- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Here’s a look at some out-of-this-world software:

A new “Star Wars” movie probably never will happen, but fans of the space fantasy can continue to embrace the mythology through video games set in a galaxy far, far away.

The latest arrived for Sony’s hand-held entertainment machine last month and is a third-person shooter that takes a player into the time between Episodes III and IV, when the Republic turned into an imperial empire.

The player assumes control of mercenary Rianna Saren, a Twi’lek (remember the Jedi Knight Aayla Secura and Jabba dancer Oola with the fleshy tentacle hairdos?) who is tasked by Princess Leia, no less, to find the plans of the Death Star.

Rianna eventually travels from the Black Sun-controlled underground districts of Coruscant to the seamy Mos Eisley Space Port to the lava planet of Mustafar. She fights an unending stream of smugglers, IG-88 assassin droids and a variety of Stormtroopers (traditional and “Clone Wars” style included) in her quest to uncover the imperial threat to the newly formed Rebel Alliance.

She gets much help from a security droid named Zeeo who hangs by her side and will hack computers and door locks, knock down enemies, repair equipment, set exploding booby traps and even act as a deflector shield for its new friend.

Her weapons are mainly of the blaster variety or the use of gun turrets, but when she gets near an enemy, she immediately arms with the Thorn of Ryloth, a sizzling blade that will quietly bring death.

The acrobatic movements of the agile Twi’lek are executed easily and displayed beautifully on the PSP screen. She can perform cartwheels and “Matrix”-style kills and safely dive and roll through laser grids. She gives the Prince of Persia a slight run for his money when climbing and descending through terrain.

On occasion, she also will be able to hang onto Zeeo and fly around an obstacle course in the tradition of Obi Wan Kenobi’s encounter with an assassin droid in “Episode II: Attack of the Clones.”

Her target system to dispatch enemies is either a blessing or a curse to the player. When in the middle of a firefight, Rianna’s gun reticule never lands on the closest, usually most deadly opponent. Instead, the opponents dart about the room in a random fashion. However, that system can work well for newer players, who only need to keep mashing the shooting button to battle.

Of course, guest appearances by legends such as Darth Vader with composer John Williams’ fantastic score as well as Ben Burtt’s classic sound effects offer an authentic “Star Wars” experience.

A multiplayer mode also is available for a pair of mercenaries on the PSP’s wireless ad-hoc connection. (Each must have a game cartridge.) The contest mixes a scavenger hunt with a death match as players take on the role of the Rianna (in different-colored costumes) and, with help from her robotic friend, must find loot and sell it to a merchant droid for credits.

Depending on the parameters set for the match, either a certain number of credits or kills wins. The game can then be a strategy or a close-quarters bloodbath.

I liked the ability to trade loot for upgrades to weapons and maneuvers, but I wish I could have picked another character from the expansive “Star Wars” universe to challenge the Twi’lek. Also, although it is fun to run around the likes of the Death Star and Tatooine, players are given a very limited area in which to play.

The die-hard “Star Wars” fan will appreciate the entire Lethal Alliance package, but for the average gamer, who does not know the difference between a Rodian and Quarren, I would suggest for their PSP introduction into the Skywalker universe.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski at The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message (jszadkowskiwashingtontimes.com).

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