The Game: Strap yourself into the very fast, very dangerous world of pod racing. Rocket through dozens of different courses, facing off against opponents who range from patsies to cunning and ruthless adversaries. Save up your winnings along the way to make your pod faster and handle better. Aim for the Boonta Eve race on Tatooine and try to win it all. (LucasArts, 1999)
Memories: The first video game released in conjunction with The Phantom Menace is this racing game developed by LucasArts. This game holds the distinction of having one of the oddest titles (and dullest packaging) in recent years, but inside is a decent and fun little racing game.
Overall, the game is built around a standard racing game structure. The player can practice on any unlocked track, try to set a record time in time trials, race against a second player, or enter the tournament mode. Also included is Watto’s Junkyard, where the player can buy new parts to upgrade the pod over the course of a tournament.
As far as graphics go, the game effectively recreates the Tatooine environment seen in the movie and offers a whole new set of worlds to take in. Lots of color and neat lighting effects add to the overall realism of the game, although the action is so fast that one rarely has time to admire the scenery without ramming into a wall at 500 kph. The tracks are also designed well. Lots of twists and turns, with many races having more than one route to take.
Control of the pod racers is pretty good. This is another one of those games (Waverace 64 being the first and one of the best examples) where the analog control stick on the N64 control pad really comes in handy. A little movement on the stick translates to a little movement on the screen, while jamming the control stick all the way over will send the pod arcing towards the side very quickly. Other controls are laid out pretty well. However, the button for banking the pod on its side is rather awkwardly placed as one of the yellow “C” buttons, making it somewhat difficult to keep the accelerator mashed down and bank at the same time.
Each pod has different characteristics in regard to handling, top speed, acceleration, cooling ability, and repair capacity. Only a limited number of pod racers is available at the start. New pods (as well as new tracks) are unlocked as a player places in the tournament. This helps increase the replay value of the game.
So is this game fun? Absolutely. I’ve been having a great time zipping around the galaxy in my pod racer (and for the record, Mars Guo is my favorite; I was sorry to see he was one who bought it in the movie). It really does create the feel of racing in the Star Wars universe. It’s a different type of racing game, but that’s okay.