Kinect Star Wars Review: Boldly Going Where Star Wars Didn’t Need to Go «

In today’s world of dazzling high resolution graphics, the line between a great video game and a terrible one is often measured by the sheer ambition of the product. This trend of bigger and better happens so often in the HD era of games that it’s easy to forget the power of restraint. Some of my fondest video games experiences came from limitations. Metal Gear, Silent Hill, and Resident Evil are all examples of games built around this philosophy during early days of polygonal video games. While the correlation between present day Microsoft Kinect games and early PlayStation titles may appear blasphemous to some, understanding the advantages of working within restraints and its impact can go a long way. 

Kinect Star Wars misses this point completely, resulting in a collection of mini games that alternate between fun and frustrating, despite its attempts to charm you with the loving characters of the Star Wars universe. A bulk of Kinect Star Wars’ issues present themselves in the Jedi campaign, a mode that pits players into the role of a young Jedi in training, but every mode seems to suffer from a lack of visualizing the big picture and understanding that a Star Wars family game needs to appeal to all ages, yet be simple and engaging enough for anyone to play.

Click the image above to check out all Kinect Star Wars screens.

On paper, the campaign mode creates an opportunity for fans, families, and armchair Jedi to experience the power of the force and wield lightsabers using natural motions. Think of it as the ultimate expression of “Let’s Pretend We’re in the Star Wars Universe: the Video Game,” — a game that you wanted (or played) everyday as a kid. 

Kinect Star Wars partially delivers on this fantasy. You can swing a lightsaber with one hand or two. You can use the force to push, pull, or toss objects towards enemies. You can jump over and behind enemies to get the drop on them, or repel laser fire with a deft swing of your lightsaber. But while all of this may sound fantastic, campaign mode delivers a frustrating experience due to lack of precision. While its potentially fun to pretend to be a Jedi, the motion-based combat of Kinect Star Wars struggles to register each individual action in the heat of battle, rendering the abundance of lightsaber moves and force techniques useless. It’s also poorly paced, often robbing you of control in order to shuffle you towards the next obstacle. The motion detection flaws present in Kinect Star Wars’ ambitious motion-based combat are painfully emphasized in Duels of Fate, a mode dedicated to one-on-one lightsaber duels with iconic series villains. Although battles take place in familiar locales from the Star Wars universe, they’re completely forgettable, often following a repetitive routine that’s robbed of any remarkable flair.

While it painful to watch Kinect Star Wars snuff out any hope of experiencing your inner Jedi, a few modes still provide some entertainment. Rancor Rampage is Kinect Star Wars most fun mode of play; which surprised me initially since the idea appeared so silly at first. You control a Rancor on the lamb as it smashes through familiar Star Wars locations, gobbling up Stormtroopers, droids, and wayward townsfolk in the process. A lot of what you’re doing is guided by prompts, but there’s still a fun element of discovery/destruction as you rip apart a town of unassuming creatures. Podracing delivers fun high speed races reminiscent of the Episode I: Podracer on Nintendo 64, and Galactic Dance Off introduces a wacky element of dancing to rejiggered pop songs that feels out of place. Think Dance Central plus Star Wars and Weird Al-style cover music, and that idea will either excite you or turn you off to the concept completely.

Child of Eden or Fruit Ninja Kinect are prime examples of fun Kinect games that know what they want to be and dial down complexity in order to maintain a fun and interesting atmosphere. This idea of designing a game around limitations certainly isn’t new, but its something that Kinect Star Wars misses entirely. I do acknowledge that compiling a group of mini-games set to a Star Wars theme could be a fun idea, the wide scope of things to do make each one feel sloppy in one way or another. While the mere existence of this game guarantees a week of Star Wars Kid video revivals, the more painful joke here is that outside of families looking for something to play with their children, Kinect Star Wars offers little for anyone else.


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