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.