Outer space is epic, and it's getting even more epic: according to scientific folk, it's constantly expanding. But because the universe is infinitely big – encompassing everything – this means it's not actually expanding in to anything. Confusing indeed.
Less confusing, however, is the constant expansion of George Lucas's Star Wars universe.
Unlike the big bang, this expansion – let's call it the greenback shift – is powered by the realisation that Lucas' bank account grows exponentially in relation to the rate at which new Star Wars products are released. And it's another one of these expansions that heralds the arrival of The Clone Wars animated TV series: a product that fills the 'narrative' gap between Star Wars Episodes II and III.
And, of course, no occurrence in the Star Wars universe would be complete without game tie-ins, which brings us to The Clone Wars: Jedi Alliance for the DS.
This being a game where Jedi alliances are central, you're able to pair up the good guys, giving you the opportunity to see the narrative unfold with your own choice of characters playing the central role. Classic characters such as Obi-Wan, Mace Windu and moody Anakin Skywalker – all reimagined in cutesy cartoon tones – can mix it up with unfamiliar newcomers like Kit Fisto and the spooky-looking Plo Koon. There's even the chance to play as R2-D2 and C-3PO, creeping around Ziro the Hutt's palace in a stealth segment of the game.
The Star Wars universe, being steeped in such a rich history, allows for such typically exciting yet totally complicated stories. But all we really need to know in this case is there's a galactic war going on and the Jedi are speeding around the universe trying not to let the bad guys win.
The action-focused gameplay itself is an accomplished mashup of various different styles, controlled solely with the stylus. For example, once you and your chosen Jedi sidekick have arrived at a space-station or planet, each level tends to start with a little exploration and puzzle-solving. You move in a point-and-click style by tapping your stylus on a point in the environment, which is displayed using the graphical polish you'd expect considering the game's choice of a fixed camera angle.
The puzzles in The Clone Wars: Jedi Alliance are utterly simple, occasionally feeling uncomfortably similar to chores, and tend to involve finding a way to push a button to open a door. Exploration is frequently punctuated with a droid battles and, if you're lucky, a lightsaber duel.
The battles and lightsaber duels are frenetic blurs of screen mashing (the stylus equivalent of button bashing), as you face off your enemies blocking their advances and delivering a flurry of slashes with your lightsaber. It's doesn't feel complex or clever – seeing as all you're doing is tapping on the enemies as fast as you can – but it is fun and just enough strategy and concentration is required to make each battle exciting.
Within each stage, narrative also unfolds within Jedi Action Sequences. These are action-packed animated cut-scenes that involve tracing your stylus along an onscreen pattern to survive until the next sequence. Although you're watching an ongoing cut-scene in this stages, the game regularly lets you in on the action, forcing you to keep your wits about you. Likewise, accessing control panels and opening doors is fun too as you're thrown in to puzzle-based against the clock mini-games.
And at the end of each stage, you'll enter an explosive boss fight, which tends to be a blend of the gameplay modes you've experienced before. It might be a traditional lightsaber duel or it might be something much more unexpected – on one level, facing off against a horrific-looking sea monster (face of a baby, body of a caterpillar), the game throws you in to an intense Jedi Action Sequence, as you try to dodge its aggressive aquatic attacks.
The high production quality of the graphics are also matched by the audio. There's a fantastic score, certainly worthy of any Star Wars game, to accompany your adventure; rousing you in to action when the going gets tough and turning up the symphonic malevolence whenever a subscriber to the darkside emerges. The voices are fantastic, too, with Obi-Wan's sounding impressively close to his live-action counterpart.
But you don't need to be skilled in use of the Force to sense this game is a bit shallow – the levels are linear and there aren't really any complex options to grapple with. Presumably this because of the young teenage target audience of The Clone Wars TV series, but nevertheless Jedi Alliance is definitely a fun little romp within another corner of George Lucas' galaxy. Just don't expect it to capture the full epic nature of the Star Wars universe.