The Farce is strong with this one.
By and large, I enjoy the portable versions of Star Wars games. Granted, I may be biased, judging by the electronic R2-D2 that sits in the corner of my room (just next to the Yoda cut-out). Yet ever since the Game Boy Star Wars games, I have felt that the handheld renditions of Star Wars were crafted well - and yes, I enjoyed Star Wars Episode II: The New Droid Army. Star Wars the Force Unleashed II, however, is the video game equivalent of Jar Jar Binks.
In his review of the Wii version of Force Unleashed II, Neal Ronaghan noted that the game was crippled by poor controls, weak storytelling, and pervasive monotony. The DS version manages to bring all the flaws of its console big brother onto the portable system, without having to shrink them down to size. In fact, with the exclusion of the Wii version's multiplayer, the game loses what Neal described as its only saving grace.
The DS version is a side-scrolling beat-'em-up with very simplistic puzzle elements. The player is given several force powers, each of which corresponds to a unique color. When the player sees an object highlighted in one of these colors, the corresponding force power must be used on that object to solve the puzzle. This portion of the game can hardly be considered puzzling, unless of course the player is color blind.
The game tries to pad out its extremely brief storyline with some poorly implemented cut scenes. These are told in comic-book fashion, with occasional four-second 3D clips thrown into the mix. I cannot stress how poorly these are presented; at one point I laughed out loud as the only difference between frames was a character's head abruptly rotating a full 90 degrees.
To accompany the shoddy visual presentation is audio that always sounds as if it is coming through a walkie-talkie. The story never quite makes sense, either, which is strange because the game could have really used some padding for its several-hour long campaign. Most cut scenes feel rushed, and a good deal of the characters are simply never introduced properly.
With both puzzles and story out of the picture, the player is left only with the game's combat, of which there is plenty. In fact, most of the player's time with Force Unleashed II will be spent swiping madly at the screen, or tapping furiously to spam force powers. The enemies are often dumb and have very little variation, meaning that the same winning strategies can be used ad nauseam. The game has little in terms of combos, which is unsurprising considering its limited controls.
All interaction with the game is handled via the d-pad, or the touch screen. Movement, jumping, and dashing are all mapped to the d-pad, and all attacks are done with the stylus. Because the touch screen is so heavily implemented, players lose access to the system's extra buttons and are forced to hold the DS in a claw-like position. This means that after playing through the blessedly brief storyline, your hands will hurt. Much like the recent Donkey Kong Country Returns, the choice to use a system's unique interface in favor of a more logical button option does not benefit Force Unleashed II.
Early on in the game, I reached an escape segment during which I repeatedly died because of the fact that running and jumping were both mapped to the d-pad. A bit after that, I reached a segment during which I died simply because the game would not register my input on the touch screen during a boss battle.
Force Unleashed II on DS then, is a short-lived side-scrolling beat-'em-up with poor presentation, miserable controls, repetitive combat, and a confusing story. The game did have one genuinely cool moment, where the player gets to fight a gigantic boss in a rather enjoyable battle, but that was the only highlight for me. Even Star Wars fans should avoid this outing, lest their hearts and hands be broken as mine were.