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by LucasArts

2-01.jpg (5850 bytes)The force has saved a lot of things in the Star Wars galaxy. It is the force that makes a Jedi strong and graceful, a person that is not only skilled and dangerous but also powerful. It is the force that makes the Jedi more than just another vigilante road-warrior minus tattoos, leather, and Harley. The force--without it, Anakin would just be one more guy building androids in his mother’s basement at the age of thirty, not the royalty courting little center-of-evil we all know and adore. The force has saved many things in the Star Wars franchise, not the least of which is Star Wars: Obi Wan, in which the force’s implementation is one of the game’s few redeeming features.

5-01.jpg (6086 bytes)Though the originals that made it famous are years old, Star Wars still has enough kick to get most of us out of our seats for a movie, and consequently, for a game. As developers move to take advantage of this, releasing a slew of games all featuring some variation of the musical score from A New Hope, we can only guess that a few of the titles will actually be worth while. Unfortunately, Obi-Wan fails to grasp many of the philosophical and fundamental aspects of what made Star Wars great, at the same time mismatching a variety of poorly chosen control features. Without the strong story line and depth that the Star Wars universe promises, Obi-Wan doesn't pack enough punch, even with a force system that can make fighting sometimes feel like you’re a real Jedi.

6-01.jpg (6479 bytes)At its heart, Obi-Wan tries to be Star Wars. You assume the role of young Obi-Wan, still under the wing of your Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn, lightsaber happy and ready to save the universe. Throughout the game you undertake various missions leading to the events of Episode one, following up indications that someone is developing force resistant weapons in preparation for a war with the Jedi.

4-01.jpg (6553 bytes)One of the most disappointing aspects of Obi-Wan is its failure to live up to the beautiful imagery and feel of the rich Star Wars universe. The first few missions are set in the home city of the Jedi council, a world supposed to be buzzing with rich life, flying cars, and sky scrapers so tall their bases are obscured beneath a layer of pollution and mist. While Obi-Wan makes an attempt to recapture the graphical essence of the city, placing you high atop a building under construction on one of the first missions, it quickly becomes evident that all the attempts are no more than skin deep, something not characteristic of Star Wars at all. Instead of providing an added element of atmosphere as it should, one gets the feeling that the layers of fog and mist hovering over the streets are actually there to limit the visual range of the player while looking over the edge, thus limiting the amount of detail the developers had to include. There is little-to-no feeling that the city is alive around you, or even that you are in a universe that contains anything in it besides the bad guys you are there to execute with your lightsaber. The attempts to add life that do make appearances are limited, and simply don’t do enough. There are few flying cars (those that are present are far in the distance and only there if you look hard), little significant civilian interaction, and none of the elements that would have immersed the player in the Star Wars universe. When you fall off the edge of a building, which happens easily enough and frequently enough that it is almost unavoidable, Obi-Wan will land on an invisible body of compressed air (i.e. invisible barrier) after only a few stories, which instantly kills him. What should have been a limitless fall fading into the depths of the living city below actually becomes an uninspiring ten foot drop that leaves his body suspended miles above the ground. While unto itself this does not interfere with the game play, it is somewhat representative of the lack of effort that went into flushing out the inner details of the world that you paid good money to play in.

3-01.jpg (6740 bytes)The Star Wars universe aside, the basics of the game play are uninspiring, even with the a force system that makes combat at times feel like a real jedi battle, specifically when fighting one-on-one. A standard action/adventure fare, Obi-Wan is controlled through the third person perspective using a floating camera that graces so many similar games, and as such, comes inherit with flaws. You’ll often find yourself surrounded by enemies, unable to determine how many of them there are, or what angle they are attacking you from. You’ll fall to your death when attempting to walk narrow beams do to the mostly clumsy and over sensitive controls (You get four "lives" before you have to restart a level), and you’ll be frustrated a great deal of the time as you wade through enemies that feel more like obstacles than game challenges. The action of your lightsaber is controlled with the right analog stick, your movement with the left. The combat system is easy to learn and allows you to get quickly to the meat of the game - the fighting and the force, which are both intertwined. The ability to use the force while in combat is one of the game’s saving features, and unto itself was almost able to save Obi-Wan from a two star rating. You get to count up to nine different force moves amongst your arsenal, depending on how you look at it, some of which are more useful than others, but all good features to know how to utilize. Force Jump (higher than Michael Jordan), Force View (slows down time), and Force Push (always good to find a bad guy near an edge) are a few of them, all accessed by holding down the left trigger and pressing a corresponding button on the control pad. By far the most successful part of Star Wars: Obi-Wan, the force allows battles to range from suspended plank way to suspended plank way, with rolling dodges, and reflected blaster shots. Even this grows old and repetitive after a while, though, since the entire game is taken with wading through endless streams of bad guys, a long and unchanging routine through various locations that represents ninety percent of the game.

The long killing spree is interrupted occasionally by cut scenes that are about middle of the line in quality. The story is narrated using voice actors that attempt to sound like those in the movie, but for the most part fail miserably -- Obi-Wan’s voice especially. Most significant about the cut scenes is that they occasionally fail to activate when they are supposed to, leaving the player wandering around empty hallways in an attempt to find whatever line they are supposed to cross in order to continue. This happened to me twice, once with the person I was supposed to be following staring at me blankly. This is accompanied at times with a feeling of not knowing what one is supposed to do -- the world will wait for hours for you to find the right button to push.

Musically LucusArts has added a classic Star Wars touch while still managing to stay away from standard Star Wars soundtrack. The sound effects are classic Star Wars, but that is a pretty small part of a game generally lacking in a really good Star Wars atmosphere.

1-01.jpg (3232 bytes)In a move that boarders on shameful, the box labels Obi-Wan as 1-2 players when the multiplayer feature is one of the most limited I have ever played. It consists of you and another player in a room carrying light sabers, trying to hack one another to death. While new locations and characters open up for multiplayer use the farther into the single-player game you battle, it makes little difference, since almost all combat is close and scenery plays very little role in combat. To release the game labeled two player with this skinny and tacked on of a multiplayer system is both poor taste and poor game design. It leaves a bad flavor in the mouth.

I never had the chance to watch the drama of the original Star Wars trilogy unfold as a child. By the time I was old enough to know the difference between Star Wars and the Cosby show, Luke was old, Obi-Wan was dead, and Darth had long since ditched his helmet in favor of a more natural pale-white complexion. I knew the trilogy's secret grand finale before the text started flying through the screen the first time I watched Episode VI. I remember the thrill of the day I bought the original soundtrack as a "child’ on compact disc. When it boils down to it, I’ve always wanted to discover Star Wars for the first time, and so I will continue to buy into the games in an attempt to discover just a little more of the original magic. Unfortunately, Obi-Wan isn’t worth it. Aside from the fact that it is based in the Star Wars universe, which is worth something, Obi-Wan grows too old too quickly to be worth purchasing, even for a true fan. This isn’t the last Star Wars game to come along. Save your money for the next one.

Aaron Stanton   (02/21/2002)


Ups: Using the force; nice soundtrack; that force stuff is fun.

Downs: Camera trouble; boring levels; lame multiplayer; since when do Jedis go on rampaging killing sprees?

Platform: Xbox