Kinect Star Wars fails to deliver fireworks

Steve Dinneen
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Cert: 12A

Remember that bit in Return of the Jedi when Princess Leah sings a version of Christina Aguilera’s Genie in a Bottle entitled Princess in a Battle? No? What about the bit when Han Solo busts out his disco moves? It didn’t happen, did it? Well, it does in Kinect Star Wars.

This may be the Star Wars universe but it is very much grounded in Attack of the Clones rather than The Empire Strikes Back. If you walk into Kinect Star Wars expecting anything kitsch or deadpan or even particularly original, you’re going to hate it. Really hate it. Despise it. It will make you want to throw yourself into the Sarlacc (before they edited a CGI venus fly trap into it’s mouth). But approach it as a spin-off cartoon from Attack of the Clones and you can have some fun. Not always a huge amount, but some. After all, swinging a Lightsaber around was the reason the Kinect was invented, wasn’t it?

The main game, Jedi Destiny: Dark Side Rising, sees you take the role of a young trainee Jedi. It largely involves fighting your way through increasingly infuriating cut scenes, which arrive with such regularity that at times it feels like you’re a peripherally involved bystander in someone else’s game. You are otherwise tasked with smashing your way through wave after wave of clones, mercenaries and droids, which is great to start with but gets both visually and physically exhausting (sore arms rather than cardiovascular workout). It’s relentless – I longed for the game to take things down a notch and let you do some exploring. But it’s very much on rails, lurching from set-piece to set-piece. There is some respite when you take control of a Star Cruiser gun turret or drive a speeder bike but these sequences are so interminably dull you’ll soon want to be back on the ground throwing droids around   again.

The Kinect reads your Lightsaber swing pretty well and twirling your virtual weapon in a figure of eight, knocking back laser beams, is especially satisfying. Using The Force (controlled with your other hand) can be trickier, with the sensor often struggling to work out what you want to pick up, meaning you end up levitating a rock instead of chucking clones into each other. Frustratingly, it also struggles to tell the difference between “kick” and “run”.

One glaring defect is that the mechanism to pause the game – which you’ll want to do after a couple of non-stop stages of repetitive gameplay – is the same as the command to hold your lightsaber in your other hand. Instead of taking a break you tend to find yourself taking on another swarm of clones, this time with your bad hand.

The biggest disappointment, though, is the horribly overcomplicated duel mode. Here’s what they should have done: get some Star Wars characters, let you choose two of them, put them in an arena, let you slash away with your lightsaber – it’s a winning formula. Instead you get a running battle in which you take turns to attack and defend. Making contact seems arbitrary and getting the timing right to block is incredibly frustrating (dodging, on the other hand, is too easy). You’ll want to play it all the way through to face off against Count Dooku and Darth Vader but it’s unlikely you’ll play it again when you’re finished.

There are other sub games in the package: a pod-racing tournament, the aforementioned galactic dance-off and an arcade-like game in which you control a giant, berserk Rancor. These are fun additions – if a little on the easy side – but you can’t help feeling they are a form of compensation for the lacklustre main game.

To expect Kinect games to be as finely honed as other console titles is unfair – not to mention slightly missing the point. But Kinect Star Wars is just too clunky and too frustrating to be a great title. Its relationship to Star Wars is like that of Camelot the theme park to Camelot the mythical castle. I had a bad feeling about this – it turns out I was right.