While officially LucasArts may be down and out, anyone who experienced the studio’s earlier works will undoubtedly bear fond memories for many years still to come. In particular, many of us will remember the adventures of Kyle Katarn in the beloved Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series–LucasArts’ most popular, until Battlefront came along. Now I don’t know about you, but back in the day it was something of a dream of mine to see those games running on Palm OS or PocketPC. Of course they ran just fine on the PC, but the thought of having a full Jedi Knight game in my pocket was just unbelievably cool. At the time I was dreaming big just to think I might ever see Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight and its follow-up, Mysteries of the Sith running on some kind of pocket device. Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast and its follow-up, Jedi Academy, though? That was downright science fiction.
Well, progress has an interesting way of doing more than we’d expect, and while there’s been ways to run the original Dark Forces for DOS/Playstation on mobile devices for some time now, anything more was just a pipe dream until one day in early 2013 Activision and Raven Software pulled one of the most unexpected moves in gaming history and released the source code for Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy on Sourceforge, a popular site for hosting opensource projects. Unfortunately the code used for playing video cutscenes wasn’t actually owned by either company and just to be safe they pulled the entire thing, but not before numerous fans forked the source code and stripped it of anything potentially illegal. Projects to port the games to other platforms, fix engine bugs, improve graphics, and who knows what else popped up everywhere. A fully functional Linux port of both games was ready in only 10 days of work. It was only a matter of time before Android was brought into the mix.
It may have taken a while, but at last the day is finally here. Both Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy are now available on the Google Play store from creator Beloko Games. The app for each costs $1.95 which may be a turn-off for some, but you’re not just getting a straight port, here. The developer has done a pretty excellent job creating a touch interface to handle movement and navigation complete with force power and weapon selectors styled to blend seamlessly with the games. For those that want a bit more precision, the app has built-in controller support as well. You can even plug in a mouse and keyboard and play almost like you’re used to (Android’s mouse support is not designed for gaming, and it shows). The games have also been liberated from their old 4:3 aspect ratio to take full advantage of Android’s 16:9 and 16:10 displays. The only real downer is that–as of the time of this writing–the developer has disabled the highest texture setting due to it causing crashes. On small screens Medium textures still look pretty good, but hopefully the issue will be solved somewhere down the line regardless.
Just because the games’ source code was released to the public doesn’t mean that all the actual assets were too, though. You’ll either have to own one or both of the games on CD or download them from Steam before you can play on your Android device. The files you need will be located in your Program Files’ “…LucasArtsStar Wars JK II Jedi OutcastGameDatabase” or “…LucasArtsStar Wars Jedi Knight Jedi AcademyGameDatabase” (or the equivalent folders in your “…SteamAppscommon” directory). Copy the ‘assets#.pk3′ files from this ‘base’ folder, plug your Android device into your PC, and paste them into your “/sdcard/Beloko/JK#/FULL/base” directory. If you can’t find the folder, either create it yourself or just run the app on your phone/tablet before copying.
It’s pretty amazing to see two of my favorite games from the past running on my smartphone, and even more amazing that they don’t even begin to push the limits of what it can do. Now if only the multiplayer portion would be added, I’d be all set. Excuse me while I dig up some mods…