‘Star Wars Episode 1: Racer’ review: a nostalgic Podracing adventure

Feel the speed of a Star Wars Podracing champion in Star Wars Episode 1: Racer

The most excitable part of 1999’s Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace was undoubtedly the pod racing sequence, where Anakin Skywalker, later known as Darth Vader, pilots his dual engine pod in a sequence that was begging to be made into a video game. Turns out it did, and Star Wars Episode 1: Racer made it to popular consoles of that time and was an instant hit. After a disappointing sequel, the Racer was quietly overshadowed by other games and better technology. Finally, Racer gets the release it has been waiting for on today’s hardware.

Star Wars Episode 1: Racer

  • Developer: Aspyr
  • Publisher: Nintendo, The Walt Disney Company, Sega, Lucasarts, Lucasfilm
  • Price: ₹1132 ($14.99) on PS4 and Nintendo Switch

In the movie, Liam Neeson’s Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn notices the strong presence of the force within young Anakin Skywalker. He wagers his hyperdrive in a race that can win Anakin’s freedom in a podrace. What ensues is a Ben Hur-like chariot race — except, instead of horses, your pod is pulled by two massive floating engines connected by an electric field. While Anakin does win in the movie, the game takes that race and creates an entire championship around it. While there isn’t a story mode, the game has you pick your racer from several aliens including Anakin Skywalker, as you race to become the best podracer in the galaxy.

Despite its age-old graphics that have been given a resolution boost, Racer still retains its sense of speed. It was always one of the fastest games out there with these pods reaching a maximum speed of 600 kilometres per hour. Everything about the game hinges on split-second dodges, as the tracks have all manner of deadly surprises around every corner — from crumbling canyons and multi-levelled ice scapes to Tuscan raiders and aggressive opponents. Much like in the movie, if your pod gets damaged you need to repair your pod mid-race by routing power through the engines to bring them back to life. This game truly has you feeling that you are in a single spot of reality amid a moving sea of blur.

Screenshot of STAR WARS™ Episode I Racer
| Photo Credit:

As you progress through the ranks with your chosen character, you can spend your wins to upgrade your pods, without which you will be eating your opponents’ digital dust. The 21-plus opponents all have their signature outrageous pod designs, such as Anakin’s sleek engines and Sebulba’s massive red engines that tower over everything. Every pod is beautifully animated with the fins reacting in real-time to your manoeuvring. Each pod handles and feels different and lets you choose either speed, handling or track domination.

Added nostalgia

John Williams’ score from the movie makes for the perfect soundtrack to race to. The sound design is incredible, from the high-pitched whines of the engines that modulate from roar to ratcheting bursts. The graphics are a missed opportunity, for a complete overhaul would have made the difference. On an HDTV, the game looks rough though it looks great in hand-held mode on a smaller screen. In fact, you get the added advantage of motion controls too.

Screenshot of STAR WARS™ Episode I Racer  
| Photo Credit:

If you missed out on the past Star Wars Episode 1: Racer or if you are nostalgic for some pod-racing fun, this is the perfect game to dive into with its friendly controls, a visceral sense of speed and a journey back to that fun Star Wars universe filled with funky aliens and chuckle-worthy droids. This game is best experienced on-the-go, so if you have a Switch, this can fill that racing void that is missing on Nintendo’s peppy hand-held.

The writer is a tech and gaming enthusiast who hopes to one day finish his sci-fi novel

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