Star Wars: The Clone Wars — Jedi Alliance «

The recent “Clone Wars” animated movie certainly had its fair share of critics, but the TV series that sprang from it is pretty darn good. It’s certainly a heck of a lot better than the “Droids” and “Ewoks” cartoons that “Star Wars” fans had to settle for back in the ’80s. Of course, when there’s a new chapter added to the “Star Wars” saga, you can bet that there will be a videogame to tie into it. While the Wii’s “Clone Wars” title is a one-on-one fighter, this portable version is a more traditional action game.

In a move that’s bound to interest fans of the show, Jedi Alliance features an original story based within the series’ universe. The plot involves the Jedi tracking down a stolen shipment of lightsaber crystals and running afoul of a group of mysterious Force-sensitive witches known as Nightsisters (a group that have existed within the “Star Wars” expanded universe for some time). Playing through an original story is far more compelling than simply reliving the events of the Clone Wars movie or series.

Helping make the game feel more like the show are extensive voiceovers within the game. Each level has an introductory cinema that sets up the action (complete with the show’s newsreel-style announcer), and all the voice actors provide their characters’ voices. Given the amount of chatter that goes on within each stage and the fact that you enter each level with two of the six playable Jedi (where they proceed to talk in their own voices), there is a ton of dialogue crammed into that tiny DS cart.

The game itself is completely stylus-driven, and if you’re dreading a repeat of the touch screen-heavy and thoroughly lackluster DS version of The Force Unleashed, you can relax: Jedi Alliance is pretty good. Moving the stylus across the DS’s touch screen moves your heroes around. Double-tapping on glowing items allows you to interact with them, usually in the form of a switch or a platform to which you can jump. Occasionally you’ll have to use the Force by holding down one of the DS’s shoulder buttons and tapping the screen. The controls are simple and work quite well.

Quick Time, Easier, More Seductive

Like so many DS games, there are occasional pauses in the action while you’re forced to complete a touch screen-based mini-game in order to unlock a door or hack into a computer. These segments are usually pretty dull, but inoffensive. One clever game, however, has you choosing from a branching dialogue tree to have C-3PO talk himself out of danger. Significantly more annoying than these mini-games are the always-unwelcome “quick timer” events. Once again, the developers have opted to add “interactivity” to a cinema sequence by making you quickly move the stylus across the screen while you watch it. Screw up and you get to start the whole thing over, including having to watch the intro bits where the characters explain what they’re about to do. This gets irritating fast, but luckily these events don’t show up too often. When they do, they’re mercifully brief.

These Jedi are going to get bored running around empty levels, so there are plenty of Battle Droids and Sith baddies to fight. Here’s where the game’s usually solid controls become a little less solid. In order to initiate a fight, you must tap on the enemy, at which point your Jedi draws his or her lightsaber and enters combat mode. Now, causing damage is simply a matter of repeated tapping on your foe. You strike a different part of them depending on whether you tap them on their head, body, or feet.

Successfully taking out tougher enemies requires ample taps to break their defenses and then precise strikes to perform a combo. Unfortunately, the enemies are frequently very tiny on the screen, making precise tapping impossible. Usually the fights will devolve into you blindly tapping the screen until the enemies stop coming. It’s not the most engrossing combat system out there, but it doesn’t break the game.

Despite the somewhat bland fighting, Jedi Alliance will still satisfy fans looking for another “Clone Wars” fix. The 3D graphics may be blocky, but the clean design ensures that you’ll always know what’s going on. There are also plenty of bonuses to unlock ranging from concept art to character models to cheats. Maybe now LucasArts will get around to making that “Ewoks” game.

 

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