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Kinect Star Wars review

It was watching Han Solo dance that finally broke my spirit. I could handle the sluggish controls, the broken graphics, the clumsy lightsaber duels, but watching Han Solo dance to moves like the “double blaster” and the “falcon in flight,” while storm troopers cheered him on next to a Death Star disco ball was just a bridge too far for the poor, abused Star War fan inside of me.

But while that is far and away the dumbest part of Kinect Star Wars, the “Galactic Dance Off” mode — which is just a Dance Central clone with 15 popular songs rewritten to include Star Wars phrases — is a small part of the game. Kinect Star Wars is a collection of game modes that orbit a larger campaign. Each game mode has its own pros, but they all have their own cons as well, most of which can be traced to the sluggish and unresponsive controls that plague the title throughout.

The bulk of the game lies in a roughly four-hour campaign mode that follows a Jedi and a slew of Padawans through an adventure set during the Clone Wars, featuring all the major characters of that period. As you travel around familiar Star Wars settings, you will frequently battle hordes of enemies in what is essentially an on-rails action title, but with a few force powers thrown in.

Oddly, all of the power moves are underwhelming. Putting aside the clumsy lightsaber controls, hitting a battle droid should not leave a glowing scratch, it should cut the thing in two. Similarly, a force push should blow back an entire troop of enemies, not just make a few of them stumble, and if you can pick up droids and even ships, you shouldn’t have a problem with picking up a single bounty hunter. But you do, and it all makes for a frustrating time.

This game is geared for kids more than adults, so maybe nerfing the powers makes sense in some weird kid logic, but it doesn’t explain or excuse the continually unresponsive controls, especially when the game repeatedly forces you to react quickly to avoid damage.

During the campaign, you have a lightsaber on your right hand, and force powers on the left. The lightsaber can hack and slash, or be used defensively to reflect blaster fire. With your other hand, you can charge a force push or grab certain enemies and throw them around. When it works, it is actually fun. Leaning forward will make you rush forward, while jumping can send you to a new location or over the heads of enemies. Leaning left and right will be required as well.

In theory, this all probably sounds decent. In practice, you will constantly swing your arms in the hope that the Kinect will accurately track your attacks, and the force powers become less and less effective as you meet increasingly tougher foes. Time and again it just becomes a jumbled mess of movement, which isn’t helped by the occasional graphical glitch.

You can have a second player join in, which can be fun, but there just isn’t much depth to the combat. Within minutes it will turn into a ugly waggle of arms flailing around as you swing your digital lightsaber— hardly the elegant weapon for a more civilized age you would hope for.

Breaking up the tedium of the close quarters combat are a few vehicle sections, which are more of a highlight but not without their own problems. The speeder, for example, has you hold your hands in front of you to increase speed, while pulling back slows you down. Leaning to either side makes up the movements. Generally, the tracking from the Kinect is fairly good here, although there are moments when the controls have a mind of their own. It can be aggravating.

Still, it is Star Wars. Younger players will probably enjoy flinging their limbs around for a bit, and hardcore fans can at least enjoy the story.

Along with the campaign are a handful of other game modes. Duel of the Fates is a one-on-one lightsaber battle that has you predict your enemy’s attack, then block and counter it. The fights become increasingly more difficult, but with only five battles you can burn through this mode quickly.

The Rancor Rampage mode is a bit… well, different. It is actually somewhat fun, but also incredibly shallow. You are a rancor, fenced into a particular area from the Star Wars universe, and you rampage. The rancor can knock down buildings, pick up citizens and throw them, jump and crash down, and a few other attacks. You earn points by completing the specific moves that appear on the screen, and you basically make a mess. It makes a fun mini-game, but little more, and the appeal wears off quickly.

Of all the game modes, the best is probably the podracing, which features a forgettable story set around the time of Episode One. You move forward and back to control the speed, and dodge left and right to avoid obstacles. Beyond that, there isn’t much to it.

And then there is the dancing.

Conclusion

It isn’t all bad. The story is still Star Wars, and the game should appeal to kids. But for the average Star Wars fan, if you can overlook the unresponsive controls — which isn’t really possible, but you can try — you are still left with a game that just feels like it could have been more. It just isn’t fun or satisfying to run amok as a Jedi, even when the controls do exactly what you want. 

It is a shame too. This could and should have been the breakthrough title for the Kinect that would appeal to hardcore gamers and casual gamers alike thanks to the Star Wars license. Instead it is an immediately forgettable and flawed walk on the dark side.

Score 6 out of 10

(This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360 on a copy provided by Microsoft Studios)

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