Although they've never been committed to film, there are plenty of things that go on in the Star Wars universe beyond the events of Episode I through Episode VI. Characters who didn't make it into the movies have their stories told in novels, comics, and, increasingly, video games. For example, Ubisoft's upcoming Star Wars: Lethal Alliance for the Nintendo DS (a PlayStation Portable version is also in development) will give you an opportunity to play through an adventure in George Lucas' universe as Rianna Saren--a twi'lek mercenary who fights alongside a security droid named Zeeo. Rianna is an acquaintance of a Force-sensitive mercenary named Kyle Katarn, whom you might recognize from Star Wars: Dark Forces, the Jedi Knight series of games, and a handful of graphic novels that are set after he has become a powerful Jedi.
Contrary to any rumors you might have heard, Star Wars: Lethal Alliance does not feature cooperative play. There's a competitive multiplayer mode of some kind in the game, but to date we've spent all of the time checking out the single-player adventure. The game's story is outlined for you using the now iconic scrolling Star Wars opening text, and moments after it finishes, you'll find yourself being pursued by stormtroopers atop one of Coruscant's skyscrapers. What follows is a relatively brief tutorial mission, where you'll be guided through the game's uncomplicated but occasionally unwieldy control scheme while taking down several more Imperials and a crate or two.
When you're playing as Rianna, the stylus and touch screen are more or less redundant. You'll move using the directional pad and use the face buttons for melee and ranged attacks, evasive rolls, and interactions with environmental objects. Once you team up with the security droid Zeeo, you'll also use the face buttons to give him instructions. The shoulder buttons are used to rotate the camera and, when pressed simultaneously, to lock on to enemies. This is, however, rarely necessary, because any time you point your gun roughly in an enemy's direction, you'll lock on automatically. This autolock system sounds great on paper, but in practice, we've found that it occasionally made it more difficult for us to use gun turrets and such, because grabbing hold of them isn't possible until you cancel the lock-on feature.
At the end of the tutorial level, Rianna somewhat reluctantly agrees to team up with Zeeo, who can be instructed to attack enemies or protect you with his shield at the push of a button. At certain points in the adventure, you'll also assume direct control of Zeeo, who controls more like Samus in Metroid Prime: Hunters than your new partner. While moving Zeeo around with the directional pad, you'll use the stylus to look around and the left trigger to fire his small electrical weapon. Zeeo's diminutive size allows him to navigate through air ducts that are inaccessible to Rianna, but it also makes him weak against enemies. Zeeo's most useful skill is that he's able to slice (hack into) Imperial force fields via different minigames that are played using the touch screen.
The first level in which you'll get to use both characters together is set in and around a Black Sun warehouse on Coruscant, where Kyle has given Rianna the task of stealing an Imperial shipment. Although running and gunning account for a sizable chunk of the gameplay in the level, you'll also find that there are a lot of timing-based challenges, which involve avoiding mines, electrical barriers, and other unlikely-looking traps. We're not at liberty to talk about many of the other locales you'll visit as Rianna and Zeeo, but we can reveal that the fiery planet of Mustafar and the Death Star will be among them. We'll bring you more information on Star Wars: Lethal Alliance closer to its release next month.