Games built around a toy, movie or any other product license are a notoriously hit and miss affair, particularly on major consoles or the PC. But the phenomenon is equally applicable to mobile gaming these days, as phones are becoming more commonly used as promotional tools for the entertainment industry, hence the recent influx of games based on Marvel comic book heroes. Another popular license is Star Wars, however its most recent tie-in, Angry Birds Star Wars, is excellent, proving the games don’t always have to be shameless cash-ins.
This brings us to Lego Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles, a game of a license of a license, which should send us running for the hills. Except Lego Star Wars games have almost always been a huge amount of fun. The two-player campaigns in Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga on the PlayStation 3 are superbly crafted, and the series was improved on again in Lego Star Wars III: Clone Wars. The Yoda Chronicles was released for Android last week, but Sony has grabbed a short period of exclusivity, and it’s currently only supposed to be available for its Xperia phones. Come 15 June and it’ll receive a wide release inside Google Play.
Sony has been pushing what it calls, “VIP Access,” to the game very hard, with posts appearing on all its social networking pages linking to its Xperia Lounge app, from which the game can be downloaded. So, is The Yoda Chronicles worth the double download?
Let’s make something very clear, it’s nowhere near as good as the console titles, and is much more about promoting the upcoming Cartoon Network show of the same name, and selling this year’s Lego Star Wars toys. Instead of the explore/build/fight-em-up action of other Lego games, Yoda Chronicles is a bland attempt at a real-time strategy game, wrapped up in a vague story about a super weapon being prepared by the Sith.
You can choose to play as the Jedi or as a Sith, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference, as the missions are all basically the same, as are the surroundings. Here’s an example of a level in The Yoda Chronicles: you play Mace Windu with three Clone Troopers under his command, tasked with defeating General Grievous. You must walk from point A to point B, and along the way find a droid to open a door, all the while blasting the Battle Droids and Droidekas blocking your way.
Sounds fun, right? It’s not. You move through the level simply by tapping the screen to indicate where you want to go, then double tapping an enemy to blast them. But as firing weapons is automatic, even if you don’t target your foe, the team shoots them anyway. Wandering around soon finds R2-D2 in a corner, who then dutifully follows you to the door, unlocks it and lets you have a go at Grievous. Taking him down is a case of retreating away as he advances, staying out of the way of his lightsabers, and shooting him until he’s done. Exciting it wasn’t.
In other Lego games it’s common to find stuff to build, or new characters to unlock. Here, there are base stations scattered around where you can “build” new equipment, grab new Clone Troopers, or refill your energy bars. Except you don’t build anything, you just exchange the Lego studs you collect after something dies for a new vehicle or trooper. Each level has a main objective to complete along with two lesser objectives, such as reaching a point in a set time or finding a hidden character. Hitting the main objective is tedious enough, and there’s absolutely no incentive to doing the level again to meet the other targets.
The trouble with The Yoda Chronicles is it’s much too slow and boring. The stages are all very similar, moving through them is painfully slow, and the combat isn’t involving enough. At the risk of sounding like a fanboy, the settings and vehicles don’t make sense either, as Umbaran MHC tanks show up on Coruscant, and Pre Vizsla’s fighter is hanging around on Tatooine. Why? Because they’re part of Lego’s current toy line-up. Yes, it’s understandable, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying.
Perhaps the only positive is the cut scenes, which although short, are very well produced and up to Lego’s usual high standards. It played acceptably enough on our Xperia T, and the audio was excellent. But even as a free download it’s tough to recommend playing The Yoda Chronicles, and we’d imagine younger players will swiftly become bored by the lack of action. Sadly, then, The Yoda Chronicles has the dubious honour of being one of the few missteps in the Lego Star Wars gaming universe.