As any self-respecting Jedi wannabe can tell you, a one-to-one motion-control lightsaber game has been the big dream ever since the Wii was first announced. Now, with Kinect Star Wars, the fantasy has become a reality – and while perfection is still in a galaxy far, far away, this game shouldn’t be relegated to the trash compactor. There’s much more here than just swinging a lightsaber and lifting things with your mind. Podracing, smashing cities as a Rancor, and even a galactic dance-off make this a surprisingly solid offering, especially for the younger padawans out there.
Kinect Star Wars is really four games in one. At the heart of the game Jedi Destiny, the action-heavy main campaign. It’s here we lived out our Jedi fantasies – once we got past the rough visuals and the occasional misread action from the Kinect. Even with the glitches, this is one of the best uses of the motion sensor in an action game, especially considering the set of moves available. Jumping, kicking and swinging the saber are reactive and generally accurate. We rarely had to repeat a kick or lightsaber slash to get the action to work (as can be the case with Kinect games), but the sensor often had issues determining if we were trying to perform a force push or a force grab, since both involve sticking our arms out toward the screen.
While most of the time we could cut through the lightsaber fodder by just waving our arms like a maniac, a few enemies (such as Trandoshan commandos, super battle droids, and dark Jedi) required a wider range of combat strategies. Side stepping, flipping over enemies’ heads, and performing ground slamming power attacks all come into play, and once we got a hang of the controls, slicing up droids and deflecting blaster bolts was enjoyable – but the moments of unreliable control were jarring.
Throughout the campaign we also took control of speeder bikes and starship turrets. These on-rails segments reminded us of the Star Wars Trilogy Arcade game. Kinect controls work astonishingly well in the turret sections, but that’s purely a technical achievement; not much from these sections really stand out or are fun.
Along with the main campaign, Kinect Star Wars includes three more fully featured minigames. Podracing boasts some of the most precise controls that can be found in a Kinect racer, but it comes at a cost: sore muscles. Holding an arm out to accelerate the right or left podracer engine is extremely fatiguing, especially considering some races can last over five minutes. Otherwise, steering works perfectly. The slightest movements are accurately detected and with a little bit of practice, taking sharp turns and sideswiping other pods is very satisfying.
Meanwhile, Galactic Dance Off proves that with Jedi powers, a developer can pull off … anything. Once we got past the use of the Star Wars license to rewrite contemporary pop songs for a Star Wars-themed dance game, we had some real fun with this lighthearted divergence. The developers went all out in their blasphemy, creating a functional dancing game with corny, Star Wars-themed lyrics set to pop hits. Busting out moves like the “mind trick,” “trash compactor” and “Han shot first” to song titles like “I’m Han Solo” (played to the tune of Jason Derulo’s “I’m Ridin’ Solo”). It’s a bold move, but if you’re going to incorporate dancing into a Star Wars game, this is how it should be done.
Finally, Rancor Rampage offers a Godzilla-inspired city smasher that’s thrill to play. Crushing buildings, slapping tie fighters out of the sky, and terrorizing the local populace while completing objectives like “eat two droids” or “throw a stormtrooper” is as fun as it sounds (and all the better thanks to the tight Kinect controls). What could have been a throwaway monster mode really got the attention it needed to make it one of the best parts of Kinect Star Wars.
Visually, the game is lacking, with muddy textures and graphics that hail from a long time ago. The Kinect controls are also unreliable at times (but also work brilliantly well most of the time). Overall, though, Kinect Star Wars fulfills most of the promise of a one-to-one lightsaber game, with enough variety (including that goofy dance mode) to make for a solid Star Wars experience.