Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.
A long time ago, at a trade show far, far away, LucasArts showed off their first
original action game for the Xbox. Known simply as Obi Wan, this third
person action title would follow the early adventures of young padawan learner
Obi Wan in his struggles against the Trade Federation and a mysterious new foe
called the Jin’ha. Since then, Obi Wan has grown in the ways of the Force,
but it’s pretty obvious he still has a thing or two to learn.
Obi Wan takes place before (and during) the events of Episode 1, when
our young jedi friend was still training under Qui-Gon Jinn. As the title character,
you’ll slash your way through 15+ levels including Coruscant, Naboo, and even
Tatooine. It’s pretty much a nonstop lightsaber-fest, with not much else in
the way to slow you down.
The hands-down coolest thing about Obi Wan is the Force powers. Remember
all of those cool little tricks that were in the movies? There are a bunch of
them you can do here.
Let’s say you’re walking down a dark alley in Coruscant when, all of a sudden,
a surly Rodian bounty hunter pops out brandishing a nasty looking Klatooine
handblaster. You could: (A) use the Force to rip the gun from his hands and
then cut him down with your lightsaber; (B) use the Force to smash him up against
the nearest wall then chop him up with your saber; (C) use the Force to somersault
over him, then cut him down again with your lightsaber; (D) use your lightsaber
to deflect one of his laser bolts back at him; (E) use the Force to hit him
with a nearby heavy object, making it unnecessary to dirty your lightsaber;
or (F) just skip all of the fancy stuff and hit him with the lightsaber. With
so many possible actions, being a jedi has never been more fun.
Just swinging around your lightsaber is pretty cool as well. Instead of relying
on the buttons, Obi Wan makes use of the right analog stick to control
young Kenobi’s strikes. Push ‘up’ and he’ll execute an overhand swing, while
pushing ‘right’ or ‘left’ will result in the appropriate side strike. Blocking
is made easy by simply pushing ‘down’ and double tapping the attack directions
will result in combos. That’s not even including the attacks that happen when
you kick in the Force!
But after basking in the warm glow of the Jedi’s abilities, things begin to
head toward the Dark Side. The actual control of Obi Wan himself is very loose.
Just running around can be troublesome, often causing you to get into an awkward
position in battle. If your lightsaber skill is up to par, it won’t kill you,
but it certainly doesn’t help in a few of the game’s platformer jumping bits.
The level design generally turns out to be just a cut above boring. For much
of the game, you’ll be running through Spartan environments with very little
in the way of interaction. Considering all the nifty Force powers you are bestowed
with, I would have liked to see some cool hidden areas or alternate pathways
that could only be found when you used the Force.
There are also a few times when your progress just stops and you don’t know
what to do next. It’s pretty frustrating to say the least. At least there are
some outdoor bits to keep the monotony of corridor battles at bay.
Delving deeper into the Dark Side, you’ll find the occasional framerate crunch.
It doesn’t happen too often, but it’s in there enough to notice. I must admit,
though, that on one occasion the slow-mo action made the lightsaber battle actually
look cooler – kind of like a crunchy lightsaber bullet
time. And no, I’m not talking about the smoothed out Force power slowdown.
Rounding out the the list of Force flubs is the graphics, specifically in
regard to the characters. I’ve never seen jedi look so blocky (well, except
maybe The Phantom Menace). It’s only mildly annoying during play, but
the cut-scene close ups might make you wince.
At least we still get that great Star Wars sound. I mean, what would a lightsaber
battle be without that classic snap hiss
of those trademark blades?
Surprisingly enough, Obi Wan also includes a two-player Jedi Battle
mode for you to enjoy with a friend. Progressing through the main mode will
earn new characters from the Jedi Council, but none of the really cool guys
like Yoda are available. Too bad it’s just you and another jedi whacking away
at each other. A nice addition, but it won’t make you that much stronger in
After Darth Maul has fallen and the galaxy is made a little safer, it’s easy
to see that being a jedi is pretty fun. Bashing bad guys with Force powers and
swinging that saber is plenty cool. But the evil control, level design and graphics
from the Dark Side can turn a good jedi like Obi Wan bad. A wise jedi