The Kinect Strikes Back?
First revealed at E3 2009, Kinect Star Wars was envisioned by many to be one the must own titles for Microsoft’s motion sensing device. Almost three years after it was originally unveiled, Kinect Star Wars is finally here. Is the Force strong with this Kinect title, or should it be sealed in carbonite and delivered to Jabba the Hutt? Read on to find out.
Game: Kinect Star Wars
Developer: Terminal Reality
Whilst Kinect Star Wars is for all intents and purposes a mini-game compilation, it does feature a main story mode of sorts, titled Jedi Destiny. Here you take control of a rising Padawan in a story that is set somewhere between Star Wars Episode I and II. Your ultimate task is simple, fight and take out enemies that are set on launching an attack on the homeland of the Wookiees. Master Yoda himself is on hand to guide you and teach you the skills you’ll need to complete your quest, but even his appearance can’t save what is a terrible story. It’s extremely short and devoid of any real depth, making it a real let down for both gamers and Star Wars fans.
Kinect Star Wars’ visuals certainly won’t have you shouting from the rooftops, but that’s not to say it’s an awful looking game either. Well-known characters that appear in the Star Wars films such as Obi Wan and Yoda are modelled nicely, replicating the look of their big screen counterparts quite well. However, the game’s cinematic sequences are extremely disappointing, lacking that authentic Star Wars feel and atmosphere. The game’s best graphical moments come when you’re aboard your ship, locked in battle with enemies. Not only do they look impressive, they do the Star Wars franchise some justice.
As you’d expect, John Williams’ epic theme makes an appearance or two in Kinect Star Wars and (as always) is a pleasure to listen to. However, the same sentiment cannot be applied to the voice acting. Apart from Yoda and Obi Wan, the other character’s voices are far from great. Main theme music aside, the only other area the game’s audio excels in is the Galactic Dance Off mode (more on that later). It’s quite hilarious, as some of the biggest pop tunes ever receive a makeover to fit in with the Star Wars Universe.
Back when it was first announced, fans were hoping Kinect Star Wars would be able to deliver some fantastic lightsaber duels, allowing you to recreate epic battles from the comfort of your living room. Sadly, the final product just doesn’t deliver on that front. The Kinect motion controls are extremely lacklustre, lethargic and restrictive. If you’re expecting the game to offer full-on lightsaber duels, you’ll be left utterly disappointed. Kinect will only recognise the simple movements of your arms, which gets both repetitive and tiring very quickly.
Using Force powers is also a disappointing and ineffective experience. You basically use your one free arm to use the Force and manipulate objects as well as enemies. However, only certain enemies are effected by the Force, so you can’t go power crazy like good old Palpatine. Whilst using the Force is simple procedure, the Kinect sensor will quite often fail to recognise an object or enemy you’re pointing at, resulting in a very frustrating experience. On the occasions when the Kinect controls do work, whilst they don’t provide a 1:1 experience, they are fairly accurate. This is most apparent when you’re on board a ship, fighting hard to take out enemies. It’s just a shame that these instances aren’t reflective of the game as a whole.
With the Jedi Destiny mode being a bitter disappointment, it’s up to the other content in the game to raise the overall quality. Pod Racing is one of the modes that certainly does the trick, and its Kinect controls work quite well. If you’re not familiar with the art of Pod Racing, there is a handy tutorial available at the start of the mode that teaches you how to control a Pod, and use its weapons in a race. Apart from all the zooming and shooting, there will be points in races where your view is obscured by water droplets. Obviously, it’s not ideal to race around in your pod with water droplets on your screen, so you’re able to clean your view by raising your right hand and performing a wiping gesture. This mechanic doesn’t necessarily improve the overall Pod Racing experience, but it works well and is nice little addition to the mode. If you want a little challenge during races, you’ll be happy to know that you are able to choose from a range of difficulty levels, with each one offering different levels of assistance.
Rancor Rampage is another mode included in Kinect Star Wars and, much like the other content, it’s let down by frustrating Kinect controls. The mode is all about taking control of a Rancor and causing as much damage as possible. The more damage you cause, the more points you receive and so on. Given the basic nature of the mode, it might be something that could catch the attention of younger gamers, but even then you have to wonder how long they’ll be rampaging for.
Now, when Galactic Dance off was announced as a mode for Kinect Star Wars many eyebrows were raised. The words “dance” and “Star Wars” should probably never go together, but in Kinect Star Wars they do, and it’s quite possibly the best mode the game has to offer. Seeing iconic characters such as Darth Vader dancing in well-known locations from the Star Wars universe is sure to get you laughing out loud. Simply put, Galactic Dance Off is essentially Dance Central in Star Wars setting, offering hours of fun thanks to some well implemented Kinect controls. The mode also features good selection of pop songs with an added Star Wars twist, so expect altered track names and lyrics that compliment galactic theme very well. “I’m Han Solo”, anyone?
If you only play Kinect Star Wars for its story mode, then you’ll be done with the game in a couple of hours max. The other modes offer up a few more hours of play time, but Galactic Dance Off and Pod Racing are the only other half decent reasons to boot up Kinect Star Wars again.
Whether it’s the limits of Microsoft’s device or poor implementation, for the most part, Kinect Star Wars’ controls are extremely lethargic and restrictive. Throw some occasional inaccuracies into the mix, and you have an experience that is best described as frustrating. Ironically, the Galactic Dance Off mode ends up being the only real highlight, providing a few chuckles thanks to the track list and appearances of well-known characters from the Star Wars universe.
Whatever way you look at it, Kinect Star Wars is a massive disappointment. Microsoft’s device and the Star Wars universe should’ve been a match made in heaven, yet it ends up being a Death Star-sized missed opportunity.