Star Wars: Lethal Alliance

Batman and Robin, Holmes and Watson, Bonnie and Clyde, Mario and Luigi, Donald and Mickey, Lady and Macbeth, Jeeves and Wooster, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: just some of the names that found notoriety, adulation, infamy or significance not for what they did apart but for what they did together.

Everybody loves the lone-ranging hero but, in storytelling as in life, those that travel in pairs tend to go the furthest and last the longest. And so it is with Star Wars, a series of films that found much of their success in the interplay and kinship of their paired ensemble cast: C3PO and R2D2, Luke and Leia, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon, Amidala and Anakin.

In this sense then, it's no surprise that the latest PSP title in the franchise, Star Wars: Lethal Alliance, chooses to pair two protagonists for its gameplay and narrative.

However it's unlikely anyone was expecting the intrepid duo – charged with stealing the plans for the Empire's Death Star, no less – would turn out to be none other than Rianna Saren and Zeeo the droid.

Rianna who? Well… quite.

As headline-grabbing couplings go, 'Rianna and Zeeo' hardly rolls off the tongue and into household parlance. But despite that, this Twi'Lek mercenary and humble security droid – both new to the Star Wars mythology – make for an unexpected and generally effective team.

The game's set between Episodes III and IV, which, to jog the memory of those who don't obsess over such things, means that the events it details happen shortly before the original 1977 Star Wars film opens, and shortly after the most recent title, Revenge of the Sith, ends.

Rianna isn't the Skywalker-alike Jedi as you might be expecting, but instead is probably best understood as a female Han Solo: a rogue mercenary lending her skills to the Rebellion cause and taking her ever-helpful droid (aka Z-58-0) along for the ride.

The result is an action shooting game at its heart, with what would be fairly standard play nicely livened up by the partnership between mercenary and droid, allowing for some interesting gameplay possibilities.

Most levels have you guiding Rianna as you duck and leap various platforms while shooting and mellee-ing up the Empire's every-ready, ever-dispensable forces.

The merc/ droid partnership affords you some diversity from the standard run-and-gun gameplay though, facilitating tag-team offensive combos (pushing 'Triangle' sends Zeeo forward to stun enemies, which Rhianna can then slice with her blade), defensive manoeuvres (Zeeo's shield deflects blaster beams back at enemies) as well as context-sensitive actions (such as sending the droid into narrow pipes or well-guarded computer data systems, or using him as a ledge to reach higher areas).

Rianna can also equip a wide variety of near- and far-ranged weapons, which are selected using the D-pad. When close to an enemy your weapon automatically switches to a melee-type, triggering a suitably dramatic and satisfying bullet-time effect. However when fighting enemies from afar the game becomes somewhat unwieldy, thanks to an awkward and poorly-balanced targeting system.

The auto-target mechanic employed enables you to cycle between available targets with the shoulder buttons, but during key encounters, when the level is stuffed with combatants, it can become a chore trying to pick out the enemy you want to go for – something not helped by the fact the same targeting system must be used mid-fight to guide Zeeo towards data ports and the like.

Likewise, the game constantly demands an accuracy and deft touch from the player that the PSP's clunky analogue stick fails to allow for. As a result you'll frequently find yourself falling to an ill-deserved death – especially in the later levels where the designers ramp up the required precision required for progression.

Elsewhere, the multiplayer mode (ad-hoc for just two players) has a standard deathmatch scenario, albeit one requiring players to grab money for upgrades. As this portion of the game focuses on the shooting aspect of the single-player mode, without the more interesting gameplay elements, it too falls a little flat.

Still, Star Wars: Lethal Alliance does look and sound fantastic – as well you'd expect from a modern LucasArts Star Wars title – taking in fan favourite's such as Tatooine, Mos Eisley and Mustafar.

Although arguably only a superficial plus point, such good looks undoubtedly do lift the package and, when combined with the varied gameplay, help to smooth out what could otherwise have been more considerable design creases in this latest double act.

Star Wars: Lethal Alliance

Not the best Star Wars game in the canon – weak mission design and targeting issues hold it back – but it's still a fun distraction for series aficionados and PSP action adventure fans alike
Simon Parkin
Simon Parkin
Simon Parkin is an author and journalist on video games. A core contributor to Eurogamer and Edge, he is also a critic and columnist on games for The Guardian. He is probably better at Street Fighter than you, but almost certainly worse at FIFA.