This review originally appeared within iLounge’s iOS Gems series within the compilation article, iPhone Gems: Five Sci-Fi Games, From Space Monkey to Star Wars. Additional details may be found in the original article.
Like Spore Origins, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed Mobile ($10) from THQ Wireless is decidedly not the same game as you’d get by plunking down $50 on a Microsoft, Nintendo, or Sony console title; instead, it’s a heavily stripped-down version of an ambitious action game that instead gives you only a taste of what the full game offers. Overpriced for the experience it delivers, Force Unleashed is still an interesting release, and provides an interesting option for future developers to take when creating iPhone and iPod touch-ready game experiences.
You control an evil young apprentice to Darth Vader, tasked with carrying out assassinations of Jedi knights during the years following Episode 3 and preceding Episode 4.
Unlike the console game, there’s no need to make your character run, jump, or do anything except for repeatedly swing his lightsaber and use Force powers: the lightsaber is there mostly to block and reflect back gunfire, while the Force powers enable you to lift, push, and pull objects, electrocute people and things, and heal yourself either directly or through draining the life from enemies.
What’s compelling here isn’t the predictable appearance of familiar Star Wars characters, such as the random presence of Princess Leia, both her adopted and actual fathers, and a number of Wookies in various levels of the game. It’s the use of the touchscreen, which THQ Wireless actually manages to make interesting by giving you an evolving list of powers and various practical challenges to use them. In some stages, after dispatching dozens of human foes, you’ll knock down or grab AT-STs, TIE Fighters, or giant plants, occasionally using them as weapons.
Doing this requires memorization of certain force gestures, as well as following on-screen prompts to use one or another at a given time.
Though extremely limited by comparison with the console game, and consisting solely of flat backgrounds through which 3-D character models run—unfortunately most often in diminutive, hard-to-see form—Force Unleashed Mobile keeps its levels interesting enough to make you want to keep playing. It’s also surprising that the game can be played either in horizontal or vertical screen orientation; it properly adjusts the artwork to let you enjoy either type of view. While we feel compelled to note that we enjoyed the free demo version of the Lucasarts console title more than the paid iPhone game—a demonstration of the gulf between the ambitions of console and most mobile game developers—other iPhone OS game makers could still learn a lot from Force Unleashed about making gesture-based iPhone titles fun to play.