Review by DReed

Reviewed: 06/27/00 | Updated: 05/09/02

Episode One Racer is a Bom-Bad game

Star Wars Episode One Pod Racer is a game that has many flaws and few bright spots. I believe a score of 3 is merited, and that this game has worked hard to achieve the level of low mediocrity it holds. The designers should be proud for doing the Episode One license an injustice; not many people can boast of degrading further a movie starring Jar-Jar Binks. This is a product that I am sure these designers will list in boldface caps on their resumes.

In Pod Racing, the player takes on the persona of one of several characters from the pod racing sequence in the Episode One movie, including Anakin Skywalker, who has the best overall vehicle at the beginning of the game. There are four modes of game play: 1) Tournament mode, where the player races on circuits, accruing credits (or trugets as the game calls them) which can then be spent improving the pod racing vehicle; 2) Free Play mode, where the player is free to race on the courses against however many computer controlled racers he wants, and for as many laps as he desires; 3) Time Attack mode, which allows the player to race on the various courses free of opponents in order to learn the course; and 4) Two Player mode, which is simply two opponents racing against each other on a split screen.

The main part of the game is in tournament mode, which by winning races in the Amateur, Semi-Pro, Galactic, and Invitational tournaments, different courses and pod racers are unlocked for the player to race on and with. The player has the choice before any race in tournament mode to switch pod racers, and each has different strengths and weaknesses. The racers unlocked as the game progresses are better than the original racers, therefore making many of the original racers superfluous. There is no penalty for switching racers at will, and no reward for sticking with one racer throughout the game.

The pod racing vehicles are rated on acceleration, turning, repair, cooling, air brakes, top speed, and traction. Their levels are represented by bar graphs, and are able to be upgraded by buying parts from Watto in his shop, where the non-racing part of the game takes place. Watto also has a junkyard where parts may be purchased for a lower price, but these parts are in bad condition. In addition, participating in the races damages the pod racer, and pit droids must be purchased to repair the damage between the races. Repair can be attempted during the race, but it causes the pod to go substantially slower than the other pod racers, and since destroying the pod racer simply causes a new one to appear, it is unnecessary.

Unnecessary seems to be the motif for this game. There is little music, consisting of a few notes during the final lap of a race. The sound of the game is, at best, mediocre, with crashes and high speed turns evoking weak, watery sounds that would better fit a Gameboy game. Similarly, the taunts issued by the pod racers are gobbledygook, leaving the player to yearn for the lyrical gibberish spoken by the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi. The game plays just as entertainingly with the sound turned off, and for a Star Wars game, that is inexcusable.

The visuals aren't much better than the sound. The racetracks vary only in shading and an occasional blurry effect, and the racers seem blocky and obtuse, with none of the grace seen in the movie. The whole game has a very dark and limited color palette, and the only attention to detail that was paid was on Watto and the pit droids. The pod racers all look alike during the races and even the character animations shown on the choosing of the pod racer are poorly done. These graphics are the very definition of slipshod, with the flare effect on the Tattooine track being the only bright spot. The memory expansion for the Nintendo 64 adds little to this game; the graphics are a tad sharper, true, but focusing on a blob of poorly rendered background reveals little more than the programmer’s incompetence.

While this is a racing game, and there is no reason to have a convoluted story as background, a sentence or two would have been nice. The game is presented solely as racing to win credits, to get better parts for the pod, to win races for credits, etc. There is no reason the competitors are racing, no rivalry between the racers, and no hint of a background for the game. This game is totally devoid of any semblance of plot, background, or character development. It's as if the player has been dropped into Purgatory, and can only escape by unlocking the secrets that hold the key to his salvation. Hey, now, there's an idea…

This game is not only unworthy of being re-played, it isn't worthy of being played in the first place. The multiplayer game is humdrum and uninspiring, and the extra courses and pod racers that are unlocked by playing in the tournament mode add nothing to the game. The only reason to play this game after winning the various tournaments, is to work up a fury against George Lucas for defecating all over the Star Wars license.

The question now is to recommend whether to rent or buy this game. I would recommend buying this game only if you are a masochist, or you have a small child who adores Anakin Skywalker and enjoys sub-par racing games. However, renting is an option, if for no other reason than this game can be enjoyable for short periods of time. The action is fast-paced, and requires some skill. You could do worse than renting this for a day, but then again, you could do a lot better as well.

Star Wars Episode One Pod Racing is a game that was made solely to make money off the Star Wars license. This is, by any standards, a very poor quality game; only the lens flare effect and the Jar Jar-less game play standing out as approaching mediocrity. The idea behind this game is sound, and if it had been executed with a modicum of sense and a bit of production values, this could have been thoroughly enjoyable. Jar-Jar Binks summed this game up best with his immortal comic gem, ''Pee-Yusa''.

Rating: 3

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