Kinect Star Wars fails to live up to its potential

When Microsoft first demonstrated the Kinect motion-sensing system in June 2010, it showed off the Star Wars game as a work in progress. The game made another appearance in a live demo at E3 in June 2011. Kinect Star Wars drew a lot of attention because it had mainstream appeal across generations and was also something that the hardcore gamers could latch onto as a final test as to whether Kinect could really work as advertised.
In the game, you can wield lightsabers by swinging your arm around in faux combat with evil Sith warriors, Trandoshan lizard men, or combat droids. The aim is to make you feel like a real Jedi Knight. Developers Terminal Reality, Good Science, and Microsoft Studios worked hard on this game for years to fulfill the promise of motion-sensing gameplay.
Like many other fans in the galaxy, I was willing to overlook little problems. After all, I grew up with Star Wars, and I share the common fantasy of one day becoming a Jedi Master. Unfortunately, Kinect Star Wars wasn’t worth the wait.
This flagship game confirms what I already knew about Kinect: It just doesn’t work good enough to be as fluid and magical as it should be. Kinect isn’t accurate at sensing your movements and translating them into precise controls. The sad thing is that this title had a lot of potential for a mass audience. Who wouldn’t want to swing around a lightsaber and pretend to have Jedi powers? But the game just tries to be too many different things — a fun party game, a casual kids title, and a serious game for hardcore players and adults — and doesn’t deliver on all of them.
If any game forces you to get off the couch, this one is it. Playing Kinect Star Wars for hours at a time is physically taxing. I recorded a few thousand steps on my counter after playing for a couple of hours. I was sweating profusely by the end of it, and that was even with the frequent breaks that come with load screens. In fact, I was never so pleased to see load screens in my life so that I could get a break. It is fun enough to keep you in constant motion.
With Kinect Star Wars, the control that works the best is jumping; you can vault up into the air, do a spin, and then land behind your enemy. That’s a lot easier to do than picking up an object and tossing it, and the animated result is far prettier than what you actually do in your living room.
The exertion is considerable. In the middle of a fight with a lot of battle droids, you don’t get a break. That exercise may be good for gamers, but it may turn off some. And even the gamers who like it need a break. It’s better to trade off players if you can. I got my 12-year-old to substitute for me when I was out of breath. But when she got winded, I had to take her place.
The good thing is that I was motivated to continue playing because it was good exercise and because the exercise seemed like fun. The problem is that not everybody is going to feel the same way about saying goodbye to the couch.
An easy user interface
Kinect Star Wars is relatively easy to learn how to use. You stand in front of the TV and camera, wait for it to recognize you, and then you jump into the game. If you want to pause at any point, you simply walk out of the camera’s view. The game pauses and then waits for you to return. The only problem is that it takes a while for Kinect to recognize you when you walk back in.
When you go into battle, everything is intuitive. If you want to swing at an enemy, you swing at them. If you want to kick them, you kick with your foot. To drive something, you hold your arms out forward. You don’t have to go through an endless tutorial or wade through a manual. A five-year-old could pick it up quickly.
Entertaining mini-games
Kinect Star Wars justifies its existence through its mini -games. You can play two-player or single-player games in short bursts of time. These fun distractions include podracing, which allows you to race through the canyons like Anakin Skywalker did in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Another mini-game is Duels of Fate, where you can battle with imperial foes one-on-one with your lightsaber, working your way up to Count Dooku and Darth Vader. You can also play Dance-Off, a Dance Central clone game where you try to match the moves of dancers. And you can rampage through a city as a Rancor monster on the loose.