Star Wars games don’t have to be simulation-heavy as in X-Wing or TIE Fighter when they can just be like an arcade-like cinematic experience as in LucasArts’ on-rails shooter Rebel Assault.
Rebel Assault (PC)
(USA 1994, developer: LucasArts (defunct), publishers: LucasArts (defunct)/Disney), platforms: PC, Sega CD, 3DO)
Former farmer and now Rebel Alliance pilot Rookie One has to help escaping the Empire, defending against it and finally destroying the Death Star.
A story told once again
The plot takes some liberties with the Star Wars saga in terms of characters and the timeline as well as with set-pieces. While it plays before the destruction of the first Death Star in A New Hope, there are also parts of The Empire Strikes Back with the iconic battle on the ice planet Hoth, making it a bit convoluted at times. Rookie One fits nicely, as he shares features of Luke Skywalker, but one shouldn’t expect memorable dialogue scenes or a lot of depth to him. As fan service, the story works, but it doesn’t tell anything new or provides unexpected twists and turns.
Restricted gaming area
Being an on-rails shooter, the game doesn’t offer much in the way of strategy or free form shooting or flying, relying more on fast reflexes than complicated control inputs, as there is only one button for shooting and the controller functioning as more or less free movement. However, sometimes it’s possible to choose different routes, e.g. attacking an Imperial AT-AT from both sides or taking a specific door on foot, although the wrong one can result in a dead end and taking a wrong turn in an ice cave resets the labyrinth which is quite annoying.
Most of the time one simply aims at animated targets while the background made up of video sequences moves around and predetermines speed and direction of the camera. The shooting sections are exhilarating, although they become extremely frustrating when a ship has to be flown with tight corners to take. The level design ranges from great fun (blasting TIE Fighters from the cockpit) to annoyingly difficult (navigating through stalagmite-like structures with an A-Wing) or cumbersome (flying through a narrow canyon with a shuttle).
Different control and scoring strokes
The biggest problem of the game, especially on modern computers, are the fiddly controls. Even after adjusting the frame rate to a minimum that doesn’t look pretty and lowering the sensitivity of the joystick, mouse or keyboard, some missions are still unfair with the player controlling their ships and aiming as if he/she was drunk. Using the mouse in first-person views works to a certain degree, but evading obstacles and trying not to collide with the environment is almost impossible. This is too bad, because the action on screen is as intense as the enemies are relentless. Choosing between three difficulties and being rewarded with extra lives when scoring enough points keeps things interesting, especially since additional bonus goals, e.g. finishing off a Star Destroyer, don’t only offer a higher score, but also show different video sequences.
Looks and sounds like the good and bad old times
The video quality is quite blurry and pixelated regarding today’s standards. At a time when CD-ROM drives weren’t mainstream and DVDs an unknown part of the future, this might have looked impressive, with pre-rendered 3D cutscenes and video material playing in the background during shooting sections taken directly from the movies. New scenes recorded with Rookie One as an actor or others don’t fare any better either, but this is to be expected from the outdated technology that shows low-res ship models and results in speed problems on new PCs. Fortunately John Williams’ music is of a very high quality, adding to the overall experience of playing a movie. It’s only disappointing that most of the voice actors don’t reprise their roles of the movies, while some lines are delivered in an unintentionally funny way.
Playing a well-known movie
Rebel Assault is an easy game to get into due to its arcade-like nature. When everything runs smoothly (not only technically), there’s a certain originality to playing inside well-known video sequences. Unfortunately the wobbly controls make the game unnecessarily difficult to play, while the graphics haven’t aged well either. This is a shame, because the level design often captures the exhilarating moments of the Star Wars saga, even if story and character development don’t offer any original ideas. Still, it remains a lighthearted if only 4-5 hours short piece of entertainment with enough action to satisfy those who want to relive the movies’ best moments.
Buy the digital version for PC on
GOG (together with Rebel Assault II)
Buy the retail version for PC on
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oooh!!! I like this…a Star Wars, arcade-like game. Sounds fun…even though you say it’s not really all that pretty-looking and has fiddly controls. But that, I assume, gives it even more of an archaic, nostalgic feel to older kids playing it! (haha). It definitely sounds like an 80s atari or nintendo game which I guess goes along with the original Star Wars movie at least 😀 Even if it’s not really that great, the music almost makes up for it I’ll bet 😀
Love to see your Star Wars-themed review, keep up the great work!
Yes, the second one (also reviewed today) is even better and smoother to control, relatively speaking. Reminded me so much of the Star Tours ride in Disneyland.
Unfortunately running these old games on newer PCs is always a problem. You can’t get any more arcade than this one, oh maybe the original Star Wars arcade cabinet ;). I also feel old having bought a CD-ROM drive for this back in the days when everything was on floppy disks, haha.
There will be more SW games I’m trying to get through at the moment, but also something very SW-like, and with Mark Hamill in it, at least in the later games ;).
I think we did very different Star Wars rides, lol. I found the one we did at Disneyland in Florida super lame and it didn’t even seem like a ride, really lol. Perhaps when you went it used to be good and then they got rid of it (like the BTTF one) and put in a crappy one haha! They have an actual Star Wars part of the park now, so I’d actually like to go back and try a ride there. I’m sure it’s much better. Ooh you remember floppy disks hey? They were all the rage, man I remember playing really bad computer games back in the day. Many were terrible!
But a game with Mark Hammill in it should be interesting, anyway 🙂 At least now I know he’s done ONE thing since his Skywalker days! ha ha
In which way was the ride crappy? I don’t know, maybe we Germans or Europeans are not used to the over-the-top rides you have :). I just felt a bit sick after the Star Tours ride, but maybe that had to do with being right in front of the screen ;).
I still have the original floppy disks of many games, some I bought with so much money compared to today… I don’t remember so many games, as I usually read reviews in games magazines. But maybe you can name a few or even write a blog article ;). I’ll do some features about very bad movies, though :).
Speaking of movies, Mark Hamill was quite busy, but not in big budget movies, as the “Village of the Damned” remake or playing himself in “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”. “Sushi Girl” was also quite a weird movie with him.
Oh, and let’s not forget that he gave many games’ characters a voice, like “Full Throttle” (a great LucasArts roadtrip adventure game) and only recently the Batman games, as he played Joker there ;).
I think the reason I thought the Star Wars ride was lame was because it was more of a wee kids thing, and more of a slow, merry-go-round sort of simulation thing, not a ride per se (hence the lame-ness, as I’d just been on a few crazy, roller-coaster rides previously lol). I suspect that it was something different than what you went on, or there were a few different ‘ride’ things there at the time and we opted for the kids one. I wouldn’t be surprised as I was there with a friend and her wee ones, too. It was okay, but when I heard it was a ride, I got WAY too excited (haha). I wasn’t exactly expecting a hard-core rollercoaster or anything, but I don’t think ‘ride’ should have been used in the title 🙂
Good for Mark Hamill, I didn’t think he’d done much but I guess I meant more in the big budget realm of movie-making, even if it wasn’t as big as Star Wars. Often some of the ‘smaller’ movies are better anyway, and I do recall seeing him in small roles in a few things, most certainly. Now I have no clue why I don’t remember him in Jay and Bob, but I probably appreciated seeing him in it at the time 😀 It does sound familiar now that you’ve mentioned it. Was he in Fan Boys as well? I don’t remember if he came back as a guest star in it, but that would have been a great idea. That’s too funny he played the Joker in a Batman game….cool! The Full Throttle game sounds super fun, I will have to check that out. I guess he’s made a bit of a name for himself in the video game genre anyway. Good for him! Plus, of course, he did come back in the recent Star Wars (um, hope that’s not too much of a spoiler…lol) 😀
Compared to other simulation rides, the Star Tours one had quite a few drops and shakes, so it was enough to qualify it for one, at least the one I went on ;).
In Jay and Bob, there was this one scene where they actually had to fight Hamill in a lightsaber duel on the set where the new Jay and Silent Bob movie was made. This had quite a few cameos…
Speaking of cameos, it’s really strange that Mark wasn’t in “Fanboys”. I mean they even got Capt’n Kirk! And Lando ;).
There will be a remake of “Full Throttle” this year, so I might cover that when it’s out ;).
Nah, that’s not really a spoiler, as it was to be expected that one gets a glimpse of old Luke. Hopefully we’ll get lots of him in the next episode ;).
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