Whenever anything involves the Star Wars franchise, there are certain expectations that need to be met to satisfy die-hard and casual fans. So when a new video game wants to bring Star Wars to life like never before, that’s setting the bar really high.
Kinect Star Wars tries to use the power of the Kinect controller for the Xbox 360 to put players into the action, using full body motions to wield lightsabers, drive podracers, and, unfortunately, dance for Jabba the Hutt. The game has a few high points, but more disappointments than a bad motivator on a defective R2 unit.
There are five sections to the game, offering different styles of gameplay and a complete campaign for each. One section, Duels of Fate, is locked at the very beginning, but quickly unlocks after completing the first mission in the Jedi Destiny section.
Jedi Destiny is where players learn how to use their body movements to control the Force and use their lightsaber. Players start out as training padewans (those who are just learning how to use the Force) and are quickly thrust into a conflict with the Sith.
When the Kinect controller works, the actions are seamless and fluid. The animations look somewhat similar to what you’d see in a Star Wars: Clone Wars cartoon, which means they are easy on the eyes and familiar.
Force actions are fun to use. Grabbing a battle droid with the Force and flinging him into a group of his mates is quite enjoyable.
However, when the Kinect controller fails to read my actions properly, no amount of flailing in front of my screen will alleviate my frustration. More often than not, I couldn’t control the action as well as I would have liked and ended up many times just wading into groups of enemies and waving my lightsaber around.
There are times during Jedi Destiny when you control a speeder, gun turret or X-wing fighter for battles, but the controls seems sluggish and difficult to accurately pinpoint shots.
Rancor Rampage was probably the most fun out of all the segments. Players act as a freed rancor (remember him? The monster in the pit at Jabba’s lair?) and get to smash people, droids and buildings with abandon.
Here is where flailing about actually works to your advantage. The rancor smashes the ground to level opponents, charges through buildings with abandon and yes, eats people to gain health. The controls felt responsive to the appropriate moves and it was the best 1:1 movement experience out of all the game segments.
The podracing section is pretty straightforward. Players act as the driver and use their motion to control speed, direction and ramming abilities. The storyline occurs years after Anakin Skywalker won his race in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, but many of the characters are still around and add some great dialog in between races.
The feel of being in a podracer is well animated and would be fun.. except holding your arms out continually to control your racer gets tiring and painful. The races are rather long and you’ll need to take breaks often just so you can rest your shoulders.
Galactic Dance Off is the least Star Wars-like segment of the entire game. It is pretty much any Kinect dancing game and given a Star Wars coating. Modern dance songs are slightly tweaked to include Star Wars characters or action. Some of the dance moves are named after Force moves and even iconic characters are dragged onto the dance floor.
From a straight gameplay perspective, the dancing works and will be enjoyable to those who like that particular game. For someone hoping to have a Star Wars experience, the Dance Off is something best avoided and seems more like padding to the game than offering anything of substance to the title.
Duels of Fate puts you in one-on-one lightsaber battles with different foes from Star Wars lore, advancing your way through the ranks to face off against the Dark Lord himself, Darth Vader. If any part of the game was going to appeal to fans, it was going to be this one.
However, this segment is plagued by the same problems found in Jedi Destiny. The motions appear off at times, it is hard to string together actions for a successful hit, and the feel of the action is less than enjoyable.
Overall, Kinect Star Wars is likely to appeal to some gamers with the different styles of play in the segments. It is unfortunate that the two areas where the gameplay actually works best are two segments (Rancor Rampage and Galactic Dance Off) that are not part of the Star Wars canon.
Maybe we expect too much from a Star Wars title when we want it to reflect exactly what we’ve seen in the movies and television. Maybe our imagination of putting ourselves in the place of Luke Skywalker or Darth Maul can’t successfully be translated into a video game.
The right ideas are in the game for what could be a fulfilling experience. However, the Kinect controller, for all the good that it does in other titles, lets the player down and doesn’t see through with the promise of a new hope for the gamer/fan experience.
Kinect Star Wars is available now exclusively for the Xbox 360 and can only be played using the Kinect controller. It is rated T for Teens due to mild language, mild suggestive themes, and violence. This review was done playing on the Xbox 360 with the Kinect controller.