Star Wars: Puzzle Blaster Hands-On
We give this Star Wars-themed version of Snood the hands-on treatment.
THQ Wireless is deadly serious about getting its Star Wars content to every possible segment of the mobile market, and Star Wars: Puzzle Blaster proves it. This reskinned version of Snood could entertain even the most timorous soccer mom with its time-honored action-puzzler mechanics. That doesn't mean that THQ Wireless and developer MENT are mailing this one in, though--after all, LucasArts isn't exactly the most forgiving licensee when it comes to its Star Wars properties. Hence, Puzzle Blaster is receiving the red carpet treatment all the way around the board. The two companies are even going so far as to implement an extremely rare real-time multiplayer mode. It remains to be seen whether all of this effort is really necessary for what is essentially a rebranded evergreen game, but we can't argue with the globe-girdling popularity of Snood--and we certainly like what we've seen so far.
In Star Wars: Puzzle Blaster, all of your favorite Star Wars personalities have been decapitated, turned into icons, and stuck to the top of a play board in different patterns. Your job is to shoot these cameos out of a movable cannon at the bottom of the screen to create groups of like icons, eliminating them before they crush you. There are 11 different characters in all, including the cuddly droids C3PO and R2D2, the somewhat less cuddly Darth Maul and Boba Fett, and even Chewie. There are also four special characters whose icons have added powers for both good and evil: Darth Vader tears through a column of snoods like a shotgun blast, while Yoda is indestructible and must be circumvented entirely.
Although single-player Puzzle Blaster has a few different modes to run through, the real draw here is real-time multiplayer--a feature that has hardly ever worked well, in our experience. We played using two LG VX6000 handsets (archaic technology, by present-day standards) over a standard cell phone network. There was a noticeable amount of latency, but the networking component of the game seemed to work surprisingly smoothly overall. Our handset fared less well, though: the LG VX6000 could barely handle the game itself, and the aiming mechanism was almost unbearably sluggish. Hopefully this speed issue will be resolved with some more optimization time.
Judging from what we've played, Star Wars: Puzzle Blaster will be a solid Snood remake with potentially groundbreaking multiplayer functionality. There's still some work to be done in the realm of speeding the game up and implementing a multiplayer interface, but we're excited to see THQ Wireless take a risk with the technology. Expect Star Wars: Puzzle Blaster to hit Cingular in April or May of this year.
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