Star Wars: Imperial Academy Review

Things change quickly in the world of iPhone gaming. The hottest piece of cutting-edge software in March might begin to feel dated before the year is out. In the case of Eliminate Pro, that’s exactly what happened.

Don’t get us wrong– we still enjoy shooting people in the face in Eliminate Pro. But now that Archetype and Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus have upped the multiplayer ante in iOS first-person shooters, Eliminate Pro is starting to show its age. So it’s a let-down that Ngmoco’s new shooter Star Wars: Imperial Academy is basically just Eliminate Pro dressed up as a stormtrooper.

Surely that land cruiser did something to deserve being shot.

Just like in Eliminate, there’s no campaign mode in Imperial Academy. This game is all about hopping online and fragging other players in real time. When you go into a battle, you’re quickly matched with up to three other players of similar skill and dropped into an environment from the Star Wars universe. You and your opponents then run around, killing each other and respawning, until either the time runs out or one player racks up 10 kills. At the end of the match, you’re given a number of credits based on how well you did. It’s a simple idea, and it works like a charm.

Between matches, you can use your credits to buy new weapons and armor, or to improve the equipment in your inventory. The in-game store offers a good variety of weapons, but they all have confusing sci-fi names like the FA-3 and the T-21. Still, they’re different enough from one another that you’re sure to find one that fits your play style. Unfortunately, you can’t try before you buy.

If you run out of credits, you can use key cards to buy equipment– but key cards cost real-life money. You never need key cards to play the game, so buying them is completely optional. Key cards can also be spent to recharge your Elite bar (which grants you extra credits when you compete in matches), and to open supply droids during matches. Supply droids, which are scattered around each map, contain credits and power-ups. If you don’t want to spend key cards, get used to fighting without power-ups.

Do you think Han is ticklish?

Imperial Academy also contains ads. Some are unobtrusive– like the banner ads that are shown on the menu screen– but others are full screen and you’ll have to look at them for a few seconds before you can move on. We don’t mind sitting through a few ads if it means playing a quality game for free, so you won’t hear us complaining.

And to be clear, Star Wars: Imperial Academy is a quality game. It’s just unfortunate that it doesn’t push the boundaries of what a multiplayer first-person shooter on the iPhone can be. When Eliminate Pro first came out, it was the best one we’d seen. Then in July, Archetype showed us how much fun it was to play in deathmatches with nine other people. And in October, Modern Combat 2: Black Pegasus added four different multiplayer modes and unlockable skills to the mix. In many respects, Imperial Academy, with its two-on-two multiplayer, feels like a step backward.

Even still, it’s a totally decent game that doesn’t cost anything to play. And, come on, it’s Elminate Pro in the Star Wars universe. Even if it’s not everything it could have been, it’s still pretty cool.

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