Considering the panning received by the cinematic release of the kids' animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, we didn't hold out much hope for Jedi Alliance, the DS game based on the same. Our dedication in trying to play all available handhelds games at the Game Convention was rewarded however as the game is definitely shaping up to be one of the better portable Star Wars offerings.
Set in the gap between Episodes II and III, the story - which is all-new for the DS game - sees you taking control of two Jedi warriors to complete various missions during the Separatist Crisis. At the start of each mission, you can choose your Jedi pairing, with LucasArts saying different combos will enable different attacks and special abilities.
Being traditionalists however, in the opening tutorial mission, which sees you checking out an attack on a Federation ship, we went for Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. Other options include the likes of Yoda, Count Dooku, Ahsoka Tano and Mace Windu.
It doesn't take long to realise the key design decision with the game is that everything is controlled with your stylus. For example, you move the characters by tapping on the touchscreen where you want them to go. One Jedi acts as the lead and the other follows behind, with his or her actions being controlled by artificial intelligence.
This touchscreen system extends to proximity moves, so you can jump over obstacles by tapping on the purple jump icons located near those obstacles. Indeed, in general, you can interact with any lit objects to perform specific actions. For example, some doors can be opened by tapping on them and then playing a gesture-based mini-game to cut through using your lightsaber, but some doors and computers are just operated by tapping on the nearby lit panel. In the vein of the LEGO Star Wars games, you can also perform Force interactions on objects in the environment by holding down the shoulder button and tapping on the object.
Combat works in a similar fashion. Your lightsaber is automatically drawn when required and you tap on the enemy to swipe. You can also target high, mid and low positions on them with a second tap, while successfully pulling off attacks within a certain time period enables chains to be created. There's also a force meter that builds up throughout combat and when it's full you again hold down a shoulder button and tap the enemy to complete more powerful attacks.
Defence is handled automatically via lightsaber deflection. You have a defence meter, which slowly refills when you're not taking damage (like Halo). Neatly though, if you're being attacked with lasers, tapping on yourself exactly when the incoming fire hits means you'll reflect the bolts back towards the enemy.
Finally, certain events in the game get you to quickly trace various arcs and shapes displayed on the touchscreen with your stylus to get your character to perform complex moves, which are then shown in short cutscenes.
So, all-in-all, during our 30 minutes playing The Clone Wars: Jedi Alliance, we found it to be a varied and well-paced experience. Of course, it's aimed at a younger age group than games such as the Star Wars Battlefront series for PSP, and some might find the cartoony graphical style a little twee, but generally we have high hopes for it.
Star Wars The Clone Wars: Jedi Alliance is due for release towards the end of the year.