The Cincinnati Enquirer - May 20, 1999
The games of ‘Phantom Menace’
Two LucasArts fantasies take players
far, far beyond movie

Phantom Menace
Phantom Menace
PC available now.
PlayStation available fall 1999.
PC, Nintendo 64 available now.
Mac version available winter 1999.
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LOS ANGELES — The Star Wars drought has ended, not with a sprinkling of teaser trailers and comic books, but with a torrential downpour of toys, commercials and of course, the movie.

Star Wars Episode I: Phantom Menace opened Wednesday. But for fans, LucasArts has something to prolong the experience of a three-hour wait in line, followed by a two-hour movie.

Two new games from LucasArts, the gaming division of LucasFilms, arrive on the heels of the movie’s release. The first, Phantom Menace, recreates the movie in an action/adventure game, the second, Racer, is a fast-paced arcade racing extravaganza.

Both games received a lot of attention at the E3 electronic gaming convention Thursday through Saturday in Los Angeles.

LucasArts released the games to retail stores Wednesday when the movie opened.

The menace

If you’ve ever sat through a movie wishing you could control the action then Star Wars Episode I: Phantom Menace is for you. Phantom Menace recreates the entire movie from beginning to end in an interactive action/adventure.

The game allows you to control Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, Queen Amidala and Captain Panaka. The character at the forefront of a particular portion of the movie is the character you will control in the corresponding level of the game.

Each level revolves around a goal that is achieved through a combination of third person combat and puzzle solving. The gameplay is non-linear, meaning you can explore an entire level without worrying about time constraints. This allows you to spend hours interacting in areas that may have only five minutes of screen time in the movie. (A bonus experience: The game includes a few scenes that didn’t make the final cut of the film.)

Though the game follows the movie, it also takes it in different directions. A host of side quests allow you to explore, fight and interact in areas only mentioned in the movie. But while the side quests add to the game’s excitement, they don’t change the game’s conclusion, which matches that of the film.

Phantom Menace appears to be as close to a sure thing as you’ll get in the gaming industry. A controllable version of what may turn out to be the biggest movie of all time should be just enough to send Star Wars fans scurrying to the store as soon as the movie’s closing credits roll.

The racer

The second game, Star Wars Episode One: Racer, invades store shelves this week. Racer takes the film’s most intense 15 minutes, the pod race, and builds a complete video game around it.

In Racer you pilot the Star Wars version of an old chariot in high speed races through more than 20 tracks. Hovering a few feet above the ground, pod racers scream through these tracks at speeds of over 600 mph. As if navigating your pod at such high speeds were not enough, pilots also have to contend with methane lakes, meteor showers and pesky Tusken Raiders who make a sport of taking shots at passing racers.

Turning fifteen minutes of film into a full video game required a little artistic license on the part of LucasArts. Where the movie’s pod races occur solely on the planet Tatooine, the game’s courses cover eight unique worlds. In addition, you will have the opportunity to control over 20 characters, many of whom were not seen in the movie.

Racer also has a host of options including the ability to upgrade your pod by bartering, betting and visiting the local junkyard, unlocking hidden pods and tracks by beating certain opponents and competing with friends in some intense multiplayer racing.

The arcade racing genre may be the most crowded one out there, but with the hype, publicity and the power of the force, Racer should emerge as the racing game to have this summer.

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