Our last preview of Kinect Star Wars was less than kind. The simple act of moving a Jedi through a totally linear, droid-filled tube was so laborious and unresponsive that Chris dubbed it "the worst thing that's ever existed." I can happily say the newly announced podracing section of the game is nowhere near as troublesome, and dare I say it was actually fun?
Above: I played as Anakin - no word if other pods are available
As in the movie, you control each engine by pushing your hands forward and backward. When both hands are parallel, the pod moves forward; to turn, pull one hand back (lessening that engine's thrust) and keep the other steady on a full burn. This control scheme was simulated with two analog sticks in the rather good Racer Revenge for PS2, but the act of actually moving your arms to scream down the track makes each bump, turn and crash more intense. This is also the first time podracing has been portrayed in HD, so the added visual clarity helps convey the intense sense of speed.
Above: Use the boost to get through
Simple as the controls may be, there's still a stiff learning curve. We're all used to wheels for steering, plus the sense of friction as tires squeal across the street, so handling a floating, dual-engine bullet chariot with just your hands takes some getting used to. I crashed once, but still managed to finish third by boosting like mad in the final stretch - you know, that place where the Tusken Raiders take potshots at passing racers. I didn't see any of 'em, but there were moments were critters jumped on the pod and I had to mime-toss things at them to scare them off.
Above: Kinect Star Wars takes place just after Episode I. Ugh whyyyyy
My only real concern with this mode, other than it's not a full game and just part of a larger bundle, is hairpin turns. I couldn't figure out a way to slow down and take tight turns well, even with the racing line HUD drawing a perfect path. Maybe it just takes more practice, maybe it's just not responsive enough - won't know for sure until it ships (along with this sweet-ass Kinect bundle) this fall.