Ever since the movie was released in 1977, kids have wanted be a Jedi from Star Wars. Now with Kinect Star Wars they are one step closer. Power up your light saber and slip on your dancing shoes, yes I said dancing shoes. Can you think of a more “elegant weapon for a more civilized age?”
Kinect Star Wars does not have one story; it’s more like several small stories within one arcing plot line. The overall arc has you working with C-3PO and R2-D2 cleaning up and recategorizing files in the recently recovered Jedi Archive. In here you can choose a game type and play through its story. You will have the option of Dark Side Rising, Duel of Fate, Podracing, Rancor Rampage, and Galactic Dance Off.
The main campaign story, Dark Side Rising, tells of Jedi Master Mavra Zane and her Padawans as they deal with events set between Episode 1 and Episode 2 of the movies. You will start on the Wookie home planet Kashyyk (you even get to meet Chewbacca) then battle across Felucia and Coruscant, with space battles in between planets.
Duels of Fate aren’t available until you have played through the first section of Dark Side Rising. There is no story with this section. Here you can practice your light saber and force powers against various enemies. You unlock harder enemies as you go, eventually you can face off against Darth Vader himself.
The Podracing game has you cast as a janitor who Watto picks as a last minute replacement pilot when his real pilot doesn’t show up. You race through the circuit of six races on five different planets.
In Rancor Rampage you are the monster from Jabba the Hutt’s pit. You have just escaped and now it’s time to have fun destroying as much of Mos Eisley as you can. You can play as other rancors on Naboo, Mos Espa, and Felucia also.
Lastly there is the Galactic Dance Off. The story here is that two different archive files have been corrupted and merged together by accident. C-3PO suggests watching the file as this can sometimes be highly amusing. What follows are characters (such as Han Solo, Princess Leia, Lando Calrissian, and others) dancing in competition against you.
Controls and Gameplay
Kinect Star Wars tries to use the Kinect to its fullest extent. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite live up to its potential.
In the Dark Side Rising and Duels of Fate modes your right hand controls all light saber movements and attacks, while your left hand performs the Force powers. I found that the Kinect seems to have a problem recognizing what you are doing. For example: you have four different simple blocks you can do; upper, lower, left, and right. The enemies telegraph their moves slow enough that you can get into position to block them, but while you have your hand in the right spot, the Kinect doesn’t always recognize it there. The attacks you can do with the saber have to be done in a slow deliberate fashion to do them properly. Most of the game I flailed about and still got the job done. The force powers of push and grab aren’t so great either. The force push barely moved anything. The grab would pick up things and you never knew where it was going to go when you threw it. Most cases it would drop or plunk in a seemingly random direction.
The Podracing controls were also very touchy. While holding both hands out in front of you, pull back your right or left hand to steer right or left. You barely have to move to get a turn started and finding the sweet spot between barely turning and “OH MY GOD WALL!” is practically non-existent. All too often I saw “Off Course” or “Wrong Way” as I tried to race. To get a quick turbo boost you bring both hands back and quickly trust them forward. If you crash too much and your engines catch fire you can lift your left hand to fix the engines, problem is most of the time the game thought I wanted to turn left.
With the Rancor Rampage the chaotic nature of just destroying everything around you lent itself well to just flailing about, but the surprising thing is, this is where the controls worked the best. Clapping your hands to set off a sonic wave, swinging both arms down to smash the ground, or just picking up a random droid or trooper to throw all worked. It is great fun being a wrecking machine.
The Galactic Dance Off is the simplest; just mimic the movements of the onscreen character. Here again the controls seemed to spot on. The music you dance to are current hits with the lyrics replaced with Star Wars themes. For example, Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” becomes “Hologram Girl.”
Graphics and Sound
Kinect Star Wars’ graphic style sits somewhere between realistic and the Clone Wars animation style. Since this is a more family orientated game this is a great fit, giving it a fun look for kids and a nod to serious for adults.
Classic Star Wars themes play as the soundtrack while the voice acting has its ups and downs. Most of the cast are replacements for their movie counterparts and sound close, but not quite the same.
When I put in the Kinect Star Wars game I knew it wasn’t going to be a title for the hardcore fans, this was going to be a family title that everyone should be able to enjoy. Parts of it, I think, are family friendly, but other parts not so much.
The biggest disappointment is the Jedi fighting with a light saber and using the Force. I was a kid in 1977 and I wanted a light saber and force powers, (mostly I wanted to be Han Solo so I could have a blaster and pilot the Millennium Falcon, but that’s a different story). Here you get a taste, but not the full meal. In the movies they have light saber battles with quick action and fluid movements. In Kinect Star Wars you have to slow down and make your moves deliberate so the Kinect sensor reads it right. It’s a big letdown. Adding insult to injury you can get through most of the Dark Side Rising story just flailing around, if you do get stuck a “hologram” of a Jedi showing the suggested action will pop up.
Podracing was just pure frustration for me. I was all over the track and never felt I had any kind of control of the podracer.
I did love the Rancor Rampage. Just tearing through Mos Eisley, smashing buildings, throwing droids and people; it gave me a pure sense of destructive fun. I can see this being a lot of fun for kids and for very stressed out parents. It was a pretty good workout too.
Lastly, the Galactic Dance Off. Before I had the game it was a big “Why is this in a Star Wars game?” After seeing how it was explained as two corrupt files merged as one and that the target audience was a casual family, then it was more acceptable. It is a fun part of the game, especially if you are a fan of the hit Dance Central series. It’s not required that a person play through to unlock anything for other parts of the game, so it can be ignored if players want to. I see this being a great addition to a party for some goofy fun.
What Kinect Star Wars ends up being is a collection of mini-games set in the Star Wars universe. Some are handled well by Kinect, some not so much. The sad part being that it really doesn’t get the most important part right, being a Jedi. That really drags it down. I give it a 3 out of 5.
Kinect Star Wars is rated “T” for Teen for Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, and Violence by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).
It is available now exclusively for the Xbox 360 with Kinect. For more information see the Kinect Star Wars web site.