Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is one of the most eagerly anticipated Star Wars titles of this decade. The game has been released on all major and minor platforms, right from mobile phones, to handhelds like the PSP and NDS, to old and new home consoles like the PS2, X360, PS3 and Wii. This review deals with the iPhone version, which is a surprisingly good version of the game.
The game is available for US$ 9.99 from the iTunes Applications Store (this is also available in India). The purchase and installation process is as painless and streamlined as buying music or videos from the iTunes Store and I had the game installed an running on my iPhone within 20 minutes of buying it (the download took a bit of time considering the comparatively abysmal internet speeds in India).
The story in the iPhone version of the game is a heavily abridged version of the one that plays out in the console versions, so its more or less incomplete and you won’t derive much understanding, satisfaction or closure from it. The protagonist is a secret apprentice of Darth Vader, who is trained in the dark side of the Force and is now being used by Darth Vader to carry out surreptitious missions for him without the knowledge of the Emperor. The game’s storyline will take you to various planets in the Star Wars universe in your quest as the Jedi assassin for Darth Vader. The game play is similar to a “rail shooter” in that you cant actually control the movement of your character. Instead, you need to use the variety of Force powers at your disposal to dispose off enemies in order to progress through the levels. Each planet will throw up a linear path peppered with enemies and monsters and culminates in a boss fight.
The game has been designed specifically for the iPhone and it shows. You can seamlessly toggle between landscape and portrait modes by tilting the iPhone and the game swiftly adjusts itself without any break in the gameplay. It is fully playable in either screen mode. Multi-touch is also present in full force here. You can exit the game in any situation and it will resume exactly at that point the next time you boot it up, which makes it a perfect mobile game.
You unleash your Force powers by drawing preset designs on the screen of the iPhone with your finger. You can switch between powers by tapping or dragging on the screen in particular directions. Offensive Force powers have different implementation mechanisms than defensive Force powers. In most cases, the game makes it pretty clear as to which offensive Force power is ideal for a particular situation by showing the Force power drawing patterns over the heads of the enemies. But in some cases, you need to figure out which one to use, which lends a slight puzzle element to the gameplay. One point to note is that you cannot directly control the light sabre, only the Force powers, which is kind of a bummer.
All the usual Force powers are available in the game, but you will need to progress through the levels to unlock them all. Force Grip, Lightning, Pull, Push, Slow, Shield, Health regeneration, are the powers available to you. You also have quick time events thrown in, where you have to quickly draw lines across the screen in the indicated directions to block and return enemy fire using your light sabre. This particular mechanic is a vital part of some of the larger scale battles in the game and is quiet exciting. The boss battles at the end of each level are fun since there are unique combinations of offensive and defensive Force power combos that need to executed to beat them, but the patterns for each boss are repetitive, so it shouldn’t be a problem once you have figured it out. The game is fairly short and can be easily completed in a few hours.
The graphics are some of the best seen on the iPhone and consist of a mix of beautifully pre-rendered static backgrounds and moving polygonal elements, in a style reminiscent of Final Fantasy 7, 8 and 9. The animation is darn good for a mobile phone game, heck, even Darth Vader’s cloak is fully animated and moves realistically. The sounds and music are fitting for a Star Wars game and lend a lot of atmosphere to the gameplay experience. Headphones are highly recommended.
All in all, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed for the iPhone is an excellent title for the platform and a fitting showpiece for the evolution of mobile phones as a viable gaming medium. While the price may seem a bit high given the relatively short length of the game, the excellent graphics and sound and the terrific boss battles make the game worth its price. The final boss battle is truly epic and also includes the most talked about scene from the SW:TFU trailers and videos, and in this case, you actually have to pull it off yourself !!!
IndianVideoGamer Verdict: 8/10 (Buy)