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Review: Star Wars The Force Unleashed

September 17, 2008
Overview The power of the force is only a squiggle away in this impressive, although limiting, pocket version of the latest Star War's gaming installment. The game’s innovative force controls are seemingly made for the iPhone and iPod Touch, but while it’s fun to play, Star Wars The Force Unleashed can feel very basic.


To use a range of force abilities that can slow time, create a force shield, drain life from opponents and much more, users trace patterns on the screen, stringing together combinations in quick succession to leave only scattered storm troopers and objects behind. So no, no wielding your phone around like a light saber, or tilting your way through maps. In fact, there are no controls for moving your character at all as he is confined to the progress of the game and the activity in each scene. Once you advance through a scene, your character will move to the next one, where you’ll again have to use a variety of force moves and defensive light saber swipes to proceed.

This brings us to the format of the game. There is a story mode, that takes you through a set of cut scenes and training modes along your campaign, and two other modes—chapter and survival—that are unlocked as you progress through the story. This means there is no getting around the atrocious dialogue that goes along with an uninspired storyline, but more on that later. There is an option to enable or disable the audio of the game—although not in favor of iPod music (you might want to turn it off regardless)—and although the game pauses when the screen is darkened or put to sleep, the app will relaunch after phone calls (game progress is automatically saved). Users can also choose to play in either portrait of landscape views, simply by rotating the device.


The force controls for the app are impressive and make it a fun game. They were definitely made with the iPhone and iPod Touch in mind. The rest of the game, however, was not. Star Wars The Force Unleashed doesn’t make use of the iPhone’s dynamic motion abilities, or its powerful sound and graphical features. There are multiple ways that character movement could have easily been incorporated, either through tilt motion or an on-screen directional pad, but neither of these was chosen and the result was a one-dimensional and limiting gaming feel. The graphics are decent by iPhone standards, but could be better, and the music sounds like it belongs on Super Nintendo. What happened to the exciting theme songs from Revenge of the Sith and The Phantom Menace? And all of this is before we get into the horrors of the game’s dialogue, which rivals the Lucasian failures of the most recent Star Wars films. These uneventful exchanges cannot be skipped outright (although they can be modestly sped up) and are tedious and downright useless. No one needs to see a jedi introducing himself to a pilot, or going through obvious storyline realizations, or identifying an “imperial walker” as an opponent.

Isn’t this supposed to be a pocket game? I mean, sure, some story is necessary and fine, maybe I just don't like what the developers have come up with here, but in the end, we just want to use jedi mind tricks and shoot force lightning at storm troopers, without the extensive moments of stodgy plot development. Still, despite its shortcomings, Star Wars The Force Unleashed was entertaining. The usable force controls were unique and novel enough to create a fun gaming experience on their own. Not only was I able to duke it out with sith warriors, I even had a “Dude! I just force-gripped a space ship!” moment, when I froze a TIE fighter in mid-flight (I looked up “TIE fighter,” I swear).

All in all, this game could have been amazing if it incorporated controls for movement, along with improved graphics and sounds, but even as it is, the force controls and gaming concept made it enjoyable.


The innovative force controls and the nature of the game’s concept make Star Wars The Force Unleashed a fun and unique choice, even with its limitations and annoying dialogue.

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