Following E3 and Comic-Con demos of lightsaber duels and Podracing, gamescom 2011 hosted the debut of Kinect Star Wars Rancor gameplay. For those unfamiliar with the Rancor, we're talking about a large carnivorous reptomammal, likely to be remembered by many as the pet of Jabba the Hutt.
The demo - one of many at Microsoft's gamescom 2011 play day event - puts the player in the shoes (if they were to wear shoes) of the aforementioned Rancor, and being a Kinect game this means it's full body control to get the beast moving. Walking on the spot makes the Rancor move forward, with a turn of the shoulders directing left or right. You can move faster, a kind of charge, by getting into a crouched skiing position and moving your arms back as if to push yourself along.
That's how you move the great lug around, but you'll also want to swing your arms to swipe, reach out to grab, and slam your arms down towards the floor to perform a powerful slam move.
It was hard to pick up any story elements from the demo, but the goal was simple: run along smashing up the environment, grabbing and eating civilians along the way. It was a pretty mindless exercise in looking like a bit of an idiot in front of hundreds of other games journalists. Like a puppeteer I manoeuvred the Rancor through Mos Eisley, destroying pretty much everything which got in my way. To mix things up I grabbed the occasional innocent and either lobbed them into oblivion or brought my hand to my mouth to chomp on their bones.
Some highlights included swatting X-Wing fighters out of mid-air and an end of demo encounter with an AT-ST. What I first thought would offer something of a challenge, failed to put up much of a fight. The bipedal walker went down after a few ground smashes and some wild swipes of my arms.
The short demo lasted no more than five minutes, but it was clear to see that the Rancor gameplay isn't going to win over anyone sitting on the core side the fence. Moving around felt horribly clunky with turning proving a particular annoyance - the lack of precision made even navigating through wide open passages an exercise in frustration.
The rep on hand to expel great things about the game ensured me the problems I was having were because of the unsuitable conditions for Kinect in the massive hall Microsoft had filled with demo areas, but that Jedi mind trick wasn't going to convince me Kinect Star Wars is shaping up to be anything other than a game for Kinect's casual gamers. Maybe that's all Microsoft wants from the game, but it didn't stop me feeling like a bit of Rancor.