|Publisher: Lucas Learning Genre: Edutainment|
|Min OS X: Not Supported CPU: 603 @ 200 MHz RAM: 32 MB Hard Disk: 120 MB 4x CD-ROM|
|Star Wars Episode I: The Gungan Frontier|
November 29, 1999 | Robn Kester
Lucas Learning's newest title, Star Wars Episode I: The Gungan Frontier, while not a perfect title, has its own unique style that many Star Wars fans and non-fans alike will enjoy spending time with. The game itself is based on the recently released prequel to the original Star Wars movies, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
The story is simple: as the heroes of the Battle of Naboo, you are asked by Boss Nass, the ruler of the underwater city of Otoh Gungan, to help Naboo populate its watery moon. To accomplish your task, you will have the help of the Jedi apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi, or the young ruler of Naboo, Queen Amidala. You will also have the popular character Jar Jar Binks to help or hinder your progress and give you helpful suggestions. Gameplay occurs in a third-person perspective simulation style, where the player places plants and animals onto the moon's surface and helps them grow and thrive, contributing all the while to the growth of the new Gungan city and keeping public order.
Jar Jar and Boss Nass offer you hints and suggestions as to what might help you or what they need. In addition, R2D2 is available for help in placing critters and finding out more about the moon's ecosystem. Your best reference for help and deeper background information on the plants and animals that you are working with is through the animal called "Kresch." The Kresch is a living encyclopedia containing all the knowledge about the Gungans and their culture rolled into a shell-like creature. This critter can be quite helpful if you wish to know more about the critters you are populating the moon with.
The game offers beginner and advanced levels of play, as well as multiple missions to accomplish. It features a critter creator to make your own animals and plants, nice 3D rendered cutscenes, and interesting graphics to make a mostly well-rounded game aimed at the younger generation as well as adults who like to have a little fun.
GraphicsThe graphics in Gungan Frontier are a mixed bag. The interface itself is quite nice, not too overly complicated to understand, yet offering plenty of control for any player to accomplish his or her goals for the game. The cutscenes are also quite nice, featuring graphics that follow the look and feel of the movie quite well. Too bad Lucas Learning doesn't upgrade its movie compression or move to QuickTime; the pixelation and banding can get distracting in what is an otherwise nice-looking bit of cinematic action.
The in-game graphics themselves are where things go sour. From a distance zoomed all the way out on the interface, everything looks pretty good. All of the plants and critters are small, but there are no real blocky images on screen. However, if you zoom in more than 50%, everything turns to big blocks. This doesn't necessarily detract from the gameplay itself, but it makes the game look almost cheap, even with all of the options set to best quality. It reminded me of playing a game from 3 or 4 years ago.
You will find yourself spending most of your game time zoomed out quite a bit, so this doesn't seem to be much of a problem overall. However, it is still a distraction at times--enough so that I felt it was worth mentioning.
InterfaceThe game's interface is well done. Each of the many controls is easily accessible to beginners and mostly intuitive. The menu bar at the top of the screen appears when you move your mouse towards the top edge of the screen, and the rest of the controls are available onscreen most all of the time. I did find that the mouse moved a little sluggishly while accessing some of the screens.
The main interface is a console at the bottom of your screen. On this you will find access to the Kresch, the zoom controls, the critter cam, species indicator, capture/release/stun tools, miscellaneous graphics to help you keep track of your population, R2D2, and buttons to reach Boss Nass, the newly forming Gungan city, and to set your harvest.
The upper left corner has a graph of the whole area so that you can track things from a more distant point, with buttons to turn on and off the plants or animals separately when things get dense and populated. The right side shows your Bioscore, the new Gungan population, and information about the Gungan city if you are on the City display screen.
To pick critters and plants and to see how they rank in the food chain, you use the Food Web screen. This screen allows you to pick the beings you are going to put onto the moon, as well as letting you see what they like to eat, and what likes to eat them. This screen is the heart of gameplay because it is where you go to pick new critters to let loose. From this screen you also access the Index screen, which gives you a complete listing of all plants and animals available to you. You can display them by size, type, and so on, to help find a particular animal, or just pick from the main list.