Release Date: April 3, 2012
Developer: Terminal Reality
Platform(s): Xbox 360
Genre: Action/Adventure, Racing, Dance
Not so long ago in a galaxy not far, far away at all, a sci-fi film saga known as Star Wars wowed the world and jumpstarted imaginations. Now 35 years since it’s debut, Star Wars is still strong with the Force even despite backlash after the more recent prequels. One thing fans have been screaming for is a more interactive experience in which explore the galaxy that George Lucas built—Kinect Star Wars seeks to answer those cries. But is this anthology of motion games more likely to keep you on the path of the Jedi or turn you to the Dark Side? There’s five games/modes in this collection, so let’s break them down.
Jedi Destiny: Dark Side Rising
“Jedi Destiny” is Kinect Star Wars‘ main draw—every fan wants to be a Jedi! In this mode, you take on the role of a Jedi Padawan before the final events in Revenge of the Sith, fighting your way through several missions over three planets. This is the main narrative experience in the game, and the most fun to play—you can use the Force to grab, push, and transport objects and enemies, and more importantly, duel with a lightsaber. The experience is very fun despite being on rails, but also frustrating. It’s very satisfying to cut down your enemies with your lightsaber or speed through Kashyyyk on a speeder bike, but the Kinect doesn’t always register all your commands. One moment in particular, while training with Yoda on Kashyyyk, I was stuck behind a fucking log desperately trying to move past it or even jump over it. Because of theses issues, the “on rails” elements actually seems like a benefit rather than a hindrance. The duels also have issues, but I’ll get to that later. This section of the full game is also quite short for it being arguably the most popular; you’d be lucky to squeeze five hours out of it.
The podracing scene in The Phantom Menace is my least favorite scene in the entire film(yes, even over anything involving Jar-Jar); it lasts around a half an hour and just drags, no pun intended. However, it’s undeniable how cool it would be to pilot a podracer and this mode confirms that sentiment. You select a racer and meet up with blatant Jewish stereotype Watto, to race for him as he seeks redemption after being suckered by Rob Roy years ago. In my opinion, “Podracing” has not only the best control scheme in Kinect Star Wars, but is also the most responsive. You simply shift your arms to control each of your thrusters and lift either your left or right arm to repair your pod or initiate a weapon, respectively. But, like all the modes in this collection, this is not without it’s faults. Selecting repairs and weapons causes your pod to veer of course—sometimes dramatically—and you have to play standing up the entire time for the best results. I haven’t seen one podracer standing while operating a pod—let alone any pilot operating a vessel—ever, so it’s stupid that we have to. Those hiccups aside, this will most likely become a favorite mode of most players.
If you thought the prequels raped your childhood, prepare for it to be murdered and the corpse sodomized. “Galactic Dance-Off” borrows heavily from Dance Central, and has no doubt already become a thing of infamy. This mode follows absolutely no narrative—you just select a character and hit various planet-themed dancefloors. Strange thing is, you never even see your dancer outside of cutscenes, so selecting one seems mostly like a waste. Now, before you slit your wrists at the thought of this existing, know that it’s actually a blast. Yes, it’s a huge joke, but if you take it for what it is you’ll have a good time. I can’t dance for shit, but it was fun dusting off my shoulders with Han Solo and making an ass of myself in general. The motion controls/recognition for this mode aren’t very polished, which can end up working in your favor if you’re a bad dancer like me. However, one of the my most annoying experiences in all of Kinect Star Wars happened while playing this mode. My girlfriend decided to give this a try, so the Kinect logged her in as “Guest” and she began dancing. Shortly after, it logged her out and in as “Guest 1″, then “Guest 2″, and back to “Guest 1″ again. This was both ridiculous and distracting; the Kinect shouldn’t have that much of a problem for how advanced it is.
Ah yes, the rancor—a monster that inspires fear in every creature that sees it… until it’s murdered with a rock. In this mode, you take on the role of a pissed of rancor and literally go on a rampage, destroying whatever map you’re on—so the title is spot-on. “Rancor Rampage” doesn’t really follow a narrative either, and it doesn’t need one since all you do is smash shit. I thought this would be a great stress reliever; coming home after a rough day and fucking up everything in my path. I was dead wrong. You’ll end up blinded by rage if you attempt to use this to reduce stress or anger; this mode has the worst command responses in the entire collection. As you can see from the picture above, there is a charge attack that requires you to simulate running like a gorilla. Out of the twenty or so times I attempted this move, it worked only twice; the rancor mostly ended up jumping or just flailing in place. Also, the control scheme is free-roaming which is just terrible; this would’ve greatly benefited from the “on rails” model that “Jedi Destiny” uses. While this section of the game could’ve been a cool addition, it ends up becoming an afterthought.
Duels of Fate
Here it is, the mode that most Star Wars fans are dying for—the chance to best Darth Vader in a lightsaber duel. After you complete the first few missions in “Jedi Destiny”, this mode unlocks allowing you to bone up on your lightsaber mastery(sounds like a really geeky innuendo for masturbation). There is also no narrative here, you simply choose a Jedi and engage in what are essentially the boss battles from “Jedi Destiny”, but with more diverse opponents. This should be the highlight of the game, but sadly, it isn’t. The motion responses are very shoddy, sometimes completely disregarding certain movements. Following a friend’s suggestion, I used a small flashlight(turned off) to simulate the hilt of the lightsaber and register more accurate wrist movements. While this did help, it still wasn’t enough to alleviate frustration. Also, I feel that holding something defeats the purpose of you being the “controller”; if the game functions better with a peripheral item, they should’ve packed in a lightsaber hilt prop. That would’ve been neat, but instead we’re forced to find ways to repair the game’s shortcomings ourselves.
Overall, Kinect Star Wars isn’t going to be a favorite of most Star Wars fans over the age of 10. The presentation itself is mediocre, with the graphics ranging from “good” to “ugly”. Some of the textures in “Jedi Destiny”—especially those used on the droids—are outright terrible. Also, there is no way to pause the game other than walking out of the Kinect’s view or pressing the Xbox guide button on a controller, which is a pain in the ass and again defeats the purpose of not needing a traditional controller. The Kinect still has yet to impress me, and considering how random the responsiveness is, this game would’ve excelled with something that uses 1:1 tracking like the Playstation Move or Wii MotionPlus—especially in the dueling segments. There is enjoyment to be found here though, you’ll just have to dig through a trash compactor to find it.