Touching iPhone’s ‘Star Wars: Force Unleashed’

“Star Wars: The Force Unleashed” is coming to iPhones soon, but not in the form you might expect. I played an early version at E3, and liked the direction they’re taking.

THQ Wireless is taking a unique approach with bringing George Lucas’ universe to the Apple platform and smartly removed most of the player’s control over their character.

Instead touching the screen to direct character movement, you’re following on-screen patterns to manipulate Force powers. It’s not the most complicated thing in the world, but given the lack of buttons on the iPhone, it works rather well.

Some of the time, it’s just about following the presented pattern as fast as possible. But there are many times where several enemies — or especially in the case of boss sequences — require a specific strategy to advance without losing much health. Taking out enemies in the right order can make surviving to the end a much more pleasant process.

There’s some subtlety to the gameplay, too. By flicking the screen in a diagonal direction, you can deflect incoming enemy laser fire. So even though the mechanics seem basic at the very beginning, they can ramp up pretty quickly. I played a single level with one boss, and the boss definitely had me on my toes. You need to be deflecting rapid enemy fire while Force Pushing multiple enemies.

Plus, it looks really pretty on the iPhone, with beautiful hand-drawn backgrounds. It makes you hope against hope LucasArts will produce versions of their classic adventures for the device — “Escape from Monkey Island,” anyone? Then again, since THQ is already allied with LucasArts, maybe I should bug them!

Until then, I’m interested in seeing more of “The Force Unleashed” on the iPhone. Will trace following lose its luster after more than five minutes? We’ll have to see.