There's one thing that all of the various motion gaming accessories have had in common since the day they were announced; gamers wanted to know how they could use them to play Star Wars. There's something about the Star Wars universe that makes fans want to be fully immersed in the virtual experience (it might be the lightsabers). While most attempts to fill a Jedi's boots have fallen a bit short, LucasArts and Microsoft Studios' latest release, Kinect Star Wars, may be the closest thing to traveling back to a galaxy far, far away, without actually having to do it.
Kinect Star Wars is the first game in the franchise to make use of Microsoft's Kinect technology that takes the controller out of your hands, and puts you into the game. Included are five different modes, each of which put the player in different, mostly familiar, scenarios in the Star Wars universe, and all of them offer completely unique ways to play. Jedi Destiny puts you in the role of one of science fiction's most beloved heroes as you battle your way from Padawan training to confronting the Dark Side head-on. The podracing mode helps you relive the intense intergalactic racing that fans should remember from Episode I. Rancor Rampage lets Kinect owners take out their frustrations by demolishing villages as one of the most feared repotomammals in all of Star Wars. Galactic Dance Off lets you show off your best moves on the dance floor, sans lightsaber. Duels of Fate lets gamers live out their lightsaber battle fantasies by battling with some of the most infamous Star Wars characters.
Jedi Destiny: Dark Side Rising
As the Dark Side begins to be a growing concern for the Jedis, they have expanded their training schools, and begun accepting new recruits, the only requirement for which appears to be that they own a Kinect. Take control of your own lightsaber by miming and imaginary sword, use the Force by waving your hands about, and run and jump through Star Wars by getting your whole body involved in the game. In short, it’s not the most glamorous gaming experience, but it’s still the closest gamers are ever going to get to becoming a Jedi, actually using the Force while battling alongside Master Yoda. The ground battles with the droids and various other villains from all of the movies are broken up with some well-done vehicular sections (the speeder segments stand out as some of the best gameplay in the whole game), and are punctuated with cutscenes full of cameos from all your favorite characters from the expanded universe. To add to that, completing the Jedi Destiny training mode unlocks Duels of Fate. This mode is basically an extended series of lightsaber battles, which culminates in a match up with Star Wars' most infamous character.
Similar to the speeder sections of the Jedi Destiny mode, podracing takes advantage of Kinect by putting you behind the "wheel" in Star Wars' Galactic Podracing Circuit. Use your body to steer and avoid obstacles and other aggressive racers along the various tracks in a sub-game that feels like a motion controlled WipEout. The action is fast and furious, with well-designed, responsive controls, making the races both competitive and enjoyable. The more success you have during each race will allow you to unlock and upgrade your racer, allowing players to boost both their offense and defense, making each progressive race more and more competitive. As you progress through the Circuit as part of Watto's team, you'll meet up with other well-known racers like Subulba and Dud Bolt, which makes good use of the characters from Episode I.
If you've ever wanted to see how quickly the buildings on Mos Isley can crumble then the Rancor Revenge mode is perfect for you. Kinect Star Wars lets you play as an escape rancor who gets to wreak havoc on some of the most iconic villages in the universe. As the rancor you are basically an agile tank that can run through walls, hurl civilians and bots hundreds of meters, and can crush just about anything. It’s a fun mode in that you basically just get to destroy stuff all the time to score points, however, even though the rancors are agile, they control a bit more like tanks. Turning around and actually heading directly at a specific place tend to be a bit challenging, but the plus side is, no matter where you are, there's usually something to smash.
Galactic Dance Off
So, Kinect Star Wars includes a mode that borrows from the gameplay of Dance Central, and is set to reworked versions of modern day songs that have had Star Wars themed lyrics inserted into them. If you take it at face value, it's about as enjoyable as Dance Central is (take that as you will), however everything that happens in this mode feels like it's taking place in some kind of bizzaro-Star Wars universe. Watching Princess Leia unchain herself and walk away from Jabba to join in on "Princess in a Battle" (Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle" sung from Leia's perspective), or watching Han Solo and Lando Calrissian take on "I'm Han Solo" (based on Jason Derulo's "Ridin' Solo") is one of the most surreal things ever done with Star Wars characters. The gameplay isn't bad, but the mode is just weird – there's really no other way to describe it.
Overall, Kinect Star Wars is a step in the right direction, but it isn't about to somehow alter your DNA to up your midi-chlorian count. If you're a Kinect owner looking for something a little more adventurous than Kinect Adventures, and you're willing to suspend your feelings about whether or not you should ever be responsible for making a render of Harrison Ford do a dance move called "The Trash Compactor," Kinect Star Wars offers a nice diversion set in a familiar universe. At the very least, most of the game's modes offer a two-player co-op mode that allows you to test your Jedi skills alongside one of your friends. After a couple of hours of gameplay, it becomes pretty apparent that Kinect Star Wars wasn't developed for the most hardcore fans of the series, it's more for younger fans, and parents who want to explore Star Wars and possibly introduce it to their kids. When examined in that context, it makes it a worthy addition to anyone's Kinect library.