- Kinect Sensor Required
- Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios, LucasArts
- Developer: Terminal Reality
- ESRB Rating: “T" for Teen
- Genre: Shooter
- Pros: Podracing; neat menus; quite a few moments of genuine fun; Dance mode is either silly and kind of fun ...
- Cons: ... or the Dance mode is the worst thing ever (you decide) ; action minigames too much for Kinect
Star Wars Kinect is set up with the premise that Luke Skywalker has sent R2-D2 and C-3PO to the Jedi Archives on Coruscant to do research. The menus function well - they are the kind where you move a cursor around and hold it on an item to select it, but it doesn't automatically snap to the nearest selection so they work well - and having Artoo and Threepio prattle on about your choices is kind of neat. The information they find on a group of young Jedi padawans, rancor attacks around the galaxy, podracing, epic lightsaber battles, and, er, galactic dance off competitions, make up the actual gameplay in Kinect Star Wars. We'll take a look at each element separately.
Jedi Destiny is the meatiest of the gameplay modes. In this mode you play as a Jedi padawan and go through training before being thrust into the thick of battle in the Clone Wars on Kashyyk, among other areas. The controls are kind of semi-broken, though, and at the very least show why a motion controlled lightsaber game (whether with Kinect, Wii, or Move) will never really work the way people keep thinking it should (more on that later).
In Jedi Destiny your swing your lightsaber with your right hand, and use the force with your left hand. You can also lean left or right to dodge attacks, or jump to jump into the middle of enemies where you can start hacking away. You can also lean forward and put your arms straight behind you (like how ninjas run in anime) to sprint forward. The problem is that Kinect can't keep up with all of these different control inputs. Battles require you to deflect laser blasts with your lightsaber, while using the force to catch missiles and fling them away, while running and jumping and ducking under objects and a million other things and the controls just get confused and don't react like they should. It also doesn't help that a lot of enemies are immune to the Force (why can't I just pick everyone up and throw them off a cliff?) and enemies also take way too many lightsaber slashes to the chest before they die. It just doesn't make you feel like a powerful Jedi at all (stick to The Force Unleashed for that).
Jedi Destiny also occasionally lets you ride a speeder bike or control a turret. The speeder sections move too fast, and the graphics are too muddy to really see the obstacles you're supposed to dodge, so they aren't too fun. Turret sections in space are definitely neat, though.
Even with our complaints, there is some fun to be had in Jedi Destiny. When the controls work right and you can string together multiple moves it is kind of fun, but that doesn't happen very consistently. There are definitely interesting moments here and there, but mostly it just controls poorly and the long levels leave you feeling tired. Good luck getting the achievements for doing all of the missions on a planet in one session - you'll be sore tomorrow!
Duel of the Fates mode lets you just go one-on-one against other saber-wielding enemies. It isn't as fun as you think, though. Motion controlled sword fighting can't really work because there is no tactile feedback. While you are wildly swinging your arms, the enemy on your screen may be blocking your attacks and then going into its own attack animation and you won't be ready for it because you are waving wildly in an attempt to see if you can accidentally chop off your own character's head. The only way videogame swordfighting can really work is if it is so slow or predictable that it won't be fun anymore, which is pretty much what Kinect Star Wars does. Your enemy will go through an easily readable pattern of slow attacks where you have to block left, right, up, or down. Block a couple of attacks in a row, and then you have an opening to wildly wave your lightsaber to attack them. Rinse, repeat, yawn, and quit because it is boring.
Rancor Rampage is the most ridiculous of the modes as it is pretty much exactly what the title promises. You play as a giant rancor monster and get to destroy stuff. You wildly wave your arms to attack buildings and people as efficiently as you can. You can pick up objects and people and throw them around. Oh, and you can eat people, which is kind of awesome. Again, the controls only sort of work, and getting your rancor to walk around is really inconsistent, but the nature of the mode is very simplistic so the controls don't really get in the way like they do in other modes.
The best mode is easily Podracing. You hold your hands out in front of you like you're holding the controls of the pod, and then pull your left hand toward you to turn left, or right hand toward you to turn right. The controls are surprisingly intuitive and it all works really quite well. It is very, very tiring, though, as holding your arms straight out in front of you will wear you out pretty quickly. There are lots of races to play through and the tracks are well designed.
The most controversial mode is definitely the Galactic Dance Off. It is basically designed to take your childhood memories of Star Wars and destroys them. All of the songs are Star Wars remixes of modern pop songs and Han Solo, Lando Calrisian, Princess Leia, and more all get out on the dance floor and start dancing. The gameplay is exactly like Dance Central where you just mirror the moves you see onscreen, and the Kinect controls work perfectly fine here just like in Dance Central. It is a strange mode, though, because seeing series favorite characters dancing and acting so strange (They made Lobot a DJ! Scandalous!) in familiar settings from the movies is just plain weird. The songs are surprisingly catchy, though, and the dancing is fun enough. It is hard as a die hard Star Wars fan to separate the ridiculousness and fun of it all from our beloved characters. It just doesn't seem right, and I can imagine a lot of Star Wars fans really having trouble with it. On the flipside, though, hardcore Star Wars fans will be the only ones that will really appreciate all of the references crammed into the new lyrics of the songs or be able to spot all of the cameos from characters lining the dance floor. Star Wars fans will hate it, but they are also the only ones who will truly appreciate it.
Graphics & Sound
The presentation is also a bit questionable in Kinect Star Wars. The graphics are only okay in most of the modes, but the Galactic Dance Off does sport some nice character models and recognizable environments. The sound is also pretty uneven. Voice acting is kind of awful across the board, but at least the sound effects and music are distinctly "Star Wars".
Gameplay wise, aside from just being overwhelming in the Jedi Destiny mode, the Kinect motion controls generally work just fine. The actual content built around the controls is the bigger problem. Jedi Destiny and the Duels modes are both slow and boring. Rancor Rampage is easy and mindless fun, but not for very long. Podracing works, but will wear you out. And the dance mode plays just fine, but may or may not destroy your fond childhood memories of when Star Wars was cool. Even if you aren't a militant hardcore Star Wars fan that hates everything released in the last 20 years, though, Kinect Star Wars is such an uneven product that it is hard to fully recommend. Sure, the dancing or podracing is okay, but there are only a handful of songs and tracks. The rest of the game is thoroughly mediocre, which means there just isn't enough quality content overall to justify a full price purchase. If you are interested in it at all, wait for a price drop.
Of course, I don't think anyone would blame you for picking up the game bundled with the gorgeous Kinect Star Wars Limited Edition Xbox 360 Console Bundle. That thing is awesome.