Star Wars Pit Droids: A Beautiful, Fun Puzzler

I love science fiction, whether it’s movies or books, and I’ve always found it fun to transplant myself into the mythical environment of the film you’re watching or the book you’re reading. That far off place with all the cool gizmos and wild surroundings and interesting creatures. Star Wars has that appeal for me and a lot of other people, and LucasArts has done some great things with the franchise to keep its fans interested all these years.

One such thing has been video game development. There are a lot of really great Star Wars games out there for various platforms, and one of the most recent releases is Star Wars Pit Droids for the iPhone. The game was released as a bit of a promotion for the re-release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace in 3D. Let’s check it out.

Overview

As far as I can tell, this is the first official LucasArts release of a Star Wars iPhone game of any kind. Admittedly, it wasn’t exactly what I expected when I first saw the name and the app listing. After a bit of reading and checking out the screenshots, it became evident that this was actually a puzzle game.

Star Wars Pit Droids gets its theme from one portion of the Phantom Menace movie, the pit droids. The Toydarian junk dealer Watto needs some help wrangling his pit droids. These little guys that assist him can be a bit mindless and often find themselves getting into trouble.

Browsing available levels

Browsing available levels

The goal of the game is to guide these droids around and into their pits. The environment is right out of the Phantom Menace movie on the planet Tatooine. One the surface of the environment you’ll see a grid. The droids are released from launching pods and march in a straight line unless otherwise directed.

Playing a level

Playing a level

Once you have directed all the droids into the pits without incident, you pass the level and are able to move on to the next. Each level has its own set of obstacles and you’re awarded a number of stars (1-3) for your completion.

Pit Droids

A big part of what makes this game entertaining its main characters, the pit droids. They provide a little comic relief in the Star Wars film and they’re no exception here. They are just quirky, little droids that can make a person smile without really doing much.

The droids can be different colors, and all droids respond to white arrows, meaning any droid will walk on a white arrow that you’ve dropped and move in that direction. There are also color specific arrows. Only the droids of the corresponding color respond to these arrows, all other droids just walk right on by.

There are also different colored pits. You essentially need to get all the droids into the pits and they can be the pit of their corresponding color or a general pit. It’s up to you how to solve the puzzle. A droid will make it to a pit it can enter and do a cannon ball type entry into it (which is as funny as it sounds).

Some droids mid-cannon ball

Some droids mid-cannon ball

Obstacles

As you progress through the game, the puzzles get increasingly more difficult. A big portion of this comes from the changing environment and the obstacles that it brings.

Dealing with some walls

Dealing with some walls

Many times the obstacles that you have to work around are the components of the environment itself. Walls, pipes, rocks and other portions of the natural environment are always something that you need to contend with.

A more industrial wall

A more industrial wall

You’ll also find color coded barriers along the way. These can be activated and passed by only the proper color droid. As you’ll often be dealing with multiple droid launching points, multiple colors of droids and multiple pits, these make for some handy shortcuts.

Dealing with a serious group of color-coded barriers

Dealing with a serious group of color-coded barriers

Another type of barrier that becomes an issue a little later on the in the game are locked barriers. These are large pillars that usually surround a pit and must be unlocked by directing the droids to walk over keys.

Key barriers are blocking the paths to the pits

Key barriers are blocking the paths to the pits

These are a fun, and sometimes frustrating element. You think you’ve got the puzzle solved but then realize you need to walk over one more key that forces you to change your strategy entirely.

All key barriers have been unlocked

All key barriers have been unlocked

There are a few more barriers as you move along in the game, but I’ll let you discovery those on your own. But trust me when I say that they only get more challenging.

Solving a Puzzle

As mentioned, the goal of the game is to direct all of the pit droids into the pits. They mindlessly walk in a straight line unless you tell them to go a different direction, which is done by dropping arrows to help them out. You place an arrow on the ground that they walk over, and once they hit that portion of the grid they move in that direction.

You’re able to chose the direction and placement of the arrow, but you’ll be limited in the number of arrows you can use. And using fewer arrows to solve a puzzle will result in a higher score. Using the right number and combination of white and colored arrows to direct the droids to where they need to go is essentially the name of the game.

That's a lot of pit droids

That's a lot of pit droids

The sheer number of droids you need to deal with becomes and issue in later levels. If you don’t direct them properly they will run into each other and knock each other down, and thus not make it to the pits.

Dealing with this combined with the environment and the barriers gets to be quite challenging in the later levels of the game.

Levels

The game is made of levels. You need to complete one puzzle to unlock the next one and you need to earn enough stars to unlock the next block of levels. It’s a common puzzle game mechanic and closely mimics the Angry Birds format in that regard.

Once you pass a level, you get rated based on your performance. You want to get the droids into the pits using the fewest number of arrows possible and in the quickest amount of time. A three star rating means you’ve completed the puzzle with the fewest arrows possible. One or two starts means there’s room for improvement in your solution.

There's a better solution to this level apparently

There's a better solution to this level apparently

I enjoy this aspect of a puzzle game because it can extend the gameplay significantly. I typically start out games like this trying to unlock all the levels that I can while practicing how the game works. When I hit a wall I start to go back to better my previous scores. It’s fun to search for that perfect solution. At least it is for me.

Design and Graphics

As you might imagine, coming from LucasArts the graphical elements of this game are beautiful. The detail in the pit droids and the environment is just fantastic. It’s an easy aspect to glaze over with a puzzle game, but it’s tough not to pay attention with this one.

Design details are everywhere

Design details are everywhere

The pit droids are worth mentioning again here as well. They are just entertaining little creatures and are animated in a really amusing way. I laughed out loud multiple times at the actions of these little guys.

Clip from a pretty hilarious video of a droid that you unlock along the way

Clip from a pretty hilarious video of a droid that you unlock along the way

From the cannon ball into the pit to the noticeable attitude they get when the get blocked from getting to their pit, it’s all great stuff and one of the little things that make this game fun.

These droids are less than impressed with their wait behind a locked barrier

These droids are less than impressed with their wait behind a locked barrier

Final Thoughts

This wasn’t the game I was expecting when I saw that a Star Wars game had been released (you know what I was expecting — light sabers and pod racing), but I was pleasantly surprised. This game has been a total blast to play and even though it has some similar puzzle elements as games already out there it still feels quite fresh.

Much of this has to do with the visual aspect of the game. A puzzle game is good with a challenging puzzle, but it becomes great when you can combine that with an engaging and entertaining environment. Star Wars Pit Droids nails that combination about as well as I think you could.

The $1.99 price tag is justified given the depth of this puzzler. It’s easy, for better or worse, to get lost for an hour in this game. If you’re looking for a puzzler this is a great choice, made even better if you’re a Star Wars fan.


Summary

An impressively designed, and very entertaining Star Wars themed puzzler.

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