We’ll admit that the Clone Wars franchise hasn’t quite lived up to our sky-high expectations (damn you Cartoon Network and Genndy Tartakovsky for your incredible animated shorts, you’ve ruined it for us all). However, that doesn’t mean this adventure, which finds the character guiding a squad of jedi and two very familiar droids through an all new storyline, isn’t worth a playthrough.
Star Wars The Clone Wars: Jedi Alliance – apparently random italics are the new colon – devotes itself entirely to the touch screen. You can play the whole game without pressing a button. You drag the stylus around the screen to show your character where to go, and your CPU-controlled partner (you always control a team of two characters) will follow. If you want to smack an enemy or suspicious looking crate with your lightsaber, you tap it with the stylus. If there’s a button that needs pushed or a lever to pull, you double-tap it. You can only jump at certain times, but guess how you do that? If your answer had “button” in it, stop reading now and go slam your head in the oven door a few times. You’ve earned it.
This touch-only approach works fairly well, and would be even better if it weren’t for the camera. These graphics aren’t half bad and the designers know it, so they constantly place the camera so that gives a panoramic view the action. That would be fine on a 40-inch plasma screen, but here it often makes it tough to tap where you want to.
You’ll constantly find yourself standing in place looking at a group of battle droids you’d really rather leap across the screen and attack. Why? Because the glorified can openers are less than a quarter-inch tall, only a few pixels wide, and are often moving. Thus, you’re instead hitting the area around them - which means “jog over here if I hold the stylus in place but do nothing if it’s just a tap” - instead of tapping the actual enemy, which would mean “force jump here and chop these metal bastards into kitchenware”. Even outside of battle, many of the activation areas for various actions are smaller than the nub of the stylus. That can be a real buzzkill.
This difficulty also saps the fighting system of some badly needed depth. You can force-throw debris to stun an enemy, lock sabers, do team-up attacks, and deflect blaster fire with your saber. Plus, each jedi has different four-tap combos (low, low, high, high for example). But the imprecise controls make using these talents too difficult. Even when they work, you’re still mostly just hammering the screen with the stylus like a madman.
Combat aside, there’s quite a bit stuffed in here. Some hit-and-miss interactive cut scenes find you tracing arrows onscreen when prompted. Mini-games enable you to rewire control panels by matching shapes, cut doors open with your sabers by tracing shapes, and hack your way into security systems with timed taps.
There are six jedi (Obi-Wan, Anakin, Ahsoka, Plo Koon, Kit Fisto and Mace Windu), and you can take any two you like each mission. C-3PO and R2-D2 also make a playable appearance, with R2 handling the hacking and threepio offering a few fun dialog trees. The story is also new and not half bad, revolving around the theft of a shipment of lightsaber crystals and a shadowy cabal of force-using goth mommas called the Nightsisters. This definitely won’t make you forget about the climactic moments of the original Clone Wars animated series, but it could help ease the sting of realizing most feared gangsters in the galaxy have be redesigned as offensively “comical” giant slugs.
Nov 24, 2008