PhoneSaber finally re-released as Lightsaber Unleashed – Oh, and yeah, THQ ruined it - Macenstein

PhoneSaber finally re-released as Lightsaber Unleashed – Oh, and yeah, THQ ruined it

[Note, as of this writing, Lightsaber has not yet hit the iTunes store, but it DOES show up in your updates if you previously bought PhoneSaber]

There was much speculation a few months back when THQ asked TheMacBox to remove their popular free PhoneSaber Star Wars app from the iTunes store citing copyright issues (apparently you can’t just make apps based on popular movies without permission… who knew?). Many wondered if it would still be free when it returned, while others (including us) wondered if it would return as looking like a Nascar Car, full of ads and excess marketing crap.

Well, it’s still free….

You now choose a color of lightsaber by clicking on a character. I hope you like RED.

Last month the TheMacBox confirmed that THQ actually was “pretty cool” about the whole thing, and were going to be working with them to bring about a more official, licensed version of the app to the iTunes store. Well, long story short, the long awaited updated has indeed arrived in the form of Lightsaber Unleashed, a mixed bag of an update that ultimately we feel does more harm than good.

The Light Side

We have to admit there are a couple nice things about the update. First, there is now a “music” button which plays a very intense selection of Star Wars “action” type music that goes a long way towards adding a feeling of intensity to your lightsaber battles.

The Lightsaber looks basically the same – you can still battle in regular or full screen saber mode.

Another nice addition is the ability to choose your color of lightsaber by choosing a character from the Star Wars universe. Unfortunately unless you are an uber Star Wars geek, odds are you’ve only heard of one of them. Other than that, graphically the game has not changed much. You still have a choice of full screen or regular dueling mode, and the sounds seem more or less identical (there might be 1 extra swoosh or something, but nothing that is all that noticeable).

The Dark Side

Isn’t this the splash screen for The Force Unleashed? Why am I seeing it when I launch Lightsaber Unleashed?

The two best things about using the original PhoneSaber app were that 1) The app loaded quickly, allowing you to quickly do battle with a fellow geek, and 2) you had a choice of 5 different colors of lightsabers to choose from. Well, with the THQ-blessed Lightsaber, you now have to sit through a splash screen for The Force Unleashed (Lightsaber doesn’t have its own splash screen) and a “commercial” screen asking you if you want to buy the new THQ Star Wars iPhone game The Force Unleashed before you are able to activate your Lightsaber. EVERY time you launch the app.

Once you load the app, you are given a choice between 5 different Star Wars characters to do battle as. At first you might think these 5 would correspond to the 5 colors of lightsabers you had in the original PhoneSaber app, but you’d be wrong. Sure, you still have the choice of 5 colors, but 3 of them are RED. That’s right, they have 3 characters who have the exact same colored LightSaber, so no yellow or purple saber for you. I might also be crazy, but the accelerometer’s sensitivity to shaking seems somewhat less responsive than I remember the original PhoneSaber’s being.

Yeah! I LOVE clicking through this screen each time! (How about “No Thanks” once and this goes away?!

So yes, we totally understand THQ needing to protect its licensed properties, but unfortunately THQ has made Lightsaber Unleashed into nothing more than a commercial for TFU, and by stripping away the ability to do a quick battle and limiting the number of Saber colors, THQ has given PhoneSaber users very little reason to upgrade. The battle music is nice, but ultimately not enough that I can recommend replacing PhoneSaber with this version.

20 Responses to “PhoneSaber finally re-released as Lightsaber Unleashed – Oh, and yeah, THQ ruined it”
  1. Dumb question – if you already have TFU on your iPhone – do you still get the splash screen?

  2. Flo says:

    click on the sparkling stars in the background for some “super cool secret sound samples” 😉

  3. Zendriver says:

    I am not all surprised by this on THQ’s part. What I am surprised about that it is still a free App. I guess the built-in adware is why.

    With all respect, I think I will stick to my old Phonesaber App, thanks.

  4. Tim says:

    problem is that if you don’t “upgrade” you’ll always have that annoying reminder on your AppStore icon.

    I upgraded. strongly considering just deleting the app permanently now.

  5. Migital says:

    “annoying reminder” on your AppStore icon? It’s not like it’s flashing or bouncing around. it’s a static (1). Man, your life is hard

  6. Tyson says:

    Are you all serious? I upgraded, and now I have music, the end. The app loads faster, which makes up for the splash screen. The sensitivity ISN’T any less. You are all just whiners. THQ did us a big favor by not just killing the app. It is still free, it still does the same thing (oh no, you loved the yellow lightsaber… get a life). How many of you log serious minutes with this app? If you are like me, you launch it as a joke to show friends and ten seconds later you turn it off.

  7. Bob says:

    uber starwars geek to recognize more than one? Obviously the Apprentice is “YOU” in TFU, and Darth Vader is an obvious one. So, that’s two.

    Some people might recognize Shaak Ti from one of those horrible Episode I-III movies, so that’s not too obscure. I just happen to know who she is because I was playing “Lego Starwars” the other day and recently unlocked her as a playable character. The other two, not so much.

    On the color issue, having less colors is teh suck, but every Jedi and Sith has a characteristic sabre color that they use, so its not like LucasArts could deviate from those, and most sith use red (for Evil!). Although, they should have just picked guys with better colors. Overall, doesn’t sound like an improvement. I guess I’ll stick to my old sabre app.

  8. The Rockness says:

    THQ is a fairly below average game company anyway. Everything they touch turns to doggy doo.

  9. Bob,
    At the risk of offending a reader, you appear to be an uber Star Wars geek. First of all, unless you buy The Force Unleashed, you’ll not know about “you” being the apprentice. Second, you were playing Star Wars Legos, and you know what color sword bad guys are allowed to have.

    Now, to be fair, I too knew all of that, but I admit I am a Star Wars geek, and have read 70% of the books, and played most of the games. But please don’t think that any of the characters aside from Darth Vader shown in LightSaber Unleashed are known to anyone outside of a Comicon convention. To me there is no reason you would choose to “duel” as any one red character over another here. 3 red swords is 3 red swords. THQ blew it by trying to tie too heavily into their TFU game. TheMacBox created a much more enjoyable application.

    -The Doc

  10. Tremor says:

    I did notice that they added at least two Vader sound bites (easter eggs?) to the app. If you touch one of the two bright stars in the background Vader will say “Fulfill your destiny” or “You were weak when I found you, now your hatred has become your strength”. Just thought I would share.

  11. KRS says:

    WHAAAA! What a bunch of babies. Stop complaining, its free! It’s worth every penny. Want something with 10 colors, write it yourself.

  12. ArtOfWarfare says:


    Darth Vader is the only one I recognize.

    Shaak Ti looks familiar… she’s been in some of the movies I think… but she’s such a minor character… I didn’t know she even had a name.

    I recognize The Apprentices from a The Force Unleashed trailer.

    … But yeah… I think Vader is the only one most people will recognize. Why not some more memorable characters?

    Obi Wan… Luke Skywalker… oh, and I think Darth Maul would make a good choice (he could actually have a unique light saber because his would be double sided… but still red.)

    And how about everyone’s favorite green midget, Yoda!

  13. ryan says:

    If you own TFU on the iPhone it will still prompt you.
    If you click Buy and are brought to the iTunes page to buy it (and it says, moron you own this) it will still prompt you.
    It doesn’t go away.

    I think i will delete it too. It’s not only annoying, but stupid. Big mistake by their advertising department. They should have had a one time splash screen. Or atleast a splash screen with out the need to click through.

  14. Yuusharo says:

    Frankly, other than the loss of a few colors, I don’t see why everyone has such a problem with this update. No more quick battles? The app launches with the same 5-second delay as the old version, and with one extra tap you’re back in action.

    Its the same useless fun I’ve enjoyed on the iPhone since day one, and everyone I know loves it too. Yes, THQ turned it into a vehicle for advertisement, but its free, fun, and OFFICIAL. With the addition of the old colors, interesting characters, some new music and effects, Unleashed will become even more amazing than before.

    People just don’t like change, it seems.

  15. Sephken says:

    Well, thank goodness for Time Machine. Delete Unleashed, restore PhoneSaber. Yay!

  16. Shawn says:

    I am a developer and feel sorry that a simply idea had to get so commercialized.

    THQ has made a viral commercial for The Force Unleashed. All the character are from the TFU. It’s free, you play it, you smile, show it to some friends, move on with your life.

    THQ will probably do an update soon with The Clone Wars characters: Ashoka, Asajj Ventress. Maybe they will address some of the “issues” just to get everyone to update. They should add a sound board to make us Star Wars geeks smile.

    Heck, I would love to be on the phone to be able to pipe in Darth Vadar’s heavy breathing or “I have a bad feeling about this”, “boring conversation anyway”.

  17. Brad says:

    Bob I hate to do this but I am an uber Star Wars geek and there is only one sith on there, and it’s Vader (only two sith at any given time(It’s called the Rule of Two institued by Dath Bane ( , one is Palpotine (Master) the other is Vader (Apprentice,)) the other two are just force users who have embraced the dark side. The reason for the red colored sabers are that the crystals they use to create their sabers are synthesized and that is the color they come out at, they are more efficient then natural ones and more unstable (kinda like an overclocked processor) also they can be used to short out another saber’s blade giving the user a psychological edge. Witch is why dark-siders generally used them (

    Wookiepedia for the win!

  18. Bird says:

    Brad, I hate to do this but you are an uber Star Wars geek who misspelled Palpatine ( Also, one is Palpatine, the other Anakin. Or one is Sidious, the other Vader. Take your pick, and don’t drink and drive.

    PS you also abuse commas and whitespace.

  19. As someone who didn’t get the original app (got my phone too late), I was wondering what the original looked like and if it was normal that various characters had the same ‘saber. I see where the differences are.

    Still, it is a pretty neat app that my Star Wars nerd friends (without 2.0 firmware) will get a kick out of. But I completely agree, dump the nag screen. Even if it nagged, say, five times total, I could live with that. But every time? Very annoying.

    Besides, reviews for TFU (for iPhone) seem pretty mixed anyway, so I’m not sure they’d pick up that many extra sales through a free app.

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