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)
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