Episode I: Phantom Menace

 

System Requirements
OS: Windows 95/98
CPU: 200Mhz
RAM: 32MB
VIDEO: 4MB with 3D acceleration
SOUND: 16 bit Direct X 6.1 compatible
Age: Teen

This 3rd person, 3-D action/adventure game has it all. Puzzles, frustration, fun, frustration, excitement, and frustration.

Story

The game starts off very similar to the movie. You (Obi-Wan) and Qui-Gon are getting ready to talk with the Trade Federation. The room starts filling up with gas and you escape, only to find yourself surrounded by battle droids. As you make your way through the droids, some Destroyer Droids come after you and it\'s time to find your escape. From there, the game plays somewhat differently than the movie. Most of the time, you get to play the lightsaber wielding Obi-Wan. There are shorter segments that let you play as Qui-Gon, Captain Panaka and Queen Amidala. Each character will require a slightly different strategy while playing. You will also get to visit the same locations seen in the movie as well as interact with many of the characters from the movie. And of course, you will get to battle with Darth Maul on a few occasions. As the Jedi, you not only get the lightsaber, but you also get the push force power just like in the movie.

Game Play

The game play ranges from total fun to total frustration. Running into a bunch of battle droids and using your lightsaber to deflect their fire or swiping them in half is quite fun. Failing at a jump for the hundredth time is not fun. Finding your way into the podrace is a blast. Failing to defeat a podrace level boss for the hundredth time is pure insanity. The game is filled with fun and enjoyable moments, but has enough tiresome jumping puzzles to knock the game play down. There are also some pretty tough lightsaber battles that become boring after the 20th attempt. On top of all this, when you die (which can happen quite frequently during the tough lightsaber sections) the game reloads all of the level data and you are stuck sitting for upwards of a minute waiting for the level to reload. (I should note that the long load time is on a PII 300 which was common around the time the game was released. I have tested this on a P4 1.8 and the load times were less than 5 seconds.) It is really annoying when you die in 10 seconds, only to have another minute of load time to wait through. The game does not work that well for a PC. It is much more of a console type of jump/puzzle game. Maybe it will seem better with a gamepad, but I don\'t have one. Your character does not have a smooth 360 degree turn radius. You are stuck with 8 directions. This can sometimes make walking up platforms difficult as you need to line yourself up precisely. Walking across platforms can sometimes mean you will be zig-zagging across because you can\'t line up just right. Hopefully you are still reading this review because the game definitely has some great moments. Often, you will interact with NPCs (non-playable characters). They may give you a side quest you can choose to fulfill, or they may just give you some extra information. You are given a set of choices to ask/say and the character will respond. There are many great battle sequences that are exciting and get your adrenaline pumping. And some of the puzzles you need to solve are pretty fun and sometimes a good challenge. There are also several secret locations you can try to find.

Graphics

The entire game is rendered in 3-D and generally, is pleasing to look at, even though a lot of it is rather straight-edged looking (1999-era graphics). The characters themselves are actually a bit cartoony looking, which sort of gives it a \'geared-for-kids\' type of look. The game does a good job of capturing the environment of each locale. You will travel through the Trade Federation ship, Naboo Swamps, Otoh Gunga, Theed Palace, Coruscant, and Tatooine/Mos Espa.

Sound

Who can complain about the music? It\'s the John Williams score. The voice acting is generally good. They even got Jake Lloyd to be Anakin, Andy Secombe to be Watto, and Ahmed Best to be Jar Jar. There is a good variety of voices, with around 100 different characters you can interact with.

Interface

The interface is mostly easy to use. From loading/saving games, to moving your character, to picking up items, it was all very straightforward. The lightsaber battles need some getting used to. You need to learn to dodge, strike, and jump well. Unfortunately, there is no way to just practice the moves. You learn as you play, and that leads you back to the frustration of dying quickly, leading into the long load times.

Christian Perspective

The game has a lot of shooting/lightsaber use, so there is quite a bit of killing. In most cases, they are battle droids. You can also use the force to push back the enemies. This may be a power of controversy for some. In a positive perspective, many times you will help people in trouble. There are other times where you work together with NPCs. I don\'t recall there being any bad language, but it has been several years since I played the game. If someone can help confirm this part, please send us an e-mail.

Stability

The game itself ran very stable on Win 98. I ran some quick tests on Windows XP, and have not yet had any problems. The only issue I came across (Win 98) was with the sound options. I had a very difficult time trying to get the 3-D sound option to work. In fact, it was more than difficult, I just never had any sound using the 3-D option. I had to play the game with regular stereo sound. This was rather annoying. Especially when I was able to run the Aureal 3D option in \'Jedi Knight: Dark Forces\' just fine, and that is an older game.

Conclusion

Even though there are some low points in the game, overall, the game was quite enjoyable. It\'s pretty fun wandering around the different locations and seeing areas that were not in the movie. In addition, there are some creatures and vehicles that did not make it into the movie. As a huge Star Wars fan, this adds some value to the game. In the end, if you don\'t mind a few sections of pure frustration and having long load times, you will find a nice adventure game set in the Star Wars universe. It may not be worth the full original $30, but you should be able to find it for $10 these days. If you are not a Star Wars fan, there are better adventure games to purchase. If you ARE a Star Wars fan, this game provides some nice enjoyment and lets you be part of the Star Wars universe.

Final Ratings

Graphics B Game play C Sound B+ Interface B Stability B Christian Perspective B

Overall 80% B-