Let’s face facts here; Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace spawned an unfathomable amount of content to promote the movie. There were soda cans. There were fast food commercials. There were books. There were games. The list goes on and on and is seemingly endless. The unfortunate result of a mediocre film flooding the market with promotional content is that, more often than not, the promotional content is just as bad, if not worse than the movie itself. This is the case with The Phantom Menace: The Game that was released for the original Playstation and the PC. Players took control of various characters from the film and played through key moments of the storyline. Trying to imagine how a version of The Phantom Menace without the subpar performances and fart jokes could possibly be worse than the film is a little difficult, but it happened. Read on to find out how.
I’m going to get straight down to business here. The best part of the game is that it let me use a lightsaber. You might be saying “been there, done that,” but you have to remember that this game came out before jedi hack and slash games exploded onto the scene, so using a lightsaber and the force in a video game was pretty cool at the time. The combat was very simplistic; you could attack, use one force power, and defend against incoming attacks. That was the essence of the game during the Jedi missions, and while slashing up battledroids was pretty cool at first, the appeal didn’t last long.
The game followed the storyline of the film fairly well, and indeed, the lack of fart jokes helped make the enjoyment of the story a little bit easier. All of the key elements of the film are there, (with the exception of the podrace sequence). The game begins with the escape from the droid ship, moves on to the planet Naboo, Tatooine, Coruscant, and then back to Naboo for the final battle with Darth Maul. There were a few noteable changes made to the storyline to make certain portions of the game work, such as a lengthy mission in the under-levels of Coruscant, but these helped add variety and keep the game a little bit fresh, especially if you have already seen the movie a dozen times.
The music for the game is another aspect that stands out. Taken straight from the film soundtrack, John Williams’ score gives this game a credible Star Wars feel beyond that which is established by lasers, lightsabers, and Jedi. In addition to the music, the majority of the sound effects are lifted straight from the movies as well, and they all sound great. This is one area where the game shines. It’s just too bad that the rest of the game didn’t deliver on the same level.
While the game does have its good qualities, it ultimately fails to impress. The platformer/RPG style of play doesn’t do anything extraordinary to create a unique experience, and it doesn’t particularly handle either of these gameplay styles well. I lost many hours of my life trying to jump from one platform to the next in forced jumping sequences not because of their complexity, but because the physics of the game were frustratingly glitchy. Repeatedly dying because of flaws in the game make for an extremely disappointing experience.
The RPG elements are relatively fun; we get to interract with key characters from the films to accomplish our mission and there are some fairly clever choices in the dialogue tree, but this isn’t enough to make the experience engaging beyond a very basic level.
Overall, The Phantom Menace game is an extremely flawed experience that fails to effectively take advantage of the source material. If you are a die hard Star Wars fan, and a fan of the prequels in particular, you might find some degree of enjoyment from the game. Otherwise, if you didn’t play it in 1999, you didn’t miss much.