Kinect Star Wars Review - April 6th 2012

A short time ago, at an E3 not so far away, Microsoft unveiled the prototype for their Kinect sensor. Once the initial outcry from core gamers had begun to subside (sort of), we were left to dwell upon the sheer potential of this latest Xbox peripheral. Bad memories of the Vision Camera aside, the big idea that "you are the controller" was admittedly a powerful one. And since the Wii never delivered a definitive "the remote is a lightsabre" experience, all eyes quickly turned to this chunky, self tilting motion device for something truly memorable.


Enter Kinect Star Wars, a fancy looking Kinect exclusive saddled with the obligatory awful television commercials and a generation of fan boys yearning for their treasured license to be put to good use. Graphically, the game has more in common with the animated Clone Wars series than the Gamecube's seminal Rouge Squadron III, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Voice actors do a decent job of approximating the many stars of the prequel trilogy, but Obi-Wan and Mace Windu never sound quite right.

Despite this, the manner in which you play, and how responsive Kinect is to your movements, is arguably more important. Generally speaking, there isn't much leeway when it comes to how you perform each required action. As much as you'll want to, you can't swing your lightsabre at the speed you box in Wii Sports Resort. But once you adjust to the pace, it works quite well. Force grabbing (by holding out your hand to select a hapless foe) and Force push (which is charged by moving your left arm back and then extending forwards) are by far the most satisfying moves, whilst jumping and dodging work as advertised.

Duels of Fate is awful. Truly awful.

Truth be told, this is a game that spends a lot of time holding your hand, which is definitely a blessing and a curse. You have to consider the target market, which clearly skews toward the younger end of the gaming demographic. Without proper instruction (and in the case of the Pod-racing segment, multiple driving assists), there's a good chance children would become too frustrated by the occasionally wonky player detection and quickly get bored. Thankfully, you're very rarely left unsure of what gesture or action is required in order to progress through each part of a level. This is important because, particularly in the Jedi Destiny campaign, the action can get pretty chaotic. It could be very easy to become disorientated without the frequent inclusion of movement prompts. Infact, some sections require such good reflexes that you could be fooled into thinking that this was *gasp* a game for experienced players.

However, the Duels of Fate mini game spends so much time dictating the mechanics of the fight that encounters quickly become dull and monotonous, regardless of your age or ability. It's almost turn based, but not in a good way. First your A.I. opponent attacks, and you block a few times in one of four directions. Then you "win" a lightsabre clash by kicking or force pushing (both of which can somehow be achieved by performing a kick with your left leg) and then you attack, in one of four directions. And repeat. For what feels like forever. Needless to say, this is not Kinect Star Wars at its best, and proof that removing a players freedom to improvise isn't always a good thing.

You'll soon discover that Rancor Rampage acts as sweet relief from the restrictions of one on one sabre duelling. You essentially become a giant monster with the ability to plough through fantastically destructible buildings, pick up and throw hapless civilians, and generally stomp about to your heart's content. You're in full control of the Rancor's movement by literally walking on the spot and angling your body to turn, and it works consistently well. Galactic Dance off is much sillier, but surprisingly fun, despite my chronic lack of rhythm. It's pretty quirky, especially when Lando Calrissian wanted to join me for another round of Bruno Mars' Just the Way you Are, but regardless, it was still fun.

Rancor Rampage however is brilliant.

There's a lot here to enjoy, but ultimately, Kinect Star Wars spends a little too much time worrying about being fun for everyone. It's a solid use of the tech, and the brand has been used well, but it's an uneven experience peppered with good ideas. Rancor Rampage and Pod-racing are both excellent, while the campaign is decent enough. But Duels of Fate is just terrible, and there's not enough flexibility in the way you play the game to recommend it as an essential purchase.


Jon Titmuss

 

Gameplay:

You will enjoy being a Rancor and lose your inhibitions to Galactic Dance off, but not everything works as well as it should.

Audio:

The soundtrack is predictably awesome, but some of the voice acting leaves much to be desired.

Graphics:

Heavily stylised but effective visuals do a good job of representing the Star Wars universe.

Longevity:

Each campaign is quite short, but there is a lot of stuff to unlock.

     

Final Score:



I wont deny that I had fun, but Kinect Star Wars is still not the killer app Microsoft were hoping it would be.

 

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