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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron (6.6/10)

Being a Star Wars nerd of some repute, I'm always keen on finding and trying new Star Wars games/books/comics/media to get my fix. Once I had my 3DS, my first search was for a Star Wars title I could take with me. I know I'm overly critical when it comes to Star Wars, so I tried to do a little research before trying anything. I settled on Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron. While the plot is clever (if a bit absurd), the simplistic gameplay and repetitive levels didn't endear me to this one either... so sadly my search for a decent Star Wars game must go on.

The plot is, at the same time, the greatest strength and biggest weakness of the game. The narrative follows a pair of "special" clones known only as X-1 and X-2. But when the infamous Order 66 comes through, the clones find themselves on opposite sides of the same war. I thought it was reasonably clever how X-2 was written into the overarching narrative, from the Clone Wars through the Battle of Endor... but what I really love is how the third act takes you into the expanded universe of the novels. My problem with all this is that according to those novels (at least from what I've read) the premise is flawed. Just like in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2, can you clone a Jedi? Of course not, otherwise why would you clone anyone but Jedi!?

Despite the faulty logic of the premise, I thought the plot was interesting if completely out of sync with the canon. I mean, come on, are we really expected to believe this guy fought in the Clone Wars and the Battle of Yavin? I found myself shaking my head at the absurdity of some of what you are expected to infer. Some of the excuses for using characters in the middle of an already established plot line are flimsy at best, leading to some true eye-rolling moments of exasperation. 

Elite Squadron is fun to play... at first. Sadly, it won't be long before you figure out that despite giving you some options, the gameplay is really a one-trick pony. It quickly becomes repetitive and boring. The top screen is where all the action is, while the screen below serves as a radar/mini-map. All the guns have auto-fire so you can just hold the button and strafe around. It's not terribly challenging, and picking a class where you can toss grenades as well makes you pretty much unstoppable.

There are four basic classes to try: heavy, assault, spy, or engineer. I liked the dual pistol wielding "spy" because he also has MIRV-ing grenades which were great for clearing out rooms. I used this class the most. The "assault" class is your standard Stormtrooper load out: assault rifle and grenades. The "heavy" guy is good too, sporting a big mini-gun and rocket launcher. Lastly, the "engineer" can fix automatic turrets to fight with you rather than against you. I can see how playing around with class augments could give you some variety, but it's usually not necessary. To be honest, I never found that there were too many instances where one class was needed over the others, and if there were, then there was always a handy place to switch in case you had previously chosen the wrong one.

When you do finally get your lightsaber, the combat is as unsatisfying as wielding blasters. This is a shame considering it took such a long time to build up to that point. Nothing much changes apart from the visuals. The strategy of holding down the attack button as you move between foes doesn't change much. What's worse is the lightsaber never feels as powerful as it should either, adding insult to injury.

You aren't always battling the forces of evil alone, but sadly the ally AI is pretty useless... but then so is the enemy AI. Enemies come barging in and seem content to soak up your laser blasts. With the aforementioned auto-fire ensuring you lay down a steady stream of death, it's all down to mowing down one guy before moving on to the next.

Top-down combat aside, there are multiple sections that take advantage of the slew of famous vehicles in the Star Wars universe. The speeder sections are on-rails, but you don't actually do much with them beyond holding down the fire button and making slight adjustments. It's not even remotely challenging, and I never really felt like I was actually in control.

Flying in space fares a bit better... but not much. There are two types of fighter sections: some are akin to racing down trenches a la the first Death Star run (which is used multiple times in multiple circumstances but ultimately isn't that different from the speeder sections). However, there are some open area piloting sections that give you more freedom of movement. Sadly, they don't feel the need to give you too much. The problem is that you can only turn on one axis. In other words you can't fly up or down just left and right, much like battling on the ground. It's all about getting your angles right and shooting anything that isn't you, but ultimately not being able to fly on the "Z"-axis is just plain wrong.

If you can look past the absurd plot holes that are sure to irk die-hard fans and the overly simplified combat, then you might enjoy this simple, short DS title. By now regular readers know how hardcore I am about my Star Wars, but overall, I wasn't terribly impressed with Elite Squadron. If you're dying to take Star Wars around with you then this might scratch your itch, but otherwise this one should probably be lumped in with the prequels, and left well alone.


Score = 6.6 / 10

Monday, July 9, 2012

LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (8.4/10)

To read the official full length review follow the link here: LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes.
I love LEGO games and I'm not afraid to admit it! Under the cutesy veneer, simple gameplay meets surprisingly deep level design with clever puzzles and tons of collectibles to find and unlock. The developers, Traveller's Tales, have consistently offered similar (yet enjoyable) experiences based on whichever movie franchise you happen to be playing. I have to admit, I've felt like they had beaten a dead horse after playing the last couple of offerings. So, to their credit, they made some substantial changes to LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes that really worked.

While LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes suffers from a few questionable design decisions, none of the them ultimately detract from what is an excellent adventure. The fact that the characters are no longer silent gave a lot of fans a moment of pause, but I really think it worked for the better... although I'm curious to see how it will work if they stick with movie properties (like the upcoming LEGO Lord of the Rings). But taken as the sum of it's parts, fans of the LEGO series should rejoice! As I said initially, I haven't had this much fun with one of these games since LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. This one is definitely worth checking out!

If you want to read more of my specific thoughts about the game, follow the link to read the full length review at Game Over Online!


Score = 8.4 / 10