It was never going to be well received. Star Wars Kinect has been panned by fans since announcement. Early demos were unconvincing, and after being held back for many months, both gamers and critics alike were left wondering if this was stalling for time or a chance to rebuild a somewhat broken game. After months of waiting, the announcement of a certain dance mode made fans cry out in unison and the game being marketed as ‘not for core gamers’ sealed the deal for most, but is Star Wars Kinect really that bad?
The answer totally depends on what kind of gamer you are. It’s split into five different modes: Duel of Fates, Jedi Destiny, Rancor Rampage, Podracing, and (yes, really) Galactic Dance-Off. Each offers an individual Star Wars-based experience that utilises the player as the controller and spans across the galaxy and throughout the films’ timeline. The main draw for players will be the Jedi Destiny mode, which lets players take control of their inner Jedi and unleash the force on a variety of familiar and new enemies. Rather disappointingly, the storyline is nowhere near up to scratch with previous Star Wars titles and the gameplay remains almost entirely on-rails with different sections being separated by short cinematics. The player can utilise their entire body during combat, using one hand as their Lightsaber hand and the other to use the force against enemies and the environment. The player can also kick, jump and evade attacks from a whole host of bad guys, including a variety of droids and a number of generic Sith enemies. There are also vehicle based-modes too, which again involve on-rails combat in familiar environments.
While Jedi Destiny can be fun, it suffers from the same problems as many other Kinect titles: inaccurate controls and troublesome gameplay issues. The Kinect simply cannot deal with the often fast and frantic on-screen action, and slowing down the gameplay by swinging your Lightsaber at a sluggish speed to make sure you land a blow isn’t the Star Wars experience at all. Due to the game being aimed at kids, even when you do land a strike you feel like you do no damage at all, with no visible damage being achieved to show you’re cutting through flesh or even the hard shell of a Destroyer Droid. Vehicle combat fares better, and while it’s again on-rails, ships and speeders handle quite nicely and battling works well, with an automatic fire function not overcomplicating, letting you focus on movement during frantic battles and chases.
Duel of Fates plays out similar to Jedi Destiny, with the player taking on an enemy in one-on-one combat. The enemies are largely familiar, including Magna Guards and Vader himself. Sadly though, these battles are nowhere near as entertaining as they could have been, with the player taking it in turns with the enemy to defend then attack until you inevitably win the duel. It’s tedious stuff, and offers little to no entertainment value. This is the main issue with Star Wars Kinect: the game is marketed for kids and therefore offers little to no challenge for core gamers, and while it managers to garner the spirit of the films, it hardly ever touches on the overall magic and excitement of a true Jedi battle.
Rancor Rampage is infinitely more entertaining than both Jedi modes, letting you take control over the monstrous beast as you trample your way through a variety of environments including Mos Eisley and Felucia. The mode is purely about destroying, killing and munching the inhabitants of some of Star Wars’ most iconic environments. Doing well lets you unlock new Rancors, as well as new environments to carry on the mindless fun. That’s all Rancor Rampage is; silly fun, but silly fun that works well and has largely accurate controls.
Podracing is highly entertaining, if a little tiring, with players utilising their arms to thrust and navigate dangerous environments associated with the universe’s most troublesome sport. Once you get your head around them, the controls are very accurate but do take it out of you after a while. The levels are fast paced and competitive and offer plenty of replay value. There’s plenty of unlockables for those who want to upgrade their Podracer too. The most entertaining thing about Podracing is its similarities with the N64 Star Wars Racer game, which is still one of the most popular Star Wars titles to date.
While as a package, the modes available are mostly relevant mini-games, Galactic Dance-Off at first feels tacked on and more like filler than a real game mode. While on the surface this is a ridiculous idea and is in many ways a terrible use of the Star Wars name and license, Dance Off is highly entertaining and ridiculous, but ultimately fun. It does what it says on the tin. You bust Star Wars-themed moves on famous tracks. Doing well earns you stars which you can use to unlock new songs and locations. Amusingly, most of the famous songs are lyrically Star Wars-themed, including ‘Hologram Girl’ and ‘I’m Han Solo’. Ridiculous as it is, Dance-Off is a guilty pleasure that shouldn’t be overlooked because of its premise.
Graphically, the game is far from polished, but doesn’t look truly awful. It’s more Clone Wars than it is Force Unleashed, but it works with the modes you have at hand. Some of the environments are quite nice – Felucia looks lush and vibrant and the space scenes capture the feel of the Star Wars universe, but overall the game looks dated. Some of the familiar characters don’t look quite right too, and doubled up with some bad voice acting, it tarnishes the feel of the game and ruins the overall experience. Thankfully the music is spot on, incorporating the usual strings and things you come to expect in a Star Wars title.
Fans of the universe will find something to entertain in all corners, but poor controls and a lazy main campaign leave the overall experience somewhat underwhelming. Kids won’t see the issues that core gamers will experience, and the Clone Wars-esque graphics and silly mini-games will appeal to younger players. While it’s fun at times, and the constant homages to familiar characters and storylines will keep fans amused, this is far from the immersive experience it could have been.
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