I don't love Star Wars enough to dismiss Kinect Star Wars because they made Leia dance to a version of Gwen Stefani's Hollaback Girl renamed Hologram Girl. I do love games enough, though, to know that most of what's on offer here is bordering on terrible, offering the kind of gameplay experience that would seem clunky, broken and incredibly dated if it were being played with a standard controller. When forced to use Kinect it adds frustration into the mix as well. Oh, and that dancing mode everyone got into a fuss over is easily the best part of the whole package.
Kinect Star Wars is a compendium of ideas and game modes, with some fleshed out more than others. The main component is the story-based Jedi Destiny: Dark Side Rising which casts you as a trainee Jedi who has to use his/her lightsaber and minor Force powers to defeat what ends up being rooms full of enemies - which come in various forms, but are mostly droids of some type or another.
The really weak enemies more or less stand there and let you virtually dice them into pieces (which is what should happen with lightsabers but never does) by swinging your arm about. You can use your other arm to Force Push as well as Force Move objects - including some but not all enemies. Things get more complex when foes block your attacks, which then requires you to block their moves (by moving your saber up, down, left or right) in order to create an opening to attack back - something that generally needs repeating a couple of times for each encounter.
Gun-toting foes try to get the upper hand by firing at you from a distance, but you can tackle this onslaught of projectiles in two ways: perform a figure of eight motion with your saber to deflect all incoming fire, or slash your saber at the right moment to send the blast right back at the enemy. Generally I found it far easier to dash forward when there was a gap in the fire (dashing itself is a pain thanks to having to step forward and fling your arms back behind you) and then leap into the air and perform a powerful lightsaber smash.
When you're not fighting you're either performing utterly terrible and entirely redundant platforming where you do nothing but jump when the game tells you to, manning a speeder through dense forest, or sitting in the gunner's seat in on-rails space battles. None of these are entertaining and most stretch the term interactive to near breaking point.
Of the other game modes, it's Rancor Rampage that takes the award for most awkward to play. As the name suggests, you go crazy as a massive rancor that's on the loose. With all movement here having to be controlled by the player (rather than the more linear on-rails feeling of Jedi Destiny), even getting from A to B is a chore. It's admittedly decent fun flailing your arms about to smash bystanders and buildings, or eating villagers to regain health, but it's a fleshed out mini-game that gets tiresome to play even before the first stage is over.
Podracing (as made popular by Episode One) is decently handled, but the controls feel far too automatic for the mode to taken seriously by anyone looking for a competent Star Wars racer, and the forced use of gestures for tedious tasks (such as clearing the screen of moisture) gets in the way of the actual racing. You steer by tilting your hands, boost by thrusting them forwards, and it all works as well as you might imagine when you're not trying to do various other moves that simply prove how much better the whole thing would have been with a controller in your hand. Numerous courses are on offer and there are moments of visual nicety that is sorely lacking elsewhere in the collection.
Less thrilling are the Duels of Fate challenges, which might tempt players due to the lure of eventually facing off against Darth Vader himself. The lightsaber combat (with its heavy reliance on tediously slow blocking) seen in the Jedi Destiny mode returns, and is made all the more dull when it's all you do over and over again.
That just leaves the now infamous Galactic Dance Off. A lot of people have failed to see the funny side of this, and in doing so haven't given the game's only redeeming feature a chance. It's a Dance Central-like system, albeit with Leia and co dancing in famous Star Wars locations such as Jabba's palace and the Death Star. It's entirely bizarre and yet somehow quite appealing. While I can't see anyone buying Kinect Star Wars for this mode alone, it's the one you're most likely to get something out of that isn't arm ache, a miserable face or general contempt for whoever thought the rest of the package was fun.
I don't like Kinect Star Wars. It's not because I feel betrayed by what the licensors let the developers get away with - it really doesn't bother me how Star Wars is used in popular media (I don't even care about the PC World and Vodafone adverts) - I just find the whole thing to be a terrible gameplay experience with the exception of the dancing. That won't stop people buying Kinect Star Wars and I'm sure some people will claim the whole thing is tremendous fun. The following YouTube video is good fun. Kinect Star Wars isn't.
Version Tested: Xbox 360
VideoGamer.com Score4 Score out of 10
- Dancing mode is decent
- Rancor Rampage is awful
- Visually disappointing
- Gameplay is incredibly basic