|Star Wars Games For The Macintosh
December 2, 2004 | IMG Staff
Star Wars: Episode I RacerIn 1999, a few months after Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace had made its mark on cinema history, LucasArts decided to test the waters of the Macintosh game market after being absent for a number of years. They released their highly popular game, Star Wars: Episode One Racer, which until then had only been available for the PC, Nintendo 64, and Sega Dreamcast.
Episode One Racer fulfilled the one dream that every fan had after seeing the Phantom Menace: to race in the Boonta Eve Classic against Sebulba. And Racer did that with style.
On the surface, the graphics for Racer were superb, making it probably the best looking game on the Macintosh at that time. This was achieved partially by the fact that Apple had chosen to release its iMac and iBook computers with 3D graphic chipsets built in. This allowed games like Racer to take advantage of accelerated 3D features without requiring the end user to upgrade their components, a concept that was still pretty foreign to most Mac users at the time. The sound design for Racer was up to usual Lucas standards, with music and sound effects taken directly from the movie. Jake Lloyd was even brought back in to do voice clips as Anakin Skywalker.
But what really makes Racer shine as a game is the immersive experience, varied track locations, and aggressive opponents. As you win races and complete race circuits, you will accumulate credits which you can use towards upgrading your pod racer with parts that can increase acceleration and maximum speed, increase engine cooling times after using the boost, and enhance maneuverability and stability. And you will have to upgrade if you want to stay competitive in the later races. But that's not the only way to survive the racing circuits. Many of the tracks have alternate paths and hidden routes which can shave precious seconds off of your lap times, and rocket you ahead of the unsuspecting leaders. This kind of path discovery keeps you coming back to the tracks, as you try to figure out the quickest (or simply the coolest) way to complete the race. As you come back to these tracks, you will soon realize just how much detail the developers at LucasArts have put into each and every one. In the later Boonta Eve race, you have to dodge the bullets of the Tusken Raiders as they get their thrills trying to turn your machine into a twisted pile of scrap. Oova IV is a prison mining colony that transports ore along the same tracks that you will be racing, so be prepared to dodge the ore chunks at break neck speed. As you do that, take a look around. You'll see transports flying in the air. A couple of tracks go under the sea, where you will be privy to a number of sea creatures who don't seem to be as interested in pod racing as yourself.
As amazing as Episode One Racer was, and still is today, the Macintosh market just wasn't big enough to give LucasArts the kind of numbers they were looking for.
Lucas LearningLucas Learning would step into the ring, releasing a number of "edutainment" titles aimed at children from preschool to junior high. Titles like Anakin's Speedway and Early Learning Activity Center were aimed at the preschool and kindergarden group, with fun activities using cute renditions of classic Star Wars characters. Yoda's Challenge and Star Wars Math: Jabba's Game Galaxy were aimed at the elementary crew. With The Gungan Frontier, Droid Factory and Pit Droids, Lucas Learning came within reach of the Macintosh gamer.
The Gungan Frontier< was a game in the vein of the classic Maxis game SimEarth. You have been asked by Boss Nass, leader of the Gungans, to be in charge of the flora and fauna of the planet Naboo's watery moon. With the help of Obi-Wan, Queen Amidala, or Jar Jar Binks, you work to populate the moon. While the graphics left something to be desired, a large variety of animal and plant types and interactions keep the game interesting.
Droid Factory satisfies your urge to build your own R2-D2. C-3PO is in his element, ordering you through numerous missions, where you will have to build the appropriate droid from the parts provided. Of the three games for older kids, this one is probably the shortest experience of them all. While there are a number of missions to complete, and some of the later ones are quite challenging, once you complete the missions, there is little replay value in the title. An interesting side note is that Droid Factory uses the graphics engine that was earlier abandoned with the cancelation of the original Jedi Knight for the Macintosh. Droid Factory gives you a glimpse at what Jedi Knight might have looked like on the Macintosh. *Sigh*
Pit Droids is my personal favorite of the Lucas Learning games. It is a puzzle game starring the quirky little droids from the Mos Espa garages. The puzzles are designed on hexagonal grids. Much like Chu-Chu Rocket for the Dreamcast, you use arrows and switches to direct a stream of pit droids from their spawn point to their home, while trying to direct them around obstacles and away from other streams of pit droids. The puzzles become more complex as you are forced to direct streams of droids based on the color of the body, the helmet they are wearing, and even the tools that they are carrying. Avoiding a common pitfall of other puzzle games like this, Lucas Learning designed Pit Droids so you do not have to save all of the pit droids in a particular level to advance to the next puzzle. Humorous Warner Brothers-esque animations involving the pit droids between some puzzles are a fun reward for a job well done. And, even if you make it through all of the puzzles, there is a puzzle editor option that allows you to design your own puzzles and share them with your friends. An addictive puzzle game, and the last of the Lucas Learning game lineup.
LucasArts would then take another hiatus from the Mac gaming scene, as Mac gamers watched titles like X-Wing Alliance, Starfighter, Force Commander, and the acclaimed Rogue Squadron series pass them by.