Hands-On With Two New 'Star Wars: Clone Wars' Games

A long time ago (yesterday) in a galaxy far, far away (across the street in a Manhattan hotel), I got my hands on the Wii and DS versions of the new "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" titles.

Based on the CG-animated movie due out August 14 and the upcoming television series, both games will feature the characters, locations and battles that fans will know from the era between Episodes II and III.

Sure, the story's great, but did the Wiimote and stylus hold up to my lightsaber expectations?

"Star Wars The Clone Wars: Jedi Alliance"

While the Wii game "Lightsaber Duels" is aligned with the plot in the film and TV series, "Jedi Alliance" will feature a new storyline entrenched in the same time period. "Jedi Alliance" was developed by LucasArts Singapore and will let players choose two Jedis to pair up and go through the story (in a strictly single-player experience). The gameplay consists of stylus-centric combat in a 3D action format and quick-time events.

The level I saw had Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ahsoka Tano trying to avoid a rancor beast. The first challenge was a quick-time event (called "Jedi Action Sequences") during which I had to trace the stylus quickly over a pattern on the touch screen (similar to the long notes in "Elite Beat Agents") in order to use the Force to move debris out of our way. Next, we encountered a locked door. The puzzle involved having to move the lock to fit a specific pattern. Another mini-game for hacking a computer involved matching falling shapes and quickly placing them in the correct containers.

As for the combat, this was simply executed by tapping the stylus feverishly on particular body parts of your opponents, continuing to tap-tap-tap the stylus to break out of parries and land powerful combos. Playing through the game will unlock different costumes, areas and other collectibles. Overall, I found that constantly tapping of the stylus felt a little bit unsabery, but with an original plot, it might be worth investigating for those interested in seeking out extra "Clone Wars" canon.

"Star Wars The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels"

While there was some lightsaber-slashing in "Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga," "Star Wars The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels," developed by Krome Studios, is a lightsaber-based fighting game. During the demo, I played two different duels against a LucasArts rep -- one as Kit Fisto against Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the other as General Grievous against Ahsoka Tano. Players can choose from hero and villain characters with different combo abilities and strengths, including newcomers Ahsoka Tano and Asajj Ventress, as well as various locations (including Tatooine and Teth). Once players have made their choices, every fight begins with a graphically impressive cut scene taken directly from the movie or TV show, and from there, the winner is the best two out of three.

I was told that the game was made for anybody to pick up and play. It's true: the controls are as intuitive as they should be. Slash your opponent by swinging the Wiimote side-to-side as if you were actually holding a lightsaber. Thrusting forward will stab your opponent, and the analog stick on Nunchuk moves your character. The A will cause you to jump, dodge and perform aerial moves, and the B button will block.

"Lightsaber Duels" wouldn't be a Star Wars game without the use of Force powers. The C button will let the player use the Force to lift items. You can flick the Nunchuk to hurl your enemy with debris (the environments are somewhat destructible). The Z button channels the Force for more powerful attacks. The Force is limited, as indicated by a second meter under the health bar, but regenerates over time (and characters like Grievous who don't use the Force have comparable powers).

The game also incorporates some quick-time events during duels. When the two players parry in a "lightsaber lock," a brief cut scene ensues, followed by a series of quick-time events. Both players will be prompted, and whoever swings the Wiimote in the right directions more quickly will overpower the other player. There also parries that simply ask the players to shake the Wiimote vigorously.

Though the game looked great and played well, I couldn't help but think how the game might play if it had used the new Wii MotionPlus controller. I asked LucasArts if they had any plans to re-tool the game, but they reiterated that they had no announcements at this time. I also asked a LucasArts developer if they had received any dev kits, and he said they had not.

Both "Clone Wars" titles will hit stores in November.