Co-developed by Terminal Reality, Good Science and Microsoft Studios, Kinect Star Wars has every intention of bringing Star Wars to life in a way like never before, by putting the power of the Force in your very own hands! Kinect is not just a glossy tech pair of all seeing eyes and ears, but from today it can make YOU part of the next generation of Padawan learners as you embark upon a journey into the Dark Side… it’s time to perfect that wrist action as you take your light sabre into a galactic battle – and it sure does feel good! A Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware. Anger, fear, aggression…
Before you even enter any of the main parts of the game, both R2-D2 and C-3PO come to life as an entertaining comedy duo during the menu selections, and without spoiling the laugh’s, stepping away from the screen for a few minutes is worth watching for their combined reactions to find you. Both characters are present throughout the whole menu which is portrayed as an electronic file retrieval system from a library. The great feature with the menu using Kinect is the “see it, say it” approach which uses the same voice commands as you would on the Xbox 360 Dashboard by starting with the word “Xbox..” followed by your chosen command to get through the options available. The simplicity and ease of use is a great “show off” piece to friends and family, talking to your Xbox and it responding to your voice is still one of the coolest inventions since the Wheel and sliced bread…
At first glance, Kinect Star Wars seems like a game broken down into five main segments consisting of – Jedi Destiny: Dark Side Rising, Podracing, Galactic Dance Off, Rancor Rampage and finally Duels of Fate. All of these are separate games in their own right with the main campaign story being “Dark Side Rising” this is where most of the action happens and it is broken down into three lengthy and exhilarating campaign chapters where the power of Kinect and its every feature is put through its paces. You fly aircraft, you control the direction of targeting reticles, you swing your light sabre like there’s no tomorrow and run and jump your way through a series of challenging, entertaining levels with cinematic cut-scenes that lead you deeper into battle. All without the use of a controller, the path to the dark side, fear is.
Dark Side Rising – takes you into the world of events following on from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, where the influence of the Dark Side, an evil aspect of the Force and a mystical energy which permeates the universe – is spreading throughout the galaxy. The Star Wars Jedi Council has opened new training posts to begin instructing a whole new generation of Padawan learners, and so your journey begins where you are taken to Kashyyyk, the Wookies homeland by your Masters MavraZan and Yoda, to learn about the Force in preparation of the battles that lie ahead.
Kinect determines whether you are left or right handed to demonstrate how you will use your light sabre as you encounter some basic training so you can master your weapon in one hand, whilst using the power of the Force with the other. There are a few techniques to the sabre which will defend you against a swarm of incoming bolts and more tactical uses when you encounter a much tougher duel match against a strong enemy Guard. For moments of intense enemy pressure when you are deeply surrounded, the power of the Force allows you to focus your free hand on a moveable object or enemy within the scene and powerfully levitate it to wipe out those in your path. You can pull backwards, forwards and throw most objects at full Force speed! Who said men can’t multi-task?
Not only does Kinect focus on your hands to control your weapon, but also your body movements to allow your Padawan to jump over obstacles and dodge enemy attacks by moving left or right – or in some cases, even ducking to avoid a nasty bang to the head! The use of Kinect in Kinect Star Wars is very responsive with no noticeable lag issues in using your virtual light sabre so long as you stand at least 6ft away from the sensor, anything closer than this will result in a constant “Move Back” pop up on screen or the game will randomly pause. You are at times prompted by on-screen guides to encourage you to jump or defend yourself at the right moment. The game uses auto-saving to up to four different profiles and upon your death, you rarely start from the beginning again; just usually a few moments behind from when you last died – which is great if you’ve been swinging those wrists around for a few hours already.
As you delve further into the story of Dark Side Rising, you, the new Padawan and other iconic Star Wars characters become entangled in an invasion of Kashyyyk by the reptilian Trandoshans. During this point the game becomes more increasingly challenging and involves more action sequences and even more fast-action light sabre responses from you as the story develops. You travel throughout Kashyyyk to the jungles of Felucia and eventually to the Core World Coruscant. It’s not as memorable a story as you might think once you get stuck into the game play, which is fast and full of enemies at every corner of the universe you play within, you’re likely to forget about your surroundings and why you’re even there in the first place to concentrate on the task at hand during each chapter – mostly killing as many enemies as possible to be able to move from one stage to the next. All loose ends are tied up nicely in the form of an epic cut-scene to keep you up to date on your adventure. It’s a good few hours solid gameplay within the campaign and if you can pace it through in just one sitting, you’ll grab yourself bonus Achievements for your efforts – whilst others may require multiple playthrough’s to collect the full set.
Variety of Kinect gameplay within Dark Side Rising to make each chapter have you involved within the story in different ways is fantastic. Although using your light sabre takes up the majority of your time, piloting speeder bikes and iconic ships also require some hand movement techniques and as you take control of your vehicle by reaching out, simple left and right turns will have you driving in no time. Other parts of the game require controlling your hands to line up a targeting reticle that will auto shoot upon alignment with an oncoming enemy vehicle. Each chapter is fun and unique – I cannot stress enough how much fun Kinect Star wars is to play as it takes all of the best uses of Kinect and wraps it all up in one game based on a legendary franchise – Star Wars.
Graphically it’s very bright and pleasing on the eyes, although at times seem a little dated to look at in comparison to the Triple A quality titles on the market this year already. This is because the visual quality of each chapter varies, and some of the cut-scene cinematics are part game-visuals, and others of a much higher quality standard. However, the gameplay more than makes up for what you lose out in scenery – I’m basically saying that you are so involved in the action you’re not really concentrating on how real the jungle looks – or sadly doesn’t. But this is Star Wars and the weird outlandish science fiction settings are sure to please any Star Wars fan. It has a cartoon feel to it, so at times reminded me of Star Wars Clone Wars.
The Dark Side Rising chapters are extraordinary, keeping you on your toes and highly entertaining as you train to become a skilled Knight of the Jedi Order in a journey across the galaxy. You might not remember the story, but you will certainly remember how much fun you have playing it! You also don’t have use a great deal of skill to wield your way through the campaign, but it’s about being focussed, being appropriately timed with your moves and using the Force to its full potential to work your way through the chapters. Some of the best moments of the campaign are while you are driving your vehicles – Speeder Bikes and Landspeeders – as well as the epic spaceship battles.
Seeing really is believing!
Kinect Star Wars Podracing – the fastest most thrilling sport in the galaxy can now be played in your own living room separately from the main campaign. As driving was one of the best features within Dark Side Rising, the addition of Podracing as a game in its own right is very welcomed. You can choose a either QuickPlay game or the Destiny mode, to train to become a Champion as you compete in six races across five different planets; Tattooine, Felucia, Utapau, Bespin and Coruscant. Through Destiny mode you can rank up to unlock additional pilots and Podracers each with their own unique characteristics allowing for customised races to suit you. The only downside to Podracing is that controlling your vehicle is more difficult than the within the Dark Side Rising campaign. For Dark Side Rising, controlling your vehicle meant shifting your body movements left or right to avoid obstacles and for better steering manoeuvres – within Podracing, you need to have both hands out in front of you and pull your left or right hand backwards to control your direction which makes your Podracer very sensitive to your hand movements. Steering a Podracer on course and in the right direction is now a feat in itself and although still an enjoyable game type, using body movements would have been a more familiar option, but this now adds to the difficulty and skill required to win a race. All tracks do have a highlighted path for you to follow the course, but be prepared for a great Podracing smash up during the many tight corners and bumpy mountains – at which point you can admire the beautiful Star wars scenery until you hit full speed again.
You can additionally crank up to full speed by pulling and pushing your hands forward to use a limited timed boost through the tracks, as well as swing your arms in either direction to knock your opponents off course to give you an advantage in the race. A neat little feature is the ability to jump – you’ll need to watch out for small creatures on the tracks and jump over them to stop the blighters from grabbing on to your engines which will slow you down, but timing your jumps can push you more ahead in the race.
Podracing within Kinect Star Wars is great, it’s addictive and challenging, but will test your patience on the controls – the only way to move forward in Destiny mode is to come 1st, 2nd or 3rd to unlock the next track and additional power-ups to help you through the next race, otherwise you have to keep persisting until you’ve nailed it. In between the races are also some great entertaining cut-scenes to psyche you up for the next track. It reminds me so much of the classic N64 game: Star Wars Episode 1 Racer – only in current gen form, keeping the same great fast paced racing where any slight off balance movement will see you crashing into the canyons – only controller free!
What’s not to love about Podracing?
Galactic Dance Off – if you’re a fan of many of the Kinect dancing games out in the wild, for instance “Dance Central”, then Galactic Dance Off will surely entertain you and feel like a fun addition to a full campaign and a racing game you’ll love already. If strutting your stuff to girly pop songs with re-worded lyrics to suit a Star wars theme seems a little bit dreadful – you’ll probably avoid this mini game at all costs, but that’s not to say it might not be your guilty pleasure! It’s still rather fun, albeit not very masculine.
The idea behind Galactic Dance Off was drawn from the iconic throne room scene in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, and this mode challenges you to dance for Jabba the Hutt and against many other Star Wars characters across four different locations – Jabba’s Palace on Tattooine, Bespin’s Cloudy City, Coruscant and The Death Star. The Star Wars characters provide the music – you only need bring the moves!
Taking a prime position in the centre of the living room and ready to bust out some shapes you can select your preferred song title, where completing a song with a great score based on how accurately you move to the choreography will allow further unlockable characters and songs. There are fifteen different songs in total with varying degrees of difficulty in dance moves, and as you progress, the amount of times you need to dance off to a song is extended.
Galactic Dance Off as previously stated will only be likely to appeal to fans of Kinect dancing games already out on the market, other than that – Achievement Whores eat your heart out – dance away at your own peril. Do or not do, there is no try.
Rancor Rampage – Rancors in the Star Wars Universe are large carnivorous reptomammals native to the planet of Dathomir. Within Kinect Stars Wars, you play the part of a Rancor monster having escaped from the pit at Jabba’s Palace and your objective is to wreak as much havoc as possible!
Featuring even more beautiful cinematic cut-scenes before the game begins, the Rancor is wild and unleashed into the open world and presented to you on screen are your set of objectives to complete that will gain you scoring points. This includes throwing objects and people, taking down buildings, munching, running and smashing all that you can – even clapping!
There are four worlds to destroy all in all, Naboo, MosEspa, MosEisley and Felucia with the four different species of Rancor – Bull, Jungle, Sand and Tyrant; each with their own unique abilities. Completing all the tasks and destroying the worlds will grant you additional unlocks.
The movement controls on Rancor Rampage are excellent, the freedom of movement as Kinect follows your own feet so you can perform objectives in a 360 degree’s. Turn around, your monster will turn, run on the spot and your Rancor will rage through the streets. Using your arms and legs you can freely be as wild and mad as you please – but mind your own living room, I had a tendency to get carried away on this one and more worlds to destroy would have been a bonus since four just doesn’t feel enough for such great fun!
Be a monster in your own home! Rancor Rampage will let you unleash the beast within. A very enjoyable mini game that would have been great as part of the main campaign as it’s the only section of Kinect Star Wars that offers some form of free roaming.
Finally, Duels of Fate – only unlocked after you have successfully completed a duel within the Dark Side Rising campaign, allows you to become the ultimate Jedi as you get to swing light sabres against some of the best evil Star wars characters – even Count Dooku and Darth Vader who are only unlocked as you battle with some tough Guard’s before-hand.
A duel is a challenging sequence of offence and defence with your light sabre as you must guess the likely place of attack from your opponent to swing your light sabre in the best line of defence. Upon a few successful defences you will have the opportunity to strike an offensive attack and then the whole process starts again until one of you has been defeated.
Duels of Fate will have you battle out against some of the best Star Wars themed backdrops which change with each successful stage of defeat against your opponent. You are timed and scoring is based upon the completed duel time and skilled attacks as well as awarded Skill Bonuses during gameplay. You start out as the rank of Padawan and the faster you defeat your opponents with improved skill will see you rank up in no time to a Jedi Knight and then a Jedi Grand Master. It’s one of the most challenging of mini games on Kinect Stars Wars, and hooks into your mindset not to be beat. You will lose, but the fun is in trying and trying again until you successfully finish your opponent. Being able to battle against Darth Vader is one of the most exciting Star Wars fantasies of any fan – now is your chance!
Again, this is another great mini game to compliment the main Jedi: Dark Side Rising campaign and combined with the three other mini-games, Kinect Star Wars offers endless amounts of replay value and fun – so long as you have the energy. All games can be played co-operatively with another player who need only step in front of the Kinect Sensor to join in the fun.
Kinect Star Wars is a highly recommended game that makes great use of all the features of Kinect for the Xbox 360 and allows anyone to find their inner Jedi Knight. Galactic Dance Off might not be everyone’s idea of fun, but don’t let this put you off from buying the game if even for the action packed Dark Side Rising chapters and the spectacular Podracing simulation.
One of the best Kinect Games ever to grace this planet!
May the Force be with you…