|Developer:||LucasArts|||||Release Date:||1997|||||Systems:||Windows, GBC|
1997 was a pretty big year for Star Wars, perhaps the biggest since Return of the Jedi hit cinemas 14 years earlier. The original trilogy of films were remastered and rereleased on cinema screens with Greedo now officially shooting first, the mighty engines of Lucasfilm had geared up to produce a new movie with two more promised to follow, Timothy Zahn released another Thrawn novel, Dark Forces got a sequel with lightsabers, TIE Fighter got a sequel with multiplayer… and then there was the other game.
But Masters of Teräs Käsi is going to have to wait, because today on Super Adventures I’m taking a quick look at a ‘desktop toy’ called Star Wars: Yoda Stories. It’s basically meant to sit alongside games like Minesweeper and FreeCell and give you something to do for half an hour while you’re taking a break from work. There is one subtle difference between Yoda Stories and the games bundled with Windows though: this retailed for £20 in Britain back in the day. That was enough to buy you a third of a Donkey Kong Country game!
The sprite might look like Jackie Chan from the side, but I’m actually playing as Luke Skywalker himself, who has travelled light years across the galaxy to visit the swamp planet of Dagobah to learn the ways of the Force from the wise and ancient veteran of the Clone Wars himself…
Hang on, isn’t he supposed to be in the back of my X-Wing handling all the astronavigation? No wonder I ended up landing in the middle of a swamp.
Right, I’ve got my lightsaber and my R2-D2 now, so I’m ready to go off looking for Master Yoda. Except I can’t go hiking around an alien forest with this flat, dull, sensible Windows 8 frame around the game screen. It’s sapping my will to adventure.
I haven’t found Yoda, but I have come across this turtle, squelching around erratically in the swamp water. He can’t come out and I can’t come in, so we’re at a stalemate right now, though I tried dragging my lightsaber onto him a couple of times anyway just to be sure.
No sign of Yoda so far, but I have found his house at least. Either that or a massive nest containing an undesirable quantity of giant glowing extra-terrestrial insects. Maybe I’ll knock first.
Hello? Yoda? Anyone? Well Yoda isn’t home, and I can’t interact with anything inside, so this was a waste of time. I wonder if I even need to find this guy. Maybe I can climb into my X-Wing and go explore the galaxy without his help.
Oh I forgot to mention this earlier, but YODA TM STORIES is actually the second game in the LucasArts’ Desktop Adventure series, after Indiana Jones and His Desktop Adventures, and also the last. We may never solve the mystery of why the series never took off, but I think it may have something to do with the games being really bad.
Sorry, I should probably give this more than 4 screens before getting all critical on it. I'll try to get up to the game bit first before judging it as a game.
Well I’ve found Yoda, and has he got a quest for me! I’ve got to fly over to the forest moon of Endor and look for something called the LANTERN OF SACRED LIGHT, as without it their spirits will be confused. I don’t know, maybe it’s something from those direct to DVD Ewok films. To help me in my task Yoda gives me a holocron and sends me on my way.
Hang on, wait a second… backwards talk, Yoda did not. Seems that the Ewoks aren’t the only ones who’ve got their spirits mixed up today, as I think this may be a rare appearance by sober Yoda.
SOON, ON THE FOREST MOON OF ENDOR.
I restarted from the beginning when I switched to Windows XP by the way, so that’s why I ended up here this time instead of that desert planet you saw earlier. I think it calculates a random adventure for you whenever you start a new game. But if it’s a desert you’re after…
|Star Wars: Yoda Stories (GBC)|
Other than that the GBC game actually seems like more or less the exact same thing except with lower res graphics, which says a lot about the PC game really. In fact the GBC version’s screen is actually a tile wider!
I tried going on a joyride on his speeder bike instead, but Luke wasn’t interested in that either. Fine, let's go asking people if they've seen a magic lantern then.
No one here has anything much to say worth reading, and I can't ask them anything directly so I’ll try the next hut instead.
A LOCATOR huh? Looks more like a chunky floppy disk to me, but I'll give it a try.
The green circle is the landing strip I started at, no puzzle there, so I'll investigate the two squares above that next.
This guy turned out to be a real smart ass in the end. He was standing in the way when I met him, so Luke assumed that he wanted to be given a certain item before he'd agree to move aside. Nope, he kindly stepped out of the way without asking for a single thing.
But then it turned out that the tile behind him is impassable without a bridge, which he’s of course willing to part with if I do a small favour for him (ie. get him a certain item). So now I have to go look for an alluvial damper and hope I can remember who wanted it by the time that I find it.
A FEW SQUARES SOUTH.
A wave of the lightsaber gets rid of them, but Link to the Past this ain’t, so I basically have to stand still and keep swishing my blade until they throw themselves into it, and even then I lose health.
Fortunately I stumbled across a kindly robot medic along the way back to my X-Wing and he brought Luke back up to full health free of charge. I didn't even have to hang around in a bacta tank for a few hours, as he healed him instantly with magic sparkles instead.
On the plus side I got a drive compensator out of it, which I can
I think I've already killed everything killable here though, as these particular dudes with the red shoulders seem to have remembered to put their lightsaber-proof long johns on this morning. I’d try the grenade I found in one of the shuttles, but there’s no point. There’s no XP in this, enemies don’t drop anything, and I'm bored with this square anyway.
A COUPLE OF MINUTES LATER, BACK AT THE LANDING STRIP.
In fact, why didn't Lucasarts ever get around to making a proper Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis-style Star Wars point and click adventure? How does this game exist, and that doesn't? I realise that the entire budget of Yoda Stories was likely a month's wages plus the cost of one copy of RPG Maker '95, but 'Han Solo and the Curse of Calrissian' would've easily brought in enough cash to make it worthwhile. By the way if anyone from Telltale is reading this, you can have that name if you want to give it a shot yourselves.
In theory this should mean that I can get through this gate now and go explore a few more squares to the east. Speaking of new areas, didn’t the guy at the river earlier want an alluvial damper in exchange for his bridge? I found one of them as well, so can go get that done now too and explore to the north as well.
A FEW SQUARES TO THE RIGHT.
Seems this thing needs a new sensor array installed, so I need to be on the lookout for that as well. Well, bye then Chewie.
I tried parting the river using THE FORCE, Moses-style, but dropping the icon on top of the water did nothing. There's some blocks nearby, so I thought about pushing one of them in as a stepping stone, but that plan was soon foiled when I discovered that I can't actually push anything. Well the good thing about this game is that whenever I'm stuck on one puzzle, there's always other places I can be!
SOME OTHER PLACE.
Eventually a friend of mine sensed my desperation and said ‘hey, have you tried equipping THE FORCE as a weapon?’ and obviously I hadn’t, because that would be dumb. It also worked though, so that shows what I know.
Out of curiosity and desperation I tried using my fusion cutter on the door and to my absolute shock it actually opened it up. Doesn’t work on any other locked door, just this one. Then I walked up to the Ewok inside and showed him my Yubnut. He was pretty impressed and gave me a Blumfruit in exchange. I don’t even know what’s going on here any more.
I'm not having a good time here in case there was any doubt.
COUNTLESS LADDERS LATER.
After all that walking I finally reached the end of the maze and found the sacred Ewok lantern... but this gentleman doesn’t want part with my final quest item until I bring Chewbacca over here to rip his arms off.
C'mon mate, just be a pal and give it to me would you? I'm sure your chief will get a lot more use out of it than you will, and he'll let you look at it whenever you want. GIVE ME THE FUCKING LANTERN YOU DIMINUTIVE CANNIBAL PIECE OF SHIT! Please... please just give me the lantern. I'll give you R2-D2 if you give me that lantern.
You don’t understand, I can’t do the forest maze again, I just can’t! Especially not both ways, seeing as I'd have to leave first before I can come back. I still haven't found that sensor thing I need to get the Falcon fixed, so I can't bring Chewbacca down here anyway. I’m pretty much entirely stuck now, unless I can build a bridge out of mushrooms to cross that river to the north.
ONE TRIP THROUGH THE FOREST MAZE LATER.
Well now I can push the blocks into the shallow water, hopefully pick up the sensor thing (it has to be here as I've searched everywhere else), take it to Chewie, get him to come back with my through the tree maze to harass the Ewok into giving up the spirit lantern, then I can get back into my X-Wing and nuke the site from orbit with a few well aimed proton torpedos. It's the only way to be sure.
ONE TRIP THROUGH THE MAZE AGAIN LATER.
Fortunately the lantern helped Luke find a shortcut out so I didn’t have to walk through the maze a fourth time, and now I'm just a few steps away from handing this thing to the Ewok village elder and getting my ass off this moon. With any luck they'll all get wiped out by flaming debris when the Death Star explodes in orbit later.
The second the elder finished thanking me for giving me the lantern I got a blast of Star Wars music and Yoda's face flashed up on screen. Yes, win I have, 658 points earned did I.
R2-D2 suggests selecting NEW WORLD from the menu to start another game, but I think I’d rather do anything else.
I've sometimes wondered when exactly George Lucas grew to resent the Star Wars franchise he was chained to, and I think now I've formulated a theory. I can imagine him playing a beta version of Yoda Stories on his office PC between typing up pages of the Phantom Menace, and slowly coming to despise everything he'd created. After hours spent suffering though this irritating computerised representation of everything he hated about the series, he suddenly comes to an epiphany; a game like this can easily be ignored, but if he were to channel this raw frustration he was feeling into an irritating computerised character... such a thing could drive fans away from the Star Wars forever! And then he'd be free at last to make his arty indie movies instead. Basically I'm trying to say that this is the Jar Jar Binks of Star Wars games.
There's nothing really wrong with the concept of making a low spec video game toy to play on office PCs, but with Yoda Stories they screwed up in two major ways:
- It's a massively simplified game experience but it wasn't massively cheaper than the typical PC game of the time. I don't usually mention the price of games because I tend to play older titles and I don't think it's all that relevant, but some folks try to give this game a free pass as 'it's not meant to be a real game', and the cost says otherwise.
- It imitates the retro game look but they forgot to include the gameplay. Seriously, imagine Zelda without a sword or Pokémon without the pokémon and that's kind of what this is like. Sure you get a lightsaber and you can fight creatures, but the combat is so terrible that there's no joy in it, it's just a hassle that you have to get over with on your way to anywhere.
- Actually here's a bonus complaint. On a 640x480 monitor from 1997, that tiny box you're viewing the world through would take up just a quarter of the screen. On a widescreen monitor in the year 2015 it'd be a fair bit smaller than that and there ain't nothing you can do about it.
But really, you'd likely get more entertainment out of Hearts or Minesweeper than this, and I can't really think of any reason you'd want to play the game besides curiosity, or to make Knights of the Old Republic seem really really good by comparison.
Next time: it's the final 'Y' game.