RELEASED: September 2004

With work on the third and final film in the Star Wars prequel trilogy underway, Lucasfilm once again capitalized on the success of the original and published a DVD box set that included yet again revised versions of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The first official DVD release of the Star Wars trilogy called for a video game - I guess. On the same September day the fabled box hit the shelves - and left them just as quickly, thanks to millions of enthusiastic fans around the globe - a less commercially successful Game Boy Advance title arrived, this time courtesy of Ubisoft. They did fine work on Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith some time later, how did they fare with their first Star Wars game? Well, the sales might not have been too impressive, but it is quite playable! However...

...Exciting is hardly the word I would choose

Luke Skywalker recounts his story of how he first turned from a farmhand on Tatooine into an ace pilot who destroyed the Imperial Death Star, then a high-ranking officer of the Rebel Alliance on Hoth, and finally, an outstanding Jedi Knight who helped his father Darth Vader to return from the Dark Side of the Force and fulfill his destiny as the Chosen One.

Could you help out even a little, sis?
This is the tenth Star Wars game directly based on the original trilogy, that I have played and reviewed during the last month. It has a certain "here we go again" vibe about it from the beginning, the order of progress is so similar to every game that came before it. After all, all of the games have been quite faithful to their licenses. However, some of the key scenes of the movies which are perfect video game material are left totally ignored (although they're maybe mentioned) in Apprentice of the Force, such as the group's escape from the Death Star; while Luke selling his landspeeder to the Jawas to be able to pay Han and Chewie for their services, an almost non-existent scene in the movie, is converted into a standard stage, in which you fight hordes of stormtroopers and navigate the surprisingly confusing Mos Eisley infrastructure to find a pack of Jawas interested in your vehicle. You play as Luke all the way - however, you will often have companions who have crappy A.I.. More about the details in a bit.

Graphical details - you want those? Well, you've come to the... wrong place! Just as the game itself is influenced by cinematic platformers such as Another World and the classic Prince of Persia - the engine is actually that of the Game Boy Advance version of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time - the graphics also follow the less artificially detailed, yet more physical and dynamic chain of command. So, the game is not really that much of a sight to look at in the big picture, and the backgrounds are extremely dull, but from a purely physical view, the game looks quite all right, and some larger cel-shaded sprites such as Jabba's Rancor pet look perhaps detached, but quite damn cool in themselves. As far as presentation goes... Luke has a funny way of carrying his lightsaber in the Episode V part - looks like it is somewhat ripped off from Prince of Persia, as well. I said "in the Episode V part"; Luke's clothes and style change in each "movie" - and once _during_ Episode V, which is quite neat. I don't have much to say about the music. Maybe I've played a bit too many Star Wars games lately, since I find it very repetitive. As a matter of fact, it is quite repetitive. It feels like there's just a randomized playlist of familiar tunes looping all the while. The sound effects are once again on the mark, not much of a surprise there.

I never understood this line, or that "you
will" part. Luke's his own man.
The game is indeed what we, who grew up with games like Another World, Prince of Persia, Flashback and last but definitely not least, Blackthorne, at least used to refer to as cinematic platformers - a very physical game which progresses screen by screen, based on well timed, and moreover well considered jumps, and sometimes very strategic combat. There is one flying stage, which is of course Luke's Death Star trench run, preceded by a dogfight in space somewhat reminiscent of Solar Jetman. The controls are basically quite decent, but there are all kinds of minor and major negative clicks to them, such as Luke's occasional refusal to climb a ledge after grabbing it. Usually you cannot see more than a hunch from Luke's non-existent nose, which results in a bit too many leaps into the unknown - very often, a bottomless pit. Luckily you have infinite lives at your disposal. The most major nuisance in the whole game is most definitely the length of the levels, especially its relation to how boring and repetitive they are.

In most stages, you just run forward and blast/slash all sorts of enemies to high hell while trying hard to find the correct route to your destination in these maze-like pits of death - Obi-Wan and Yoda's spiritual forms show up from time to time to curse you for going into the wrong direction, so don't worry. In some stages, you have a companion. On one occasion it's Leia who "helps you out" in combat, but most of the time it's R2-D2; you need him to "solve puzzles", in other words figure out a very simple way how to get your less agile partner in the right spot to reprogram high-security doors, so you can pass through them. If your companion is incapacited, you die and need to start the screen over. In the X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter stage, R2-D2's purpose changes and losing him does not equal defeat; he just won't be there to repair your shields. In other words, you're just doomed.

Regardless of the context, this is ALWAYS
The thing that drives Apprentice of the Force even deeper into the ground besides the common fact that its level design is ultra-boring, is that it really doesn't have anything that new and spectacular in it. Just think how many games based on the first three films have come and how some of them have conquered - how many times we have entered Mos Eisley and the Death Star, and did all sorts of things which never happened in the movies, but did happen in every game there ever was. It's a different platformer, but it's still a platformer! The only thing that's really different is that you actually train under Yoda's supervision, but even that segment's only here to usher in a new Force ability in a different way than usual. Nothing really new or at least very special in the ability department either, by the way: a double jump, a healing spell, a Force push, you know most of this drill. There are not many boss fights in the game, the numerous and occasionally completely irreverent boss fights in Super Star Wars are compensated for with inescapable battle screens filled with enemies and sometimes different hazards.

The cel-shaded Rancor looks really nice in
motion, so much better than the rest of the
whole game.
I didn't want to be on a constant negative about this game, but sometimes, it just happens, to me at least. I play a game, begin a review and once I'm almost done, I realize that even though the game was decent enough to try out and experience, I really can't come up with anything truly good to say about it. So, to put a cap on the negativity, the game is really easy. There is just one strategic boss fight that is truly challenging in the core sense of the word. Otherwise, the game is quite a breeze - which actually separates the game from every other Star Wars platformer... hmmm. You'd think there was a choice of difficulty level since the game is really generous with blaster upgrades, health items and Force energy, but there is none, it's just that simple and easy. It's indeed the promotional product to endorse the DVD box set that it was primarily meant to be, rather than a really worthy game. A sort of a "survival mode" is unlocked after you beat the game, nothing special there. It's just an endless stage in which you get points for each successful kill and won't have access to power-ups.

Star Wars: Apprentice of the Force started to bore the hell out of me in Mos Eisley, and since there are no landspeeder sequences, you can imagine how soon you make it to Mos Eisley. Cloud City took the cake, I simply couldn't stand the game anymore - sure, it's playable, but it's so God damn plain and boring! I clashed through the rest of it like a zombie, and the whole thing left a really lame aftertaste. Star Wars fans will surely enjoy the game to some extent, but I'm also sure they'll get a better run for their money playing some other games that have these very same themes.

SOUND : 7.0


GameRankings: 65.42%

Ei kommentteja:

Lähetä kommentti