I’ve got to admit it, Kinect Star Wars is a great deal more ambitious than I thought it would be in its attempts to encapsulate the majority of elements we think of as quintessentially Star Wars. There’s lightsaber combat, podracing, Yoda flipping around like a rubber ball, Darth Vader’s husky voice, manipulating objects with the Force and …err… dancing for your life in front of Jabba the Hutt.
The problem with any game attempting to successfully combine a number of different elements is obvious: how do you avoid the feeling that everything exists in isolation? That you’re playing four games, instead of one?
Kinect Star Wars avoids that problem by going in the other direction and embracing the idea that you’re playing four games instead of one. Podracing, dancing, destroying the local population as a Rancor monster and being a Jedi are the major components, and they’ve all got their own distinct section. The positive side of that is that you know exactly what you’re going to get, the negative is that there are no surprises. That’s probably a side-effect of the intended audience…
No matter which part of Kinect Star Wars you choose to play, the experience is one very clearly aimed at the younger generation. The challenge is positioned very much at the shallow end of the curve, input precision is extremely forgiving and the overtly family-friendly cut-scenes, dialogue and visuals scream weekend with the family.
Podracing is the most impressive event from a technical perspective, and also the most entertaining. From a control standpoint, podracing is right up there with the best input schemes and recognition I’ve seen from Kinect. You need to stand with your arms out in front of you as though you’ve got hold of two individual handle bars, the pod then accelerates of its own accord and it’s up to you to break and steer.
Rather than the weak, unresponsive and, frankly, dull leaning left and right the majority of Kinect’s racing/skiing/flying lineup asks of you, steering your pod is performed by pulling back on the relevant arm – pull back your left to turn left, and vice-versa.
The level of precision allows you to perform very smooth and shallow turns by pulling back a very little bit, as well as tight hairpins by turning and braking in tandem. There are various extra-curricular additions such as having to wipe liquid and/or dust from the screen following collisions, punching energy-sucking monsters from your engines and the predictable boost option – but their execution pales in comparison to the core steering controls.
Unfortunately, the same input quality and level of entertainment is not replicated elsewhere.
Jedi Destiny is probably what most players will consider the ‘main’ mode and sees you rise from Padawan to full-on Sith-beating badass. At least, that’s the theory… The reality is that you’ll spend most of the time struggling to get to grips with the awkward way in which you’re supposed to use Force techniques. When you’re not hovering your hand in front of your face in a vain attempt to pick up a fallen tree, you’ll be flinging your arms around at random in an attempt to clear the screen of whatever cut-and-paste enemy happens to pop into view.
You move through Jedi Destiny levels on rails, with pauses along the way to take down enemies. Battle sequences require you to lean towards the screen to quickly cut the distance between you and the bad guys, giving you a chance to put your lightsaber to use. If you’re pinned down by fire, swirling your arm in a figure of eight motion causes the lightsaber to do its own figure of eight, which acts as a shield and deflects bullets back to their source.
In truth, though, moving your arms at random gets the job done 90% of the time.
If the story was intriguing it might be worth your effort ploughing through these sections just to see another side of the Star Wars universe, but it’s largely all failure from that perspective thanks to a narrative that is weaker than instant coffee. Still, as I said before, this is a game aimed at kids, so if you’re playing alongside mini-humans then you will probably have fun through them. However, very few kids read this website, so our review is not aimed at them.
Galactic Dance Off is a paper-thin version of Dance Central with a Star Wars skin over the top. The idea is to perform the dance moves in a bid to keep Jabba the Hutt entertained to the point where he doesn’t want you killed. Bizarrely, the songs you get to choose from are Star Wars variations of actual pop tracks with the titles and the lyrics changed… it’s the kind of idea you’d expect from a thirty-something live-with-mum geek with no hope of finding a girlfriend, and less hope of finding that Dorito lodged in his cavernous belly button.
Princess in a Bottle, a variation on Christina Aguilera’s Genie in a Bottle, is a personal favourite. I can’t start my day without it.
Still, Galactic Dance Off does what it says on the tin and it does work as intended. Therefore, those with a taste for tasteless re-dubs of pop songs and dancing games are probably going to have a good time.
No one, however, will have a good time with Rancor Rampage. The idea is to go on a spree of destruction as a giant Rancor monster, laying waste to every civilian, building and speeder bike in your path. By waving your arms about, jumping on the spot and clapping your hands together (to create a shockwave) you can flatten a town in minutes. Well, not really, but that’s the idea.
What actually happens is that you do all of those things but then you have to do them again, and again, and again until the town is flattened in tens of minutes. It’s possibly the dullest, least imaginative and biggest waste of time you can have with Kinect. Avoid it.
Like , Kinect Star Wars should have been fun for all age groups. It should have played on the source material more and made something fresh and exciting from it. But it doesn’t. Kinect Star Wars has the odd moment of charming fun, but as a whole it fails to deliver. The Force might be strong… but rescue this, it can’t.