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Star Wars: The New Droid Army

Score: 50%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: THQ
Developer: THQ
Media: Cart/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

When I first saw Star Wars: The New Droid Army in the THQ product catalog at E3, I was excited. Judging from the screenshots, and blurb on the side of the advertisement, the first thing that came to my mind was Jedi Power Battles. Being a big Power Battles fan (on the Dreamcast anyway), I had the highest hopes that this game would at least be a spiritual successor to the game. Of course, I was snapped back into reality once I remembered the abysmal Power Battles for the GBA that was released late last year and the disappointing Attack of the Clones game THQ released this summer. But third time's a charm, right?

This is a really sharp looking game. The backgrounds are really good and work well with the game's style. I was especially pleased with how well animated each of the characters were. The number of lightsaber attacks Anakin is able to pull off adds much to the game's simplistic combat system. Just pressing one button to attack looks so much cooler when your on-screen character is doing back flips and spinning around enemies. During the story sequences, the game presents players with some really nice renders that do a lot to pull the story together without much effort.

The one thing Star Wars games always do well is sound, and New Droid Army does not fail to impress. In fact, the first day I had the game my friends started passing the GBA around just so they can here the crystal clear digitized version of the Star Wars theme. Of course, this makes the in-game music sound poor in comparison, but it should be expected when jumping from digitized to midi sounds. In the end, the background music is still good and each piece fits well with its companion level. The sound effects, which are ripped right out of the Star Wars universe, help to give the entire game an atmosphere rarely found in other GBA games.


Gameplay:

For those keeping track of the Star Wars timeline, New Droid Army takes place sometime between Episode II and Episode III. After that, the game gives little indication about when it's taking place.

When it comes to actual gameplay, New Droid Army takes a real nosedive. I should also warn you that this section will more than likely be very short when compared to my other diatribes because there is very little variety in the gameplay. When I first popped the game in, I was expecting the same action filled levels as Power Battles, with Anakin running around hacking droids to pieces. The only thing I got was Anakin cutting down enemies with his lightsaber since the 'speed' has been reduced to a rather bland Force ability. The basic concept is that you walk around interviewing different people while trying to discover the story behind the Confederacy's new battle droids and fighting the one or two like-minded enemies who you come in contact with. I say 'come in contact with' because the maps are way too big, so it's possible to walk through areas and only see one or two enemies. In fact, the maps are so big that there is a good chance that you'll wander some areas for half and hour and never come across what you're looking for. The in-game map remedies this situation, but getting to the map is a pain and has a nice little delay that kills what little action is left in the game. There isn't much to say about the Force powers because they do nothing to help the game along and have such a short life span in the game that they're not much of a help. There's very little in the game to make it interesting. The entire game is comprised of one giant 'fetch-quest' with a few bland Force powers and the pacing of a snail.

I really, really hate password systems. The one found in New Droid Army is easier than most since it only requires three characters as opposed to the sentences other games require, but its still a hassle. With everything else I have to memorize over the course of my day, remembering a password is one of the last things I want to do. I could write it down, but then I have to keep track of where I put the paper, that is, if paper is available to write it down on.


Difficulty:

As I've elaborated already, the game mostly revolves around Anakin traveling the universe to interview random people (the ones with green exclamation points over their heads) about Dooku's master plan. As strange as it may sound to some readers, it is possible to play through New Droid Army and only have to fight bosses. No, this isn't some great new breakthrough regarding stealth action and cool Jedi powers - its that the enemy AI is just that stupid. Every enemy in the game - even the new battle droids - can be outrun. To make things even easier, your hit points are constantly replenishing themselves, making you nearly indestructible, especially once you gain the 'Meditation' power. Of the three difficulty settings offered, most gamers should be able to jump right into the 'Master' setting and complete the game with little trouble.

Game Mechanics:

'He's as clumsy as he is stupid.'

I think that quote from Darth Vader is the best way to sum up the control scheme. Navigating with the D-pad is a pain to do. While this is mostly attributed to the GBA's tiny D-pad, movement feels very forced and slow. Anakin is very slow, even when using the speed ability - a trait that doesn't work with the game's large maps. This makes exploration that much harder and is sure to put people to sleep. The controls involve hitting the 'A' button or pressing the shoulder buttons to activate force powers. For some odd reason, you can turn off your lightsaber by pressing 'Select' but there's really no point to it other than to see the cool animation that accompanies turning it on.

New Droid Army is entertaining for the first few levels, but falls incredibly short of being an entertaining game. The dumb AI and lack of gameplay variety keep the game from being the game it could have been given that it takes place in the Star Wars universe. Even fans may grow tired of this one, so avoid it if you can.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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