Star Wars: Droid Works
Design and deploy droids to outsmart the evil Empire
Star Wars is a movie franchise which, by and large, has made the successful transition to video games. There have been plenty of examples where this media offshoot hasn’t quite worked out for licensed games – the legendary Superman 64 (the worst video game of all time?) and Catwoman come to mind. Whether these video game adaptations are rushed through the development lifecycle to coincide with the theatrical release of the film, or simply a cash grab tie-in, video games based on movies can be rather hit-or-miss.
The original Battlefront I and II, Star Wars Episode I: Racer (with an upcoming re-release for Nintendo Switch and PS4 testament to its fan favourite status), or the most recent addition to the franchise – Jedi: Fallen Order have been well received and commercially successful.
This hasn’t always been the case – EA’s reboot of the Battlefront series, especially Battlefield II from 2017, was slated due to its microtransaction and loot box controversy (opinion has recovered in the years since release following a series of game updates). Regardless, you’ve most likely played a Star Wars game in some way, shape or form.
However, you’ve probably not played Star Wars: Droidworks, a physics based puzzle game released in 1998.
Are these the droids you’re looking for?
Development of the Star Wars games in the 1990s was handled by LucasArts, the game development section of LucasFilm. If you need reminded, LucasArts developed some excellent games.
You might not have realised there was a subsidiary called LucasLearning – which made educational software and games for children. In addition to Droidworks, LucasLearning also developed and published a range of other Star Wars educational games during the late 90s and early 00s:
Star Wars Episode I: The Gungan Frontier (1999)
Star Wars: Yoda’s Challenge Activity Centre (1999)
Star Wars: Pit Droids (1999)
Star Wars: Anakin’s Speedway (2000)
Star Wars: Early Learning Activity Center (2000)
Star Wars Math: Jabba’s Game Galaxy (2000) – developed by Argonaut Games
Star Wars: Jar Jar’s Journey (2000)
Star Wars: Super Bombad Racing (2001)
After the release of Super Bombad Racing, LucasLearning endured an organizational reshuffle in 2001 and merged into Edutopia, part of George Lucas Educational Foundation, and stopped developing games.
Star Wars: Droidworks was the first of these educational games and was developed using the same engine as the first person shooter Dark Forces II and Mysteries of the Sith games. The LucasLearning games now float in the Abandonware ether and are no longer available for sale, unlike the other LucasArts developed Star War games – even the Star Wars Complete Collection on Steam contains the mid to late 90s releases (including Dark Forces II and Mysteries of the Sith games).
Droidworks was released the year after the original Star Was Trilogy’s 20th Anniversary Special Edition remaster, which was my first introduction to the series. Some of my earliest memories of trips to the cinema were to watch the updated versions of A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
Let the wars begin!
The release of Droidworks was also around the time when Robot Wars boomed in popularity in the UK. Contestants battled their home built remote controlled robots against the overpowered House Robots. Usually resulting in crushed robots and crushed childhood dreams…
Fun fact – the concept of Robot Wars was created in the mid 90s by Marc Thorpe – a designer for the LucasToys division of LucasFilm!
Being a kids game, Droidworks doesn’t feature killer robots and fire pits, but physics based levels and puzzles, and selecting robotic parts to attach to your droid. Though there’s no real connection or similarity between Robot Wars and Droidworks, I was fascinated by watching the robots being built and used on the show, and Droidworks let me virtually attempt to build my own creation – with 87 different droid parts, the customisation options were massive.
Star Wars: Droidworks Gameplay
Can I really write a blog post about a game I last played over 20 years ago, still in my pre-teen years? Thanks to the wonders of modern technology and Youtube Let’s Play – you bet I can. Tim Clinkscales’ full playthrough of the game brought the memories right back to me with this video:
It’s pretty much how I remember – clunky movement controls and strange metallic sound design. I did totally forget the helper droid with its strange choice of a thick southern American accent. Interesting design choice to say the least.
Build mode was probably my favourite part of the game. The choice was split between robots with legs, or robots with wheels and tracks. Head, arms, torso, hand attachments, legs/tracks and battery choices were available. Some familiar additions included C3PO’s parts. The customisation options let to some truly bizarre looking creations. Some more functional than others.
Mission goals and tasks generally involved raising platforms, interacting with pulley systems, pushing boxes and obstacles to trigger doors opening.
Missions were often timed and could have certain Droid Requirements – The ability to grab objects or certain levels required that your droid was made from magnetic material, which allowed large magnets to pick up and move you across the maps.
Successfully completing missions awarded the player with additional droid parts, and helpful hints and tips doubled as educational material – teaching about angles and physics related knowledge that could assist in completing the mission.
Does anyone else remember this one from the late 90s? Or did you not know Star Wars: Droidworks existed? Comment below and let us know!
From rewatching the Youtube playthrough video – I think I’ll leave this one stored in my memory with nostalgia intact rather than find a download link….
If you enjoyed this look back at Star Wars: Droidworks, check out our other Gaming Articles.