BY ADAM THOMPSON
Just as sure as the third Star Wars installment, "Return of the Jedi," is going to make a killing in the theaters, the Parker Bros. Jedi Arena game for the Atari is going to climb the popularity charts.
Jedi Arena can be played competitively by two people or solo against a computer opponent. To wield the mighty lightsaber, you need a working set of paddle controllers. If you don't already own them, I recommend that you purchase a pair of paddles so that you may play Jedi Arena as well as the many other games that require them.
The object of Jedi Arena is to win three bouts against your opponent. To win a bout, you must blast a hole through the enemy's force field and then penetrate it with a final bolt from the seeker which is the small ball that floats horizontally at mid-screen. Each time a bolt of yours sneaks by your opponent's lightsaber, a small piece of his force field is destroyed. This is a bit reminiscent of Breakout. If you successfully block a shot with your lightsaber, it is temporarily held in place by the tremendous force within the seeker.
You aim your shots by rotating the paddle which in turn points your lightsaber. When you press the red fire button, a bolt of energy is released from the mobile seeker in the center of the screen. The energy burst is fired from the seeker in the same direction as your lightsaber is pointing. This means that if the seeker is on the right hand side of the screen, you must point your lightsaber toward the left if you hope to hit the enemy's force field. Unfortunately, this position leaves you open to attack. . .
Played against the computer at the lower levels of difficulty, Jedi Arena poses no threat. But only a true Jedi Master can defeat the computer opponent at the advanced play levels. During a two-player game, the fun and competition really picks up. Each player must carefully manipulate his lightsaber so that he doesn't leave himself vulnerable while trying to stab his opponent in a weak spot. All the while, the contestants must beware of the energy level building inside of the roving seeker. If it is allowed to peak, the seeker violently lashes out in an uncontrolled moment of frenzied attack.
The glowing multi-colored laser blasts are thrilling and full bodied sound effects add to the realism of the game. Without the many game settings, Jedi Arena might prove tiring, but luckily there are eight different variations to challenge the Jedi Master in us all. Good Luck, and may The Force be with you as you twist your paddles and twitch your buttons.