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Kinect: Star Wars

Kinect: Star Wars

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, there was once an intellectual property so special that it was not only embraced by it’s initial audience, but by every generation that followed. That property turns 35 years old today, and despite the lagging quality of the franchise as of late, Star Wars continues to find it’s footing year after year, welcoming newcomers in the same way it did 35 years ago by appealing to the very core of our intrinsic sense of exploration, adventure, and discovery. No matter what, for those that love Star Wars, the fact remains that they love loving it. Fans may be critical of the series, but more often than not, these criticisms are born of love and the desire to see the franchise return to its former glory.

Unfortunately none of this has to do with my criticisms of Kinect: Star Wars, as my criticisms here are solely related to the fact that Kinect: Star Wars is a terrible, terrible game that isn’t worth its weight in Bantha fodder. May it be cast down the Imperial garbage chute, swallowed by a lurking Dianoga, and blown to smithereens along with the Death Star it resides in.

Kinect: Star Wars tries to fulfill what virtually every Star Wars fan wants; to be placed squarely in the Star Wars Universe to live it out for themselves. Your weapons, you will not need them, as the Kinect sensor gets used in a variety of ways to give players their controller-free jedi abilities and piloting skills, all the while having familiar set pieces, miniature story-arcs, and recognizable characters in the background. Be warned though: IT’S A TRAP!!! Don’t be fooled by the promises of force powers and lightsabers. This game is a significant hit to anyone’s midichlorian count.

Sure, the scenery was nice, but the controls… they just don’t work, is the thing. They’re clunky; they’re unintuitive; they’re basically the opposite of how a Jedi is supposed to be. For a game that’s supposed to make a player feel like one of the most powerful beings in the universe, it sure has a way of making you doubt your own abilities. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they, and you’ll be experiencing them all before you throw up your hands in frustration (on the plus side, you don’t have any controllers to throw, I guess).

Yoda
This game leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

Gameplay is broken up into five separate modes, all of which have their demerits. Players can follow a Jedi campaign through a multi-part story, take part in one on one lightsaber duels, smash through the streets as a giant Rancor (I’ll admit, the idea of this one appeals to me), hop into the cockpit for 6 courses of podracing, and… dance. Here’s a quick run-down of each of them.

Jedi Destiny:

This is technically the largest portion of the game, and the most focused on telling a story. Unfortunately, it’s also the most frustrating as far as gameplay is concerned, as regardless of your assumed force abilities, the game primarily unfolds as a very guided beat-em-up game. In some parts, it mostly plays out similar to the “Showdown” sections of Wii Sports Resort where you just move from one enemy to the next to cut them all down, the biggest difference here being that you can hop over them when they block (and oh, will they block!), and also that you can kick them… because kicking them might momentarily seem more effective than using a glowing energy sword that cuts through metal like butter. The gameplay is further divided up by timed jumping scenarios, quick piloting segments (controlled like the podracing mode), slow-going on-rails shooting segments, and a few duels (which will be talked about in the next mode).

The story also isn’t really a new story itself, but is more a mish-mash of cheap knockoff versions of actual story events from the films. While the game is set somewhere during the new trilogy, you still pilot a fake version of the Millenium Falcon, fight some TIE fighters, use some speeder bikes, and even make a “Death-Star-esque” trench run, and while these story beats are somewhat nice to revisit, they make you wonder why the developers didn’t just opt for giving us the real thing; it’s not like the tie-in story they came up with was anything substantial anyway.

Speeder Bike
We’re not on Endor, but we might as well be

Above all these complaints though, is that the controls just don’t work. Movements just aren’t quick enough for what the game wants you to do, causing many unnecessary deaths for your young Padawan character. Lightsaber slashes, blocks, jumping, dodging, even moving towards your next target; everything is timed very poorly, frequently misses recognition entirely, and rarely matches up with what you thought your character was going to do on screen. Whoever play-tested this game should be dumped into the Great Pit of Carkoon.

Rating: 4/10

Duels of Fate:

The dueling mechanics from Jedi Destiny receive their own dedicated game, and with them come the same control recognition issues as before. However, the real offender here is that during these one on one battles, the bulk of the time is spent blocking. Instead of using that beautiful weapon of yours for some good offensive action, you have to wade through laborious blocking segments in cardinal directions, playing a rudimentary game of Simon Says before dealing any damage. But I suppose that was all we could really expect; I mean, when you’re not actually holding a sword, it’s awfully hard to tell which direction it’s facing, right?

Similarly to the Jedi Destiny mode, I also can’t help but think the opponents could have been more generously pulled from ther series proper. You fight three duels that you did in the campaign, and they eventually give you Dooku and Vadar as extras, but really, you have the license for crying out loud; why not use it!

Duels
In case you can’t tell, I’m flapping my arms trying to fly right now.

It also isn’t readily available, and needs to be unlocked. In Kinect: Star Wars, the lightsaber dueling game needs to be unlocked.

Really, I can’t understand why it’s been so hard to put together a good game of lightsaber duels. This should’ve been the game’s crowning achievement, as it’s maybe the most desired element of the Star Wars universe people want to replicate. Lightsaber duels should be well rolled into motion control gameplay by now, but instead we have two botched installments over the past 5 years; this game, and Star Wars The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels for Wii, which brilliantly chose to forgo motion + technology, even though it was available. Get on it, Star Wars! Build a lightsaber dueling game right, and we’ll love you for it!

Rating: 3/10

Rancor Rampage:

Rampage” being the key word, as much like video game titans George and Lizzy, you take to the streets as a mighty escaped Rancor beast to smash, eat, toss, charge, and destroy everything around you. As I said above, I really liked the idea here. There’s a level of non-canonical joy to be had in this mode that I wish could have been rolled out to the rest of the game. This mode takes the Star Wars license, and builds an absurd situation around it that can be fun, full of quick franchise nods in the background (see the GONK power droid by the Rancor’s foot in the photo?), and with some great potential for creativity towards incorporating motion controls.

Rancor
The rancor has two weaknesses, very large gates and 45 degree angles

Unfortunately, it’s the Kinect controls that end up holding this idea back. You have to walk in place to make the Rancor move, a good idea on paper, but when it comes to turning, we’re talking tank controls slower than anyone in Resident Evil.

Rating: 5/10

Podracing:

Podracing is maybe the game’s best mode, and perhaps the one with the most fan service as well. It includes the full cast of characters from Star Wars: Episode 1 – Racer (which, by the way, completely justifies the existence of the new trilogy in my opinion – it’s one of the best racing games ever made!), and if I’m not mistaken, once again pulled in the vocal talents of Greg Proops as the announcer. If there was any “Fan Moment” I had during my time with the game, it was falling behind, only to hear “Gasgano takes the lead.” The courses are also peppered with flashy cameo appearances of some familiar Star Wars goodies, and the amount of detail given to the locations is the most impressive and structured of all of the game modes. Podracing also has an enjoyable story mode to tie it all together.

Podracing
Ah, the Boonta Classic; we meet again!

As far as Kinect controls go, podracing is also the smoothest. Steering is actually pretty decent, and I really enjoy how they implemented boosting (you quickly push forward with both hands, as though you were holding a throttle in each). Controls aren’t perfect though (in particular trying to jump your ship), and the developers must’ve known it, as the mode also comes with a level of computer assistance for turning your ship on occassion. It’s helpful, but at the cost of never fully understanding your limitations, as you never quite know when the computer is going to step in to intervene. The courses are also considerably wider to accomodate the lax control setup, eliminating the precision once called for in Episode 1 – Racer, which was understandable, but regrettable all the same, and with only 6 tracks to race on, there’s just not that much to keep diving back into.

Rating: 7/10

Galactic Dance-Off:

I honestly don’t feel like talking about this one.

Rating: There is no Galactic Dance-Off *waves force hand*

Conclusion

The argument has been made that Kinect: Star Wars is not necessarily a game for longtime fans, but should be considered a game for children. I can easily see how some kids might enjoy smashing up Naboo as a Rancor, or Dancing to “Hologram Girls,” however I’d question how much of that enjoyment has anything to do with the Star Wars license. Sure, kids may even dig the license and not mind as much the unresponsive control setups, content to wiggle and waggle their whole bodies until the console agrees to let them continue onwards. That doesn’t mean this still isn’t a crap game, or that it’s fine to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Kinect: Star Wars could’ve been better, and audiences of all ages deserve better than what we got. Regardless of how the game chose to make use of the license, Kinect: Star Wars is repetetive, it is broken, and supporting it leads down the path to the dark side.

If you bought this game hoping to find a reason to own a Kinect, I’m sorry to say that this game does little to further the peripheral’s viability as a legit gaming device. If you bought this game along with the limited edition bundle, take solace in the fact that you at least own one of the sexiest Xbox 360’s in existence.

Overall Rating: 4/10

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