LucasArts' track record with console games is a fairly rough one, especially considering that the company treats PC gamers pretty well. For every good Rogue Squadron and Episode 1 Racer, there's been an inferior Phantom Menace and Masters of Teras Kasi, while excellent titles like Grim Fandango and X-Wing Alliance remain PC-only. And LucasArts' latest offering, Star Wars: Episode I Jedi Power Battles for the PlayStation, unfortunately does nothing to improve the company's "TV game" reputation.
In this game, you choose from one of five Episode I-era Jedi to run, jump, slash, and use the Force with through the game's ten levels. Each Jedi has his or her own Force powers and special items. For instance, Obi-Wan Kenobi has a forward dash-and-slash move and uses thermal detonators, while his teacher Qui-Gon Jinn produces a Force shock wave and tosses around pulse grenades. No matter which character you control though, you play through the film's plot as if you were Obi-Wan or Qui-Gon, from the scene where the trade council tries to poison them to the final battle with the notorious evil Jedi Darth Maul.
The gameplay is a refined version of that found in Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace. You use your lightsaber to carve up droids, deflect blaster shots, and jump to and from the occasional platform. In a tip of the hat to Legend of Zelda, you can lock your sights on the nearest enemy with a touch of the R1 shoulder button, although the system lacks Zelda's finesse. The fighting is clearly the best Power Battles feature. Once you get used to the control scheme and the many different functions, slicing up robots and dodging shots can be fairly entertaining. And the fact that the developers thought to include the option to play through the game with a friend is another bright spot.
But there are many points in Power Battles in which you'll die unnecessarily because of a bad camera angle, even when you're just simply walking around. Trying to pull off a platform jump is another matter entirely - one that in function is much more difficult and vexing than it's likely meant to be. Slashing your way through a few dozen enemy droids only to get killed because it's hard to tell how far away a catwalk is can be very frustrating. Beyond that, sometimes the perspective doesn't work well enough to reveal where you need to go next, hiding areas you have to leap to, by showing them to you straight on or full front so you can't see them. The levels are also quite long with few continues and no midstage save points (checkpoints only), meaning that you can be doing fine, then miss a jump and end up having a lot of backtracking to do. Though not as ill-conceived or as badly carried out as its Episode I adventure-game kin, Jedi Power Battles still has enough problems to warrant it a game to be avoided. To paraphrase the Weeping Gorilla from Alan Moore's Top Ten comic series, maybe we just expect too much from LucasArts.