IGN Review of Star Wars: Lethal Alliance
Between Episode III and Episode IV of George Lucas' franchise is a gap in time where the Rebellion against the Empire is starting to form. During this time, plans for the Death Star were stolen and planted in a droid. How'd the Rebellion get the plans? Star Wars: Lethal Alliance answers that question in this humdrum and sloppy, straightforward action title that follows criminal Rianna Saren and her droid partner as they work together to snag the plans for Princess Leia. It's a shame that such a cool story had to be told through such a poorly planned and implemented game design.
Early in the adventure you'll realize just how limited your main character Rianna is in her abilities. She can't jump, she can't climb, she can't do anything but weave around loosely in the 3D environments. The implemented limitations mean that the level designs are extremely straightforward: there's only one path to follow, and there's no possible way to deviate from that path because, even if she could, she doesn't have the capacity to climb or jump back up to a previously accessed area.
The ultimate in Lethal Alliance's limitations is its auto lock-on function. Simply put, if you wander into an area filled with enemies, the game will target the closest person and give your character pin-point accuracy in her shots. That's right, all the hardcore blasting action is pretty much done for you: run into a room and hammer down on the B button to blast away. The game will automatically switch to the next target once you've taken out the first one. There's absolutely no implemented or encouraged strategy in the game other than weaving left and right, whapping down on the B button when the "exciting" music starts playing. And when a canned Star Wars fanfare is heard, that's when you know you should stop weaving and blasting. That is, until you hear a Stormtrooper exclaim "Hold it," and the game targets him for you to blast and it's back to shooting and weaving. Lethal Alliance is basically just a shooter on autopilot, and that's not very fun at all.
Granted, the game gets a little more versatile in its action when you meet up with your partner in crime, a droid by the name Z-58-0, or Zeeo. He...er, it provides the "alliance" portion of the game's title, and when you've made it through the early part of the game you become an inseparable pair. Zeeo gives Rianna the abilities she lacks early in the game: using the droids magnetic clinging abilities, you'll be able to climb walls and access higher ledges, as well as earn extra attacks and defense capabilities. At the very least, the ability to be a more powerful sharpshot is here in the game thanks to Zeeo.
But then you quickly realize for as much as the designers try to encourage players to use the Twi'lek/Droid partnership, it's simply easier and more successful to simply run into a room and blast away since the programmers do such a great job taking any skill out of the design with its lock-on technology. Yes, you're rewarded with special points if you lock onto an enemy, send Zeeo off to stun that enemy, and then blast it dead...but that's ultimately a clumsy and unreliable move compared to the trusted element of blasting and weaving. So a lot of what's been put in this game goes unused due to absolutely poor design decisions. Heck, some levels throw in a much more powerful turret to control assuming players would take advantage of its firepower, but when it's simply easier to lock-on and fire with the standard, unlimited blaster, this turret goes entirely unused.
And even when the levels start requiring you to climb walls and ceilings to access different portions of the level, it's never done in a way to give the player any challenge in figuring out what needs to be done. If you find a blue spot on the ground, that's where you need to be to use Zeeo's clinging abilities. All the levels are laid out in straight forward fashion that's close to impossible to deviate from...and if you manage to stray from the path, the game simply kills you off and sends you back to the nearest save point that you triggered.
Zeeo does offer a first-person perspective element to Lethal Alliance. We'll hold back from saying it's a "first-person shooter," because Zeeo can't really do much but shoot panels off of walls to slide in through the tiny air ducts. You'll take part in these modes when Rianna's blocked by an energy forcefield. It's then that players grab their stylus and control their droid much like they did in Metroid Prime Hunters or Ubisoft's own King Kong. But again, when and where you need to use Zeeo in first-person mode is never made a mystery. In fact, the game simply tells you when it's time to take Zeeo out for a spin and when his task is complete. It comes as no surprise that the development team chose to use the Zeeo first person "shooter" elements for Lethal Alliance multicart multiplayer modes -- just don't expect Metroid Prime Hunters quality action here.
Zeeo also gives Lethal Alliance probably the only element that you'd consider challenging: puzzle games that require a little bit of thought, patience and attention to unlock doors. Some are simple and dumb, like rolling cubes onto symbols. Others are tougher than they sound, like memorizing a light sequence on a panel of nine LEDs. And then there's one that we just couldn't figure out to save our life, and the text that the game offers just doesn't explain what needs to be done. An hour of poking around finished the challenge, but we don't know what we did...and that's poor game design right there.
At the very least it can be said that, even though Lethal Alliance has been handled by the King Kong DS team, the game's not quite as bad as last year's beast of a bad game. This Star Wars game admittedly has a much more detailed graphics engine that shows the team is at least grasping the hardware's capabilities and limitations, even if the game struggles to be a "nice looking" title. The audio pulls from the huge Star Wars library, though the cartridge restrictions keep the game from having as full of a soundtrack as console Star Wars games have had in the past. Cutscenes are still the sloppy text dialogue applied to hand drawn artwork, with conversations hard to follow since it's tough to determine which character in the art is actually speaking.
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