Review – Star Wars Kinect

4 Apr 2012

There used to be only two things that would get a grown man to jump and flail around his living room – rock music and a sports event. Now there’s a third one – Star Wars Kinect.

I think it was the look of disgust on our kitten’s face – she had taken refuge under the coffee table – as I leaped, swung and pirouetted around the place that brought me to my senses a little.

Star Wars Kinect was not what I expected. Yes, I had been looking forward to it but deep inside – I used the Force – I suspected it would be something of a gimmick where you would just go through the motions of swinging a light sabre.

What I discovered was somewhat different – there is some depth to the Star Wars Kinect game and that was what I’ve been hoping would come for some time now on Kinect.

Don’t get me wrong, games like Kinect Sports, Kinectimals and Dance Central are great and really unleash the power of Kinect, but the real gamer wants a story, a set of characters and simply to have their imagination brought to another place.

Star Wars gets physical

So what I’ve always wanted was a Kinect game that tells a story and with Star Wars they took on a hell of a franchise.

It is immediately apparent to you when you choose the Jedi Destiny mode how deep the game can be and how physical.

I mean energy-draining physical. You’ll get a bloody good workout jumping and dodging obstacles and using the force to lift and throw objects – this is highly addictive, high-octane stuff.

By the time I got to the end of the first chapter I felt like I had done a 200-metre sprint as I smashed through my final opponent.

Some serious work has gone into telling a story and merging the Star Wars universe with some of the capabilities of Kinect. You get to drive speeder bikes and pilot starships as you move up level by level to take on Darth Vader himself.

The body gets a full workout jumping, kicking, swinging, etc.

Sabre play and horseplay

My only gripe and something that annoys me, however, is that despite the fact the Kinect sensor is sensitive enough to identify many different points in the human body, there is only so much you can do with the Jedi light sabre. You can swing it up and down or in a figure-eight motion and that’s pretty much it. You can’t jab, for example, you can only slash. My fencing master would be appalled, I tell you!

So for a sword-fighting genre, I didn’t get the sense there was that much dexterity in weaponry.

Nevertheless, once you get caught up in the action you definitely get an adrenalin rush and a feeling of invincibility as you whoosh through enemies like bowling pins and slice robots to pieces.

I got so caught up in it, in fact, that I whacked my hand off the door behind me (my first Star Wars-related injury!) and my fiancée had to warn me she was entering the room – ducking, I might add – before telling me to put my hand on ice.

Yes, this game has the capacity to make many a grown man who grew up on Star Wars films become a danger to himself and the household as they either become one with the Force or one with the lampshade.

A new hope

What I wasn’t expecting was the sheer physicality of the game, so fitness is a definite bonus result and its addictive quality and storyline will keep you coming back for more in a way the proof-of-concept games hadn’t.

I hope to see many more games with storylines – why not have the Call of Duty franchise or Halo – make the leap to Kinect, and the vast Star Wars universe was a great start.

The game has five sections each with a complete campaign: Jedi Destiny, which tells the story of young padawans developing into full Jedi warriors; Rancor Rampage, where you as a giant monster destroy everything in sight; Podracing, where you compete in speeder races; Galactic Dance-off, a kind of Star Wars-themed dancing game; and Duels of Fate, where you get to rise through the ranks to fight Darth Vader.

While Star Wars Kinect is not perfect in every sense and there are limitations to what you can do, it embodies what Kinect is about and like I said, it’s great to see effort, storylines and imagination going into a new generation of Kinect games.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years