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Star Wars: Jedi Arena - The Atari Times

Star Wars: Jedi Arena

A truly unique 2600 game
by Ethan C. Nobles

July 14, 2004
Out of the three Star Wars games Parker Brothers produced for the Atari 2600, 1983's Jedi Arena is, without question, the most bizarre. Fortunately, it's also a heck of a lot of fun.

Now, Star Wars: Jedi Arena isn't the best in the aforementioned trio of games Parker Brothers made (that honor goes to the fantastic Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. You don't fly any ships and the game isn't really based on any particular scene in the Star Wars films. This game took a cue, however, from the scene in the first Star Wars in which the intrepid Luke Skywalker did some Jedi training with a robotic drone which shot electric currents. If Luke failed to block a a bolt of electricity with his light saber, he'd get shocked.

The same idea - well, kind of - was used in Star Wars: Jedi Arena. The game is for one or two players and puts two Jedis in an arena. Each Jedi (one on the top of the screen, and one on the bottom) is protected by a shield, a bit of which is lost every time it's struck with a charge of electricity from the drone (called a seeker in the game). An opponent scores a point whenever his foe's shield is weakened to the point where a charge gets through and shocks the lad.

It's a pretty basic concept, indeed. What's not so simple is how the controls work out. This game uses the paddle controllers to both move the light saber right and left for defense, and to "call on the Force" and aim charges of electricity at the opponent. So, it works out like this - the angle at which you hold your light saber determines the angle which your shots will follow. So, a player might find a great angle for hammering his opponent with electricity, but there's a problem - the other player is doing the same thing. In other words, if you get to enthralled with hammering your enemy, you might get sloppy and not notice your opponent has found a good angle at which to pop you. If you hold your light saber at a certain angle because it allows some clear shots at your opponent, you might drop your defenses so that you'll have a hard time positioning your light saber to block shots charges pick away at your shields. Yes, it's rather hard to explain, but a good balance of aggression and defense has to be maintained.

So, using your lightsaber as a way to calculate the ideal enemy-smacking angle is difficult enough. What makes things even more difficult is that the seeker moves across the playfield, so you'll have to calculate that angle often. The seeker itself will go absolutely nuts from time to time, too, sending unpredictable charges at both you and your opponent.

Now, it takes some time to get used to the controls because, of course, the angle you need to block shots is rarely the same one which you want to use to jab at your opponent. As a result, players tend to come up with various strategies to maximize their chances of survival.

The graphics here are good enough to carry the game. The Jedis are immobile figures which roughly resemble to top view of human beings. The truly fantastic visuals, however, are the way the charges of electricity are depicted - they're high-resolution lines which are a bit random in shape and resemble bolts of lightening. The effect is pretty darn good, particularly for a 2600 game.

As for sound, it's rather minimal, but the sizzling noise made when charges of electricity are released is pretty impressive.

The game is an absolute hoot for two players, but the computer holds its own, too. The game allows the player to select whether the seeker moves at slow, medium or fast speeds. Another option renders the seeker invisible, so it's location can only be tracked by observing where the charges originate. Whatever level you choose, the game moves along quickly and presents plenty of challenges for happy Atari gamers.

The only real problem with this game has to do with the fact it can be hard to find. Still, pick up a copy of it if you find one. It won't be your favorite 2600 game, but it's well-worth playing from time to time.

Star Wars: Jedi Arena

(c) Parker Brothers

Get ready for one strange experience!
This is it. Block the laser blasts!
Star Wars: Jedi Arena
System: 2600
Publisher: Parker Brothers
Genre: Action
Graphics Score: 85%
Sound & Music Score: 85%
Gameplay Score: 85%
Control Score: 80%

Final Score: 83%

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