The use of a movie license, particularly one as huge as Star Wars, usually brings with it the gloom and doom of expectation-- and more often than not-- subsequent frustration too. It is fortunate then that no one expected THQ Wireless' latest release, Star Wars: Cantina [App Store], a surprisingly well rounded, if light-hearted time management game.

Time management games invariably adopt a similar formula-- impatient, fussy patrons, frantic table-to-table action and an upgrade system that assists you in serving even more impatient and fussy patrons. Though Star Wars: Cantina doesn't deviate far from this mould, when the subject matter concerns a spark from Lucas' brain matter, you just know you're in for something special. In this case a humorous back-story of an indebted bartender ties the gameplay together with an intermittent comic strip filling in the details.

The stars of this Star Wars saga are undoubtedly the customers though, who start off as mere moisture farmers, but progress over the 16 levels of the Campaign to introduce Jawas, Bounty Hunters, Gamorreans, Twi'lek Smugglers, Stormtroopers and even Hutts! Each of these archetypes have different personalities, framed in terms of levels of patience and their generosity. It wouldn't be a Star Wars Cantina without a bar brawl either, an event that easily results if you leave some of the more volatile patrons waiting-- much to the chagrin of your property.

As each level is completed you are able to retrofit your bar with equipment that helps soothe your clientele, and assist you in preparing drinks all the more promptly. Controlling Nia (our hero) is effortless, and despite the the initial tutorial being somewhat confusing, you will quickly be zipping around the bar sending patrons to their tables, taking their orders, and cleaning up after them too. The challenge comes in taking the right drinks to the right patrons and ensuring you manage their moods-- for example, moisture farmers can wait all day but Stormtroopers had better be served pronto. The gameplay isn't all that complex-- you don't have to manage prices or supplies of drinks -- but we think Star Wars: Cantina actually benefits from adopting a more light-hearted approach; placing the difficulty on the customer types and numbers instead.

Star Wars: Cantina has an enormous amount of personality instilled in it by its excellent artwork and the hallmark (and very familiar) Star Wars tunes pumping through the bar. A particularly nice touch was how all our favorite Star Wars tracks have been jazzed up to suite the bar environment. With a Career mode and an Endless Shift mode, where your current upgrades can be put to use to see how long you last before any patrons up and leave, there's also quite a bit to do in Star Wars: Cantina too. For high score seekers, both modes have leaderboards that can potentially add even more replayability to what is already a game of reasonable length.

Without a doubt, the biggest thing that Star Wars: Cantina has going for it is how successfully it captures that Star Wars charm-- from the music to the background art and the notorious characters you encounter-- you almost expect Luke and Han to walk through the door next. So if you're a Star Wars fan and have even a remote interest in time management games then Star Wars: Cantina is very easily recommended. Hardcore fans of the genre though may feel it skimps on the traditional micro-management of products due to its simplistic formula. We understand too that this is a niche genre and not even the Star Wars licence will change people's opinions of a play style that has remained largely unchanged since Lemonade Tycoon.

App Store Link: Star Wars: Cantina, $4.99.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Jindo Fox

    Thanks for the comprehensive review -- I like Star Wars and noticed this, but was a little turned off by the stills. It sounds like there's fun to be had here.

  • Reaver

    These are not the Star Wars games I was looking for.

    • http://www.twitter.com/thewindburn Peter L.

      Yeah that's true, we'd all like to see much more from the license.

      But I actually don't mind seeing games that are fun diversions like this using a subject matter that everyone loves. It gives these 'same old' games some context and a little bit of spice too.

      • Reaver

        Valid point, And i mean what i said as well, but i was just making a joke from the movie "These aren't the droids we're looking for" obi wan mind control.

  • Cyggie

    I would love to see a Star Wars FPS or dual stick. (Force Unleashed left me a little disappointed. No lightsaber.) An Empire Strikes Back (Hoth) TD. Even a MMO would be okay. And all they can muster at LucasArts is Diner Dash?? If there were other good choices and this I would be okay with it. Oh well. After the last three movies it doesn't surprise me.

    • jason

      too true

  • Ender

    I think this is a very clever idea for a Star-Wars-themed game.

  • TKO

    Wow, why all the negativity? This game sounds cool. I'm not interested in a Jedi Knight or other FPS-based game for iPhone - it's not a genre well-suited to the device. I wouldn't mind a Pod racing or XWing type of game. But this seems perfectly suited to the device, and a neat twist on an iconic place in the Star Wars universe.

    • Cyggie

      Yeah, sure. Maybe we could get an app where the jedi council all go shopping in the mall. How can you say the iphone isn't a good platform for a FPS, TD or dual stick? So many other developers have done it successfully. I do agree with you that a Pod race would be a great idea as long as its not buggy like Trench Run.

  • http://www.callboxlive.com Stan Winstone

    Why are all the Star Wars games so far completely lame? George Lucas is the original merchandising whore, this should be so right up his alley. And yet...

  • powersurge

    Seems like a neat idea its just too bad there isn't an iPad version (or even better universal support! Devs who use that option instantly get more "points" from me).

    Also Cyggie a Hoth tower defense game would be amazing!

  • yo

    "Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!"

  • big things ftw

    ooooook.. that was odd

  • The Theory

    While I personally think the idea is a neat one (particularly considering how iconic the bar scene is in the original movie), I have to think that given the normal pricing schemes in the app store, $4.99 is a bit high for a Diner Dash knock-off. Makes me think we're paying $2 for the game and $3 for the honor of playing a $2 game with Star Wars characters.

    • http://www.bolehland.net Dan

      i'm with u on that.

  • GreatScotto

    We haven't seen anything decent Star Wars related since Tartakovsky's Clone Wars (not the boring cgi version, but the anime inspired awesomeness), now a game based on that would be amazing.

  • Miffy

    Star Wars has been dead to me since the new trilogy and Ewoks almost ruined episode 6 as well. Obviously there have been many great games like KOTOR, SWG Pre CU and Tie fighter. However they are few and far between.

    • Bucket

      While this IS a good game, and a decent representation of time management, the bottom line is, this game is WAY too short. I played through it in one sitting, taking only about an hour and a half to play through.

      I love time management games, and I love Star Wars, so the match couldn't be better.

      For now, they should drop the price from 4.99 to 2.99 or even 1.99. I feel like they're using the Star Wars name just to jack it up a little.

      I'm hoping in the future they'll update it with more levels or some more characters.

  • jnc

    Graphics and sound are great, but there's absolutely no replay value in it. How can devs not notice that you need awards and updates to make gamers happy? It's so easy!
    I'm not usually someone to complain about app store pricing, but this one turned out to be a really really expensive hour of gameplay.