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Reviewed: Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
Publisher: Lucasarts
Developer: Lucasarts
Genre Type: 3D Platform Shooter/RPG
Price: $49.95
Required System:
Reviewer's System: PII233, 96MB Ram, 8GB HD, Riva 128ZX video card (8MB PCI), Win98
Related Games: Star Wars Episode 1: Racer and SWEP1: The Gungan Frontier
Overall Rating:
Author:Michael Ahlf      Date: July 21st 1999
Page: 2
The game's engine is rather unique.  Playing through the game, players will switch characters frequently (in fact, almost constantly in the last level). There are a maximum of six different weapons per character, five collectable and one default. Also hurting the game is a distressing lack of Jedi force powers: even Qui-Gon, the great Jedi Master, only uses a flipping jump, saber shot blocking,  and Force Push, while in any game he ought to have a great number of powers at his disposal.  The camera angle is non-adjustable, a real problem since enemies will often be shooting at the character far in advance of the player's seeing them onscreen. This became a particular problem again in the last level, when an item necessary to continue is hidden not by a secret door or anything, but by placing it above the normal camera height, viewable only by a jump in the exact right place.

Level design, for the most part, was pretty straightforward: the basic idea in most parts was to run, killing enemies, and to take the hardest path (though a secondary path was almost always around if you looked hard enough). One problem came in the form of strict block usage in level design: the Naboo Swamp had a TON of block corners, something that just doesn't seem right for a swamp.  Other places, where corners like that would be expected, were fine.  The removal of roofs to view characters in rooms was great, too -- though again, the ability to see at least the character's field of vision would have helped to keep enemies from hiding in some rooms quite as effectively.

The ability to roleplay in the game is quite nice.  Certain characters can be talked to (usually, all you have to do is walk up to them). When talking to characters, you will be able to pursue sub-quests like rescuing lost children (this will get you good weapons or needed equipment), and on occasion use the force to persuade someone to leave you alone. In the part of the game with Qui-Gon (Mos Espa on Tattoine), randomly killing people will have everyone in the game hunting you, and eventually killing you (note, however, that with care and decent lightsaber timing one can actually DECIMATE Mos Espa's populace, requiring a manual restart of the level and a short reminder not to be a Sith).  The puzzles in this part of the game with roleplaying were fairly complex, involving multiple parts trades to activate Anakin's podracer, but any other "puzzles" were simple -- block dragging and lever flipping at best, with nothing truly complicated.

The weaponry in the game was fairly simple: the basic weapon for the Jedi was the Lightsaber (naturally), with other characters carrying their own blasters (note: Padme's Droid Stunner is NOT a great weapon). The blaster rifles and repeater rifles worked well, taking down droids quickly.  For overkill, two types of grenades (flash grenades and thermal detonators) and a missile contraption were available, mostly useful for taking down the rolling assault droids.  The enemy AI was also pretty bad... most enemies just ran for the character and shot, giving little thought to dodging. 

When it came to controls... the game seemed most like a console game.  The keyboard controls were edgy, and my joystick was WAY too fidgety, since the deadzone was set up for gamepads and not analog control. Most of the jumps took multiple tries, just because they were touchy and the controls were imprecise: half a degree rotation, not doable with the keyboard, meant missing or making a grab. Equally frustrating was the Jedi flip jumps: they were touchy as well, going off about half the time I tried to make them.  The strategy of "save early, save often" in any level requiring jumping over pits wasn't just good advice -- it was almost a necessity.

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Engine -generated cutscenes look pretty good.

The lightsaber can block most enemy shots.

Welcome to the Marsh of Naboo: the water looks nice.

Please, guys -- square corners in a swamp?

Welcome to the raceway: Anakin wants his parts back, so you get to go rescue them.

Conversations are fun, especially when you win the argument. :)

Added:  Wednesday, July 21, 1999
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/4

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