The lights are on
Score: 6.25 / 10
Kinect Star Wars
Xbox 360 Kinect
Developer: Terminal Reality
Release Date: April 3rd, 2012
When motion control gaming took the world by storm, fans cried out for one thing; motion controlled lightsabers. Star Wars fans have been pretending to swing lightsabers for a long time, so adding a motion control game to reinforce that action was a no-brainer. Microsoft unveiled Kinect Star Wars at E3 to mixed response, promising to address the concerns before release. The result is the potential fun that could be had only managing to occasionally peek out through the technical issues.
That Menacing Phantom...
Kinect Star Wars features various modes with the overarching story of investigating the Jedi records, but the Jedi Destiny mode acts as the most character driven option. You assume the role of a Jedi Padawan on their way to Kashyyk for training, right in the middle of a Trandoshian invasion. You set off to discover the reason for the invasion and assist your master in quelling the threat in your quest to become a Jedi Knight.
Other modes have their own story, whether it's the rancor that escapes and goes on a rampage or the unlikely janitor that rises to become a podracing professional. While the latter modes need no real explanation, the Jedi Destiny mode has an unexpectedly bland story for a campaign. Situations arise that are plucked straight from the movies and no attempt at producing anything unique is made. Considering this is the Star Wars franchise with a huge universe of lore, the story only manages to scratch the surface of potential.
Visually, Kinect Star Wars feels...lacking. Rough background textures adorn most of the environments and character models fail to impress up close. These distractions can hold back the greater cinematic moments, especially since the animation is the most appealing visual aspect. The Star Wars license is best used in providing a familiar soundtrack and authentic sounds of blaster fire and a lightsaber's hum. Jennifer Hale even returns to voice her third Jedi Master, breathing a small amount of life into the dead husk that is the story.
This is my Lightsaber, There are Many Like it...
There are five total modes to choose from in Kinect Star Wars, with Jedi Destiny acting as the main campaign;
Jedi Destiny puts you behind a Jedi Padawan, using one hand to swing your lightsaber and the other to use the Force. You can also put one foot forward to close distance between you and your enemy and even jump to flip over them. The combat soon throws droidekas and dueling droids your way, which require more than a simple arm swing to overcome.
There are attempts to mix up these sequences with speeder bike chases and one on one duels. The duels usually involve trading off between blocking and attacking and do little more than that. There is even a Duel of Fates mode to hone your craft in dueling the tougher generals, working your way up to face off against the dark lord himself.
Though the mode has the right idea, the game fails to really capture your attention. The pacing wears thin after the first planet, and hacking through hallway after hallway loses appeal fast. You have no ability to target specific enemies, and the droideka lighting you up in the distance will have to get in line behind the measly battle droid that is a few steps away. The attempt to vary the gameplay with starship sequences and speeder bike chases outstay their welcome, and the faulty tracking oftentimes mistakes movements for dodging or fails to acknowledge your intentions altogether.
The other three modes prove more entertaining than the base Jedi Destiny campaign:
Podracing puts you behind the "wheel" of your favorite vehicle. Pulling back with your right hand turns right, and pulling back with your left hand turns left. Pulling both hands back and pushing forward will boost, and raising your left or right hand will use an item from your loadout. The mode holds up well enough with six different tracks and multiple racers to choose from, but turning on a dime and careful handling are difficult to get the hang of for the tougher tracks.
Galactic Dance has you pitted against the franchises most notorious figures...in a dance off. Akin to Dance Central, you perform the moves listed on the flashcards and chain together combos for a high score. There is no practice mode and you are thrown right into the mix with little explanation. The game has trouble with tracking once again, but works well for the most part with multiple difficulties. The mode alone is worth playing just to see the emperor dancing to Deadmau5.
Rancor Rampage has you assume the role of a rancor by hopping, charging, and stomping your way through one of four planets. A challenge mode will require you to perform specific actions for a boost in points, and fury mode will simply ask for you to survive the waves of enemies attempting to stop your tirade. Oddly enough, this proves to be the most enjoyable mode to play as trampling through buildings and hearing the one-liners of flying civilians never disappoint, and the leveling system will keep you coming back. Controlling the rancor's movement can prove difficult, as you must either charge or slowly stomp your way to intended targets.
In all of the aforementioned modes, a co-operative option is available at any time. The hop-in, hop-out co-op is a nice touch and going through the game with a friend makes for a much better experience than flying solo. The benefit of having a second lightsaber to hack away at droids or fellow Rancor to assist in completing challenge objectives outshines the lacking AI or lonely experience. If you want to experience Kinect Star Wars at its best, it's with a friend.
Each mode has a series a of unlocks or rewards for completing certain tasks, and provides incentive for completing everything offered. These usually involve completing each mode on a tougher difficulty or performing a specific task to unlock new characters or different difficulties. Placing first in a race can unlock a new podracer or completing a dance with five stars can unlock a new character. The varying objectives can be a chore to accomplish, and the reward is usually not worth the time invested.
Despite this attempt, Kinect Star Wars is much more of a party game than an actual solo experience. In most cases death is treated too lenient, oftentimes popping you right back into place for another run. It makes the game seem much simpler than it should be, as it rarely forces you to retrace your path from a checkpoint. Each mode will only last you a few hours before it's all said and done...or if you collapse from exhaustion.
Kinect Star Wars fails to really capture what was desired. Technical issues with the Kinect and an overall uninspiring campaign drag the game below expectations. Though the less focused modes end up being the most entertaining, they won't hold your attention long. Frustrating platforming, unresponsive controls, and repetitive battles make Kinect Star Wars one of those titles where glimpses of enjoyment get snuffed out for frustrating moments. It's not a completely lost experience, but those looking for their pivotal Jedi experience will fall victim to a Jedi Mind trick...