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Star Wars Episode 1

LucasArts Star Wars Episode One Games

Let the Adventures Begin

By Jim Bray

Almost as soon as George Lucas' long awaited first prequel to the "Star Wars" trilogy (Guess we can't call it a trilogy any more!) appeared, his game-making arm had a pair of brand new titles ready to go.

"Star Wars Episode 1 The Phantom Menace" is an adventure game that loosely follows the movie's storyline. "Star Wars Episode 1 Racer" is an arcade-type zoomfest based on the movie's "Ben-Hur-compatible" pod racing sequence. Of the two, "Racer" is the superior game; the other suffers from an insufferable interface and puzzles that are so difficult (at least for TechnoFILE's gamers!) that you'll spend hours searching the Internet for cheats.

It's too bad, because the game has a lot of promise and is a lot of fun in places.

You play one of four characters, but instead of being a first person game (where the screen shows your character's point of view), you're forced to look down from on high. It's reminiscent of "Time Commando," except not executed as well. At times the camera drops closer, and you can move the camera behind you by accessing a cheat (hit the backspace and type "naughty naughty") but normally you can't see more than a few feet beyond the character, which can make you a sitting duck for anything outside the visible area of the screen.

During the game you'll travel to places like Naboo, Tatooine, and Coruscant, and the graphics are very well done for the most part. Sometimes you'll notice backgrounds popping through foregrounds, though - and that damn camera angle prevents you from seeing where you're going at times. For instance, in the undersea city of the Gungans (Jar Jar Binks' race) you have to travel down cylindrical corridors and into spherical compartments, but unless you activate the cheat the camera remains outside and you have to grope your way along - sometimes running into trouble and/or obstacles you can't even see.

I'm really surprised by this lack of playability from LucasArts, because until this game I've never come across a LucasArts title (though I haven't tried them all) that was anything less than superlative. Perhaps this is the exception to prove the rule...

The sound is great, and even though most of the characters' voices are done by "ringers," they've done a nice job. Music comes right from the movie, which is a welcome touch.

Game control is limited, but not bad. You can jump, "force jump" (a jump with a forward flip in it), "force push", fight, etc. I'd have loved to see more abilities (one that could make you fly would be very, very, very welcome) or more cheats, but such is not the case.

I was fortunate enough to find a terrific walkthrough and cheats page courtesy of Marilyn J. Caylor, at She not only gives you a welcome hand up, but she includes a selection of "saved games" that can help you move past areas that leave you tearing out your hair. She saved my life!

Star Wars Episode 1 The Phantom Menace has a lot to like - and is a great idea - but it falls short of the fun I've had with the other come LucasArts games I've played.

System Requirements:
Operating System: Windows 95 or 98, Computer: 100% Windows 95/98 DirectX compatible computer required
CPU: 200 MHz or faster CPU required
Memory: 32MB RAM required
Video: 4MB PCI or AGP Direct 3D Graphics Accelerator required
Sound: 16-bit sound card required
CD-ROM: Quad speed IDE or SCSI CD-ROM required
Input Device: 100% Windows 95/98-compatible keyboard required. Optional support for gamepads and joysticks.
DirectX: DirectX 6.1 is included on the CD and must be installed before playing

Star Wars Episode 1 RacerEpisode 1 Racer

This game reminds me of the old Playstation game "Wipeout", in which you pilot a hovering race craft around various exotic tracks - except that I enjoyed this new game more.

Racer makes you a competitor in the Star Wars universe's Podracer series, in which you compete on a variety of courses on a variety of planets. You'll roar over ice fields and through cityscapes, across deserts and around spice mining outposts. The sense of speed and motion is terrific - but watch out for obstacles and competitors!

The courses vary in length and complexity, and each has its particular flavor. There are some 20 different courses on 8 planets.

You can race as Anakin Skywalker (who will someday, of course, become "the best star pilot in the galaxy," according to the elderly Obi Wan Kenobi in Episode 4), as the foot fancy Sebulba, or you can be something else altogether. You can also choose from various models of pod, each of which has its own specifications.

Early races are easier to handle, which is helpful and which gives you a chance to come to grips with the game and its controls. One thing you'll want to remember is that you have an extra axis of control from car racing games. So you'll want to roll into those hairpin turns if you want to burn through them with maximum velocity.

You can upgrade your racer, if you have enough money, customizing it to the track or your "driving" style, and thereby become even more of a scourge of the raceways.

I played "Racer" with a gamepad (I can't imagine being coordinated enough to use the keyboard and/or mouse) and found the sensation of speed positively dizzying - and, exhilarating. There's also a nice "bobbing" effect that really makes it seem as if you're floating along above the ground.

If you're anything like me, you'll be grateful the pod can be repaired while zooming along (different models and/or model configurations have different rates of repair): I had the unfortunate experience of slamming into a distressing of obstacles and other pods. Needless to say, this slows you down considerably.

Graphics are terrific, and depending upon where you are (and if you can spare the time to tear your eyes from the race action) you'll be treated to background action that, while not necessarily relevant to the race, add detail and texture to the game's universe. The PC version of the game requires 3D acceleration - and it will reward you.

Sound quality is also very good, with music and sound effects culled right from the movie.

Episode One Racer is a terrific game, which makes me wonder once again what happened with Episode One The Phantom Menace.

System Requirements:
Operating System: Windows 95 or 98 CPU: 166 MHz or faster CPU required; 200 MHz or faster recommended.
Memory: 32MB RAM required; 64MB recommended.
Video: 4MB PCI or AGP Direct 3D Graphics Accelerator required.
Sound: 16-bit sound card or better. PCI 3D sound cards supported.
CD-ROM Drive: Quad speed or higher required.
Input Devices: Mouse or Keyboard required. Joystick recommended.
DirectX: DirectX 6.1 is included on the CD and must be installed before playing.


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January 31, 2006