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Game review: Kinect Star Wars

17 Apr 2012

For us gamers who grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy, many hours were spent taking part in imaginary lightsaber duels, using everything from sticks to golf clubs to vacuum cleaner pipes. As the years passed a stack of games have came out that moved us closer (some more than others, admittedly) to actually taking part in the type of grand Jedi adventures we’d seen on the big screen. With the technology behind Kinect, Microsoft has taken a huge step forward in interactive gaming, leading many to think Kinect Star Wars could be the game to finally deliver on the promises of the past.

So does it? Well, kind of. 

The main story of Kinect Star Wars follows a group of padawans on their Jedi adventures, and is an on-rails affair that incorporates (of course) lightsaber combat and use of the force, but also set segments requiring the player to drive speeders and man gun turrets.

It’s immediately apparent in the first 10 minutes that Kinect Star Wars is aimed squarely at the 5 – 15-year-old ‘new Star Wars’ fan demographic, both in content and complexity. The graphics have a similar style to the Clone Wars animated series, and the story is basic, as is the responsiveness of the lightsaber combat. The focus is more on wild slashing movements, evasion, and jumping over opponents to strike them from behind than on any actual swordfighting technique (coming from the opinion of someone who has actually studied swordfighting).

While the game offers some cool moments of controlling the force with your non-lightsaber hand, in the rush of combat getting the game to recognise your actions to control the force becomes ten times harder than it is in the ‘practice’ exercises, so it’s easier just to stick with the lightsaber-flailing. The game supports up to two players, and if you don’t have a friend (or one willing to play the game) one will be provided for you in the form of an AI padawan companion.Unfortunately the main game soon reverts to a formula of flailing a lightsaber to kill enemies, moving to next section, and repeating, with occasional other stages thrown in for variety.

If just lightsaber battles are what you are after, completing the first part of the game unlocks the ‘duel of the fates’ mode, which is essentially a one on one (or two on two if playing with a friend) mode that just focuses on a lightsaber battle with a boss style enemy. Beat them quickly enough and you unlock the next enemy to challenge.

Perhaps sensing that the main campaign was a little light, the LucasArts team have bundled a handful of extra mini-games in with Kinect Star Wars. For example, you can play a pod racing game, which actually controls fairly decently and provides a few fun challenges, although holding your arms out constantly gets really tiring really quickly. 

Another slightly odd addition is the Rancor Rampage mode - which places you in the large claw-tipped boots of a Rancor and tasks you with causing as much chaos as possible within a specific timeframe. While initially it is quite fun to go crazy (like some unnamed giant Japanese monster) demolishing the town, again the sensitivity limitations of Kinect make it difficult to do exactly what you want to do sometimes. On several occasions I found myself stuck trying to turn around, and ended up facing against the wall of the map. Young children with delusions of growing up to destroy the world will love it though.

Finally and most controversially is the inclusion of a Galactic Dance Off mode, which is a blatant re-skinning of Dance Central with Star Wars characters, songs and moves put together as a mini game.

Galactic Dance Off is like a terrible train wreck – it’s both horrible to watch and yet irresistible at the same time. The Star Wars fan in me thinks it’s a stupid mockery of everything that is Star Wars, much like George Lucas constantly fiddling with the movies themselves to make them ‘better’. Having Han Solo taking part in a dance competition in the carbonite chamber in cloud city is just ridiculous - or was that the part that we didn’t see before Vader captured them? Perhaps it will feature in Lucas’ next version of Empire Strikes Back (I sincerely hope not). Likewise, what are C3PO and R2 doing on the sidelines of a Death Star dance level? I guess they were on there at one point. Perhaps that’s what they were doing while Luke and co were stuck in the garbage compactor.  

Still, one must give the developers credit for trying to do what they can with a bad idea. The songs themselves are quite catchy and for the most part well re-written and recorded. Jason Derulo’s ‘Ridin’ Solo’ has been remastered into ‘I’m Han Solo’, which ends up somehow being far more awesome then the original song ever was. Likewise Christina Aguilera’s ‘Genie in a bottle’ becomes ‘Princess in a battle’, Gwen Stefani's ‘Hollaback Girl’ is tweaked to become ‘Hologram Girl’ and even dancefloor staple ‘YMCA’ receives a Stormtrooper makeover to become ‘Empire Today’. The animations and dance moves, however, are not at all Star Wars. Despite giving the moves names like ‘Falcon in Flight’, ‘Chewie Hug’ and the ‘Trash Compactor’, one only has to hit YouTube and watch the player silhouette to see the average Star Wars fan’s body composition is not really compatible with Princess Leia in a bikini doing a ‘Force Push’ boob and butt wriggle. 

In the end, most of the content here (with the exception of Leia shaking her stuff) is aimed squarely at the children’s market – and they will probably love most of what is on offer. For those older fans, sorry – if you value your memories of Star Wars, you might want to skip this one. 

Graphics 7Gameplay 6Sound 9Lasting appeal 7Overall 7.5

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