Kinect Star Wars review

Yes, it really isn't designed for the hardcore Star Wars audience, but Kinect Star Wars will have you gesturing at your Kinect in ways it wasn't meant to recognize.

The moment I saw Kinect, my greatest childhood fantasy flashed before me and I thought, "How long before I could have a lightsaber fight?" However, as the release date for Kinect Star Wars drew nearer, I felt a disturbance in the Force. It was as if millions of Star Wars fans suddenly cried out in terror and were as abruptly silenced. Sure enough, my childhood has taken yet another punch to the gut. Imprecise controls, awkward presentation, and baffling use of the license make Kinect Star Wars about as much fun as being Force choked by Darth Vader. Naturally, the moment I popped Kinect Star Wars in, I went straight for the lightsabers to try them out for myself. The game’s single-player campaign, called Jedi Destiny: Dark Side Rising, combines the lightsaber fencing with Force moves. This story put me in the role of a padawan training under Jedi Master Mavra Zane, starting me off with a quick training session before diving into the narrative proper. The problems were evident from the beginning, stemming mainly from the game's camera. It was positioned behind my character in an awkward third-person angle, making precision movement brutally difficult. Worse yet, trying to judge the trajectory of incoming blaster bolts to deflect them was nearly impossible. This was far from the Jedi experience that I originally hoped for. That leads to the game's other big problem--the Kinect system itself. There were countless instances of the Kinect camera failing to register my movements. Trying to dash forward or use any of the Kinect gestures was a nightmare, since the Kinect would often not recognize these moves. Needless to say, this killed the flow of any lightsaber battles, since few of my parries, slashes, or Force moves would register at all. Worse yet, a majority of the animation looked jerky and stilted, further killing any sense of atmosphere. Progressing through the campaign opens up the Duel of the Fates mode, which allowed me to have lightsaber duels with my friends. Unfortunately, because of the aforementioned control problems, these battles were anything but epic. I ended up feeling more like the Star Wars Kid from YouTube, flailing my limbs about in a vain effort to hack and slash, than any Jedi Master. There's also a Podracing mode, inspired by The Phantom Menace. The body motions used to control the racers felt ridiculous. Moving the podracers forward involved holding both arms in front of me and keeping them there. As I continued to race across Tatooine, one person commented on the ridiculous visual, noting that I looked like a four-year-old playing Superman. Silly Kinect gestures aside, podracing showed potential for fun. It felt reminiscent of an arcade racer. Unfortunately, the imprecise Kinect controls again proved the game's undoing, making this experience frustrating.

Galactic Dance-Off to Top 40 hits? What has happened to you, Star Wars?

Rancor Rampage felt like an odd addition to the game, but wound up the sole bright spot in my Kinect Star Wars experience. It put me in the role of a monstrous rancor stomping and tearing its way through civilization. I got a kick out of chucking civilians like baseballs and jumping around to crush buildings. Even the clunky controls didn’t feel as frustrating here as they did in other parts of the game. This was simply good, chaotic fun but began to feel more like the Incredible Hulk than anything out of Star Wars. Finally, I played through the single-most puzzling use of the Star Wars license I've ever seen -- the Galactic Dance-Off mode. It takes various Star Wars characters and uses them as the performers for a dance game like others on Kinect. The dancing mechanics work well enough that anyone could become a Sith Lord of the Dance, but I feel strange using moves like the Force Push and the Chewie Hug as dance moves. Worse yet, rather than dance to songs from the films (which would be a ridiculous notion in itself), the characters dance to Top 40 pop hits that have been re-worded to fit the Star Wars license. The very first song I heard was Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl," but with the lyrics switched to work with "hologram girl," while the chorus repeated, "It's my ship! It's my ship!" If you enjoy cheesy pun-filled lyrics, this game mode is chock full of them. My Star Wars fandom has survived Jar Jar Binks, the Asian stereotype Nute Gunray, and the Star Wars Christmas Special. Yet, I found nearly every single song in this catalog utterly groan-inducing. I'd rather kiss a Wookiee than play songs like "Princess Leia in a Bottle" and "I'm Han Solo" (a reworded Jason Derulo song, of all things!). What has happened to the film franchise that I loved so much as a child?! Kinect Star Wars should have been a crown jewel for the Kinect. Instead, it feels like a disorganized mess, filled with control quirks, wooden character models, and awkward animation. I could have looked past these shortcomings. I could have even looked past the pandering Galactic Dance-Off mode. I would have overlooked it all had LucasArts, Terminal Reality, and the long list of other developers who worked on it done lightsaber fighting and Force moves justice. All I wanted was an immersive experience that would make me yell out, "I am a Jedi! I am a Jedi!" like 30 Rock's Tracy Morgan. But it was not meant to be. Only a Sith Lord deals in absolutes, but I feel comfortable saying that Kinect Star Wars is an absolute disappointment. [This Kinect Star Wars Xbox 360 review is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher.]
Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty
  • reply
    April 9, 2012 9:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Kinect Star Wars review.

    Yes, it really isn't designed for the hardcore Star Wars audience, but Kinect Star Wars will have you gesturing at your Kinect in ways it wasn't meant to recognize.

    • reply
      April 9, 2012 9:31 AM

      This summed up my fears, but quoting Tracy Morgan made me feel better. Thank you for that.

    • reply
      April 9, 2012 9:50 AM

      Being choked by darth vader....sounds pretty fun to me lol

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      April 9, 2012 10:15 AM

      My opinion of the game is more favourable, for 2 specific reasons:

      1. Bought it for our girls (ages 7 and 10) who the game really is targeted at (even though it's a 'teen' title)

      2. We have 6 other Kinect games, and precise control is just not something we expect from Kinect. The most enjoyable Kinect games (like Double Fine's Happy Action Theatre and Kinect Adventures (the original and still one of the best) have the same control issues. HAT less so as most of those games are less about precise targeting and more about flailing like crazy.

      If you have kids (and Kinect)!and they love Star Wars this is a must-have. Otherwise I think most older gamers would be disappointed with this game.

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      April 9, 2012 3:06 PM

      It a shame for sure and I agree with the review. But...

      You are not the demographic this game was made for. It's clearly aimed at children and my son and 2 young cousins absolutely love this game.

      It makes me sad.

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      April 9, 2012 3:08 PM

      During the review, I stopped at "Asian stereotype Nute Gunray", and said, "Wait, WHAT?! Who is Nute Gunray"? After a Google search, I saw that he was the trade federation viceroy in The Phantom Menace, at which point my mind ran through some memories of some of the earlier scenes in the video, and immediately sighed, as I remembered the terrible dialogue and accent.

      Ugh, damn you, George Lucas. About the only bad thing you haven't done to the Star Wars fiction is putting time travel in as a plot device, and then overusing it to death (curse you, Berman and Braga for ruining Star Trek that way!).

    • reply
      April 10, 2012 5:57 AM

      Good review, keep it up.

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