- Format: Xbox 360 with Kinect
- Price: £29.99
- Release date: 3 April, 2012
Ever since first seeing Luke take up a lightsaber in anger against the Empire, we have dreamed of the day when we would be able to wield a lightsaber of our very own, and with the launch of Kinect Star Wars for Xbox 360, we believed our dreams had come true.
Kinect Star Wars is split into one main game and three accompanying mini games, with the main game - Jedi Destiny: Dark Side Rising - following on from events depicted in the film Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (but don't let that put you off).
The influence of the Dark Side has spread across the galaxy and the Jedi Council has opened training centres to strengthen the ranks of the Jedi Order; you take the role of a Padawan learner, who is taught to be a Jedi by the Jedi Master himself, Yoda (having taken a break from those Vodafone ads he's currently starring in).
Turning on the game for the first time, you are greeted by two old friends, the chatty and vaguely amusing double team of C3PO and R2D2 and, while slightly resembling what Ant and Dec might look like in a galaxy far, far away, the duo does a decent job of keeping you entertained while the game loads.
Not aimed at harcore fans - who would probably prefer using a conventional controller anyway - this game is aimed at children or casual fans who want to have fun in a Star Wars-themed environment without wanting a game requiring much knowledge of the films.
Star Wars Kinect: Dark Side Rising
Your journey to become a Jedi begins with lightsaber training and being taught how to use the Force. As we're right-handed we had the lightsaber in our right hand - although it can be held with both, if you insist - and the Force was in our left.
While it's hugely tempting to swing your arms around wildly, we soon found that Kinect Star Wars does not mirror your every movement and slower, more controlled movements gave better results.
Some enemy drones can be defeated with one swing of the lightsaber, or by using the Force to lift them up and cast them aside, but enemies who fight back take much more effort. During initial training, we were taught how to fight with our saber, which involves blocking defensively, locking sabers with the enemy and going on the assault to defeat them. For all of these, we found slow and controlled movements to be much more effective than flailing wildly.
After initial training on Kashyyk - home of the Wookiees, as we're sure you already know - the land is invaded by reptilian Trandoshans and their drones. While moving to stop the invasion, we were taught how to move; a simple lunge forward is all that's required, and your character then glides several paces forward to the nearest enemy or obstruction.
Other movements include jumping, ducking, dodging and either kicking down obstacles or cutting them with your lightsaber. All of these actions appear as prompt icons on the left of the screen, so you never get stuck not knowing what to do.
Kinect Star Wars features what Microsoft calls 'easy jump-in-jump-out', which means that a second player can join in the game without needing to open a menu or log in - just raise a hand and you're in.
As with many Kinect games, Star Wars does feel like it is on rails at times, meaning that our inputs weren't mirrored entirely accurately by the on-screen character and often movement through the environment was done without any input from us.
Graphics throughout the game are very good, with every character from R2D2 to Yoda being faithfully reconstructed and the depth of environment detail is also good. This is in part thanks to the environments being fairly small, given that you cannot freely roam around them - the game can also be played in 3D if you have a compatible television.
Star Wars Kinect: Pod Racing
Next up is Pod Racing, which does exactly what it says on the tin - it's a mini game with a variety of podracers and tracks to compete on in either single- or two-player mode.
As with the main game, there is a comprehensive tutorial mode to explain how pod racing works - this can, of course, be skipped if you already know what you're doing and we did find the tutorial for pod racing unnecessarily long.
Pod racing involves the least amount of movement of all the mini games, and we found that even in a cramped living room we could play two-player comfortably. To race, hold both arms out in front and pull one arm towards you to steer in that direction - we found it to be incredibly sensitive and a movement of just a couple of inches was enough to turn a sharp corner.
Pull both arms to your chest to brake - not that you ever need to - then push both forward quickly to activate the speed boost. Smashing into your competitors is actively encouraged, and is done by moving both arms to one side when next to a fellow racer.
We found pod racing to be good fun, although our arms did start to ache a little after a couple of races - either we're grossly unfit or it's generally uncomfortable to hold your arms outstretched for so long. Either way, pod racing is good fun - especially in multi-player.
Rampaging Rancor mode involves playing as a giant Rancor and you earn points by destroying as much as you can. Buildings, homes, people, whatever you like. You can even pick people up and eat them, or fling them into the middle of next week, whatever takes your fancy. It is a clear hommage to the 1980s classic arcade smash Rampage but brought into a 3D world.
This mini game is very simple, but there's something about walking around and stamping on things that makes it lots of fun - especially with multiplayer - but it soon becomes repetitive and we'd imagine that it's the kind of mini game that you would play once or twice, before going back to the main game.
Harcore Star Wars fans should probably look away now, as the next mini game is...
Galactic Dance Off
In a twist that most Star Wars fans wouldn't have been expecting, there is a Dance Central-style mini game within Star Wars Kinect. Pick your character and follow the on-screen prompts to dance in front of Jabba The Hut.
There are 12 tracks to pick from, with a further three to be unlocked, and they are all Star-Wars themed remixes of popular song. We danced our hearts out to 'Princess in a Battle' - a take on Christina Aguilera's Genie in a Bottle.
Star Wars Kinect: Verdict
While initially fun and certainly a good idea to appeal to younger fans, Star Wars Kinect felt too scripted and on rails for our liking. Of course it is difficult to implement many controls without an actual controller, and maybe this game goes to show that the Kinect is better suited to simple games like sports and dancing. But, having said that, the game is good fun and we can see it being used as a multiplayer party game every so often, it just isn't the kind of game you would put many hours into, to work through, once the main game has been completed.
- Overall: 7/10
- Jump-in-jump-out multiplayer
- Good graphics and sounds, felt very authentic
- Range of mini-games keeps it interesting
- Too much time spent 'on rails'
- Doesn't always react faithfully to your movements
- Often felt too easy