Has Star Wars been lampooned enough in recent times? If your answer is ‘yes’ then perhaps it would be best to stay away from Kinect Star Wars altogether. If the sight of a small girl telling off her pet Rancor for eating her grandpa doesn’t tip you over the edge for detesting what the Star Wars franchise has become, then surely the dancing mini-game will. Microsoft really weren’t joking when they said that Kinect Star Wars isn’t going to be for the ‘core user’.
Rumour has it that work on Kinect Star Wars started way back in 2009. We wouldn’t be surprised if the third-person Jedi adventure mode was the first thing the developers got started on as it does look rather like a game stuck in the past. There are a few control and camera issues – mostly down the fact that the camera automatically locks onto the nearest enemy – while the visuals are of mixed quality. Yoda looks great with his trademark wrinkly face and wispy hair but most of other NPCs are lacking in detail.
It starts off with a Jedi training exercise – which acts as a tutorial – before moving over to a battle on the Wookie planet of Kashyyyk. It’s a fast paced affair and a dramatic one too thanks to a battle raging in the background. A speeder-bike chase set over both land and water is the highlight with Yoda acting as a co-pilot and occasionally showing off his Jedi skills. The ability to kick enemies off ledges and using the force to throw droids through windows is also pleasing.
After this reasonably impressive opening level though everything slowly goes downhill with the last few levels set inside a nondescript space station. The space battles are incredibly simplistic too due to a rather generous auto lock on feature. The fact that there are instant restarts when being ‘knocked out’ does prevent any potential frustration – there are only a handful of sections when you’re taken back to a checkpoint – but it doesn’t do much in the favour of this mode’s length. Three hours is all it takes to see everything.
The six pod races don’t take long to play through either. The graphics for this mini-game are a huge improvement on those found in the adventure mode and the controls work perfectly with each arm assigned to one of the pod-racer’s twin engines. Two support items out of a choice of six – including a flame thrower – can be assigned at the start of each race. These become upgraded as the story progresses. The problem we had here is that the difficulty level is the reverse of what you’d expect. The first couple of races are tough, even with the driving assistances turned on, but later races are a breeze as by this point your pod-racer will have maxed out stats for both shields and boost. Races are heavily scripted – every track has a favourite who will always come first unless shortcuts and support items are put to good use – but there’s fun to be had here and it remains faithful to the source material.
Rancor Rampage is likewise fun initially with the idea being to stomp, smash and slam everything in your path, but tedium quickly sets in. Controls are clunky – you’re better off charging at a wall and being automatically spun back around in the right direction than trying to turn around by twisting your body – and there are only four levels on offer. Your Rancor gains experience by completing incredibly simple challenges and destroying buildings but to reach experience level 10 requires you to play those same four levels over and over again. Annoyingly, every time a level is restarted you have to watch a CGI intro which can’t be skipped until around half-way through. Your reward for all this? A flying Rancor. This beast does make some of the achievements easier to get, such as the one for destroying five Tie-Fighters, but a lot of time and patience is required beforehand.
The dancing mode fairs better. With such sights as Han Solo strutting his stuff on the dance floor while Lobot DJs in the background, the Galaxy Dance Off mode (to give it it’s full name) could however be seen by some as an abuse of the license. There’s no denying though that it’s well made, with Dance Central blatantly used as inspiration. The motion detection works brilliantly and any mistakes made are highlighted in red to show where you’re going wrong. There’s fair leeway for error – you get a couple of seconds to start pulling off the right moves until your score multiplier drops.
Each track is a parody of a recent chart hit – complete with parodied album art – while the dance moves have been given such names as ‘The Kessle Run’ and ‘Han Shoots First’. It’s hard not to imagine somebody cracking a smile at some of the lyrics – Chris Brown’s ‘I’m Flying Solo’ has been changed to ‘I’m Han Solo’ and references the smuggler being set free from Jabba’s palace. Daft Punk, Deadmau5e, Gwen Stefani and Christina Aguilera provide some of the other tracks. Who could have predicted that the dancing game would be the best thing here? Not us, that’s for sure.
Rounding the package off is a duelling mini-game entitled Duels of Fate. The first few fights are recycled content from the adventure mode while later battles see you duelling against Count Dooku and Darth Vader. Compared to how casual the rest of the game is this mode is actually quite hardcore, for want of a better word. There’s very little room for mistake as each duel is set against a very tight limit. At first the times to beat seem impossible but by learning attack patterns they can be beaten eventually.
The fact that numerous developers worked on Kinect Star Wars clearly shows – everything from how it looks to how well the motion controls work is inconsistent. It’s likely though that children won’t be bothered by its downfalls in the slightest and for young Star Wars fans the chance to pilot a pod-racer and kick alien races in the shins will be a dream come true.