April 03, 2012
Hardcore Star Wars fans and savage dogs have a lot in common. They both rarely sleep, whenever they get a chance to show their teeth, they will, and they’re very rarely happy. If you’re a hardcore Star Wars fan, you’re going to want to look away now. Just know that this isn’t for you and pretend that you never even heard the words Kinect Star Wars uttered in the same sentence ever again. In fact, it’s not going to be for a lot of people, but we’ll press on anyway.
When Kinect was given its final name and Microsoft unveiled Kinect Star Wars to the viewing public, there was hope that this was the title that we’ve always wanted – giving us the power of a powerful lightsaber at our fingertips. In iterations of the device before launch and the inevitable scaling back, the Kinect we have today is a different one that was originally intended and as a result, Kinect Star Wars never stood a fighting chance at being the one true lightsaber game.
Kinect Star Wars is a multi-faceted game as a result, with a focus on fun rather than depth, but at its heart sits a 4-hour lightsaber-swinging campaign that sees you visit familiar Star Wars settings – like Kashyyyk, Felucia and Coruscant – on a quest from Padawan to a Knight of the Jedi Order... which funnily enough is neither fun nor deep. The Dark Force Rising campaign - which takes place in between the events of Episode I and Episode II - might do enough to satisfy Star Wars fans with its fiction and its story at times, which is cut from the same Star Wars cloth, but as a game, it ultimately fails.
Kinect allows you only basic swings and no real control over the lightsaber, and while the Force push and Force grab for the most part work, trying to throw a heavy object with the Force is almost a completely broken mechanic. In fact, for the whole 4 hours you’ll find yourself waving your right hand back and forth, and jumping on the spot to the point of exhaustion and severe muscle strain, and all for what? Enjoyment? No, just to finish it, which isn’t the best accolade to attribute to a game.
It’s not only tiresome on the arm, but jeez, it’s boring, repetitive and you never feel like you have true control over the lightsaber and the Force… which should have been the whole point. Even the inclusion of enemies that can block and those that have shields and the like don’t do enough to make the gameplay feel even remotely rewarding.
It’s not all bad though, there’s some great cinematography in the cutscenes and the characters do look quite like their film counterparts – they even sound somewhat similar… at times. The fact that the campaign is broken up by QTE-style duels, speeder sections, on-rails shooter sections, obstacle courses and a bit of space combat does break up the constant tedious affair that is the general on-foot combat. That said, the speeder sections and some of the on-rails sections are equally as poorly crafted, and the space battles are surprisingly the only fun aspect.
If you become sick of the campaign – yes, you will. We only stuck with it through to the end for this here review – then you can jump into the 6-race Podracing Destiny mode. You’ll join up with Episode I’s Team Watto and race against the 1999 film's characters, such as Sebulba and Clegg Holdfast, on your way to winning the main event, the Boonta Eve race. The problem here though is that it suffers from control issues just like the Jedi campaign. With the assists on, it’s a fairly easy ride from start to finish and becomes a matter of going through the motions with no real challenge or fun resulting from it, but take the assists off and it becomes an uncontrollable mess. You’ll often find yourself colliding with every barrier you can lay your eyes upon and becoming completely frustrated by the twitchy controls.
Then there’s the Rancor mode, which… well, it just exists. The premise is simple, if not rather dumbfounding: you’re a Rancor and you smash shit up. That’s it. I guess unlike the aforementioned modes, it works though, but there doesn’t really seem that much of a point to it. It’s just not that fun either. With only four levels and two modes – one where you do challenges and the other where you destroy buildings – it’s very barebones too. It’s as if Terminal Reality shoehorned it in because they ran out of control interfaces and ideas to pad out the game.
If those three beauties don’t take your fancy, then maybe the lightsaber duel mode will. Taken from the Jedi campaign, the lightsaber duels have you blocking either horizontally and vertically, before launching a multitude of attacks on your foe. Surprisingly, it works, but it does lack depth and essentially just becomes a QTE style mini-game. You do get to face-off against Count Dooku and Dark Vader once you’ve defeated a few other characters though, where things become a lot quicker and your reactions are really tested, but with only five characters, it’s a very short-lived mode.
The surprisingly solid addition of the title that works better than all the other aspects combined is also the one that’s going to anger Star Wars fans the most – the Galactic Dance-Off. Yes, it’s Star Wars dancing and it’s every bit as responsive as Harmonix’s Dance Central. You get to jump into the boots of Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, Princess Leia, Bobba Fett, Darth Vader, Emperor Palapatine himself, and more, and dance your pretty little boots off. All 15 of the songs are popular songs that have been reworked with Star Wars themed moves and Star Wars lyrics. The amount of effort that’s gone into this mode is impressive and it does what every game should do: provides hours of fun. Yes, it’s cheesy and not in fitting with the vibe of the whole Star Wars universe, but dammit folks, it’s a game and it's fun. Even Terminal Reality acknowledges that it's not exactly what you'd expect in a Star Wars game and poke fun at it the first time you boot up the mode.
In terms of achievements, Kinect Star Wars started off so promising, with mid-campaign missions to achieve, which always go down well with us, but then falls into obscurity with too many local co-op achievements. And trust me, if you subject a co-op partner to some of Kinect Star Wars' modes, chances are you’ll be pulled up on breaching the Geneva Convention. Terminal Reality does spread them out well enough across the various modes, but whether you’ll have the patience to stick the 20-odd plus hours into getting the full 1000, well, that in itself is an achievement.
It doesn’t matter who you are though, Kinect Star Wars isn’t really going to appeal to you. Family members – young kids especially – will easily get bored by its limited and unresponsive gameplay, while core gamers won’t appreciate the lack of depth, the repetitive gameplay or the short-lived experiences. Star Wars fans on the other hand will probably be offended by everything that the game does. It’s a game without an audience, essentially. It’s not all bad and it does have a few redeeming qualities, but for the most part, unless you’re desperate to get some life out of your Kinect, it’s not worth your time and effort… It’s not worth the repetitive muscle strain that comes as a result of it either. My arm has been less tired after masturbating furiously for 4 hours.
The typical Star Wars music is present and the score is pretty solid, but some of the voice acting is phoned in at times.
It doesn’t look that bad, but it doesn’t look that good. Terminal Reality did some decent work with the cartoony likenesses and the animations – especially the cinematography in places – but everything else screams “meh.”
Aside from the duals, the Rancor mode and the dancing, everything else is a pain in the ass to control… and you know, considering that the two modes are included in that insinuation, you’ve got to be worried.
Kinect Star Wars does pack plenty of modes in, the problem is that most of them don’t have the legs to keep you entertained for long.
For everything that the list does right, it then goes and places too much emphasis on local co-op. If I was going to invite friends over, we wouldn’t play this. It’s not a game I’d subject my family to either.
Kinect Star Wars is another in a long list of Kinect titles that just doesn’t cut it. Its unresponsive controls, lack of depth and short-lived gaming experiences do little to cater for any audience. Quite why Microsoft backed it so much is still a mystery; it’s a title that they probably should have sent out to die alone a long time ago. I guess, in this instance…Hoth is the gaming world, Luke Skywalker is Kinect Star Wars; Microsoft is Han Solo; and their advertising budget is the corpse of a tauntaun; because it won’t be the quality of gameplay that saves Kinect Star Wars. It’ll be the name and the marketing. It’s hardly a great advert for Kinect.