By Troy Wolverton, San Jose Mercury News –
The marriage of Kinect and “Star Wars” would seem to be a match made in heaven — or at least in Cloud City.
The motion-sensing accessory for the Xbox 360 allows video game players to use their own bodies to control on-screen characters and actions. The premise of “Kinect Star Wars,” the new game for the Xbox, is simple: Use Kinect to let game players become virtual Jedi Knights, wielding lightsabers and controlling the Force.
Unfortunately, the game, while often fun, ultimately falls short of its goal. Yes, you do get to swing a virtual lightsaber. But thanks to the game’s rigid and predetermined nature, you don’t often feel like a real Jedi Knight.
The main, scripted mode of “Kinect Star Wars” is called “Jedi Destiny: Dark Side Rising.” You play a padawan, a Jedi-in-training. The mode starts with some basic lightsaber and Force training, then quickly sends you into the first of a series of battles against the evil Trade Federation’s droid and alien armies.
In various challenges, you fight droids with your lightsaber, shoot at enemy targets while on board a speeder bike or spaceship, and attempt to fend off attacking enemies while on board a moving ship using your lightsaber and the Force.
It’s fun to swing your lightsaber, chop up droids or use your Force power to toss them through the air. And like some other Kinect games, it can provide quite a workout. What with all the swinging, jumping and evading, I worked up quite a sweat.
But the game’s graphics are disappointing. The characters and scenes lack detail and look cartoonish.
And the challenges start to feel repetitive after a while: First, several donnybrooks against enemy soldiers with some jumping around in between; then, a speeder bike chase or target practice; then repeat.
While you’re going through the scripted mode, you don’t have any control over what order you take the challenges. Nor do you have any control about where you go within a particular challenge. Your character is either ushered from place to place or steered to particular locations. In many cases, you don’t even get to choose which enemies you battle; instead, the game steers you to fight them in a preset order.
What’s worse is that the movements you make aren’t always imitated on screen. Some of this seems to be due to the Kinect sensor. There’s often a short — but noticeable — lag between when you do an action and when the system mimics it. And sometimes the system can have a hard time recognizing what you are doing and imitating your actions precisely. I gave up trying to use the Force power on groups of opponents because it was often much faster, easier and more reliable to simply slash them.
But it’s not just the sensor that restricts what actions your character will imitate; the game does that too. For example, you can only kick an opponent or jump over him when the game allows you to do so. If you are in an area where the game doesn’t recognize such gestures, you can jump or kick or flail away all you like and your character will just stand there.
The game’s preset nature is particularly noticeable when you are on a ship or a speeder bike shooting at enemies. You only get to control the general direction in which your gun is pointing. I often seemed to be shooting targets even when my gun was only vaguely pointing at them. That makes the game easier, I guess, but it also makes it feel more like you are being taken along for a ride.
“Kinect Star Wars” has four other modes, but they are fairly shallow. In “Podracing,” you make like Anakin Skywalker and compete on various tracks in your racer. But as in the main game, you don’t really control the vehicle — you only nudge it in one direction or another and hit the turbo boost every so often. Your racer will generally make it around the track whether you steer or not.
“Duels of Fate” is an attempt to distill “Kinect Star Wars” down to its essence. You play a Jedi who fights a succession of Sith bad guys in mano-a-mano lightsaber battles. But here too the game is disappointing. Each battle is scripted so that you alternate between defending yourself against your opponent’s attacks and attacking him. The time allotted to attack an opponent is set in part by how well you defend yourself against them.
The setup is hokey and contrived. Why can’t I attack and defend at the same time? And like the main game, it only recognizes certain gestures at certain times. When you are defending, “Duels of Fate” won’t let you jump over your opponent, and it may not recognize when you kick or use your Force power on him.
“Rancor Rampage” and “Galactic Dance Off,” the two other modes, are more fun, if only because you’re not a Jedi, so you don’t go into them with huge expectations. In “Rampage,” you get to be a giant monster, smashing buildings, stomping on droids and eating people. It’s a kick, if only for a short while.
“Dance Off” is patterned after other dancing games, such as “Dance Central.” But the dancing takes place in famous “Star Wars” locales, such as Jabba the Hut’s palace, and the computerized dancers include Lando Calrissian, Han Solo and Princess Leia. Watching them get down is a hoot.
Unfortunately for “Kinect Star Wars,” a player’s expectations are much higher when it comes to acting the part of a Jedi. And the game just doesn’t meet the challenge.
“KINECT STAR WARS” GAME:
—Likes: Slashing droids and Trade Federation enemies with a virtual lightsaber; crushing buildings and chomping on people in “Rancor Rampage” mini-game; dancing with Han Solo and Princess Leia in “Galactic Dance Off” mini-game
—Dislikes: Movements and game play are overly scripted, pre-determined and repetitive; gestures often not mimicked on screen because of poor recognition or inability to respond to them; game play in “Duels of Fate” mini-game feels contrived.