|System: Xbox 360|
|Dev: Terminal Reality|
|Release: April 3, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
When I first played Kinect Star wars at E3 last year, I feared that the Kinect was not ready to handle a full Star Wars lightsaber experience. That fear lead to anger at the game's clunky controls, which lead to hate for my many needless deaths, which eventually lead to suffering through the entire game in the hopes that there was some fun to be squeezed out of it. Curse you for being right, Yoda. Curse you!
The "story" of Kinect Star Wars has you assisting C-3P0 and R2-D2 in combing through the Jedi Archives, which are supposedly a selection of historical files chronicling important events in the history of the universe. This means that all of the action of the game actually takes place in past tense. The main campaign has you following a Jedi Master and her padawans during the events of the Star Wars movies, but these are all side characters that conveniently never showed up in the movies, comic books, novels, roleplaying games, or other expanded universe media, so it's rather hard to care about any of them. In fact, there are portions of the game where the story blatantly contradicts itself. You'll need to suspend your disbelief quite a bit to get through this one.
On the upside, the game takes you through many of the most memorable moments in Star Wars. You'll fight in lightsaber duels, ride a speeder-bike, and even attack a Death Star. It's a lot like the old school Star Wars arcade game that gave you a choice of different scenarios to relive. In that sense, Kinect Star Wars isn't so much a coherent narrative as it is a collection of minigames that put you into the Star Wars story, already in progress.
Now, I don't have a big problem with minigame compilations like this. As I said in my Kinect Rush review, as long as the experience is immersive, then the game is doing its job. Unfortunately, Kinect Star Wars isn't immersive at all, and this is mostly due to the presentation. The graphics here look like rejects from the PS2 era. Explosions and laser effects clip through models weirdly, and animations are stiff and awkward. The voice acting is horrendous. It has that problem where B-list voice actors are chosen to voice characters that A-list actors had voiced in the movies. Characters speak without any emotion, and the lines they are given are so corny and trashy it's hard to take them seriously.
If the story fails to drag you in, the gameplay has to pick up the slack. But the gameplay in Kinect Star Wars feels rushed and incomplete. The same technical issues that plagued the demo plague the final game. The lightsaber swings far too slow and lags behind your actual arm. Sometimes, swings aren't even picked up, leaving you flailing in front of your TV to no effect. In fact, it feels a lot like those early Wii games where you recklessly waggled the Wiimote in an attempt to get any response, much less the response you want. The Kinect also doesn't pick up wrist movement, which is pretty important when you are swinging your sword around. Instead, it feels like your lightsaber is awkwardly duct-taped to the end of your arm. The Kinect also doesn't like it when you put your body into your motions like a real sword swing. Instead, it expects you to stand stiffly in front of your TV, moving just your arm and nothing else.
Of course, lightsaber duels are only one half of the action in Star Wars. The other half is the Force, and it too gets the short end of the motion control stick. Targeting enemies with your force powers is incredibly clunky and inaccurate. Half the time, you will find yourself pointing at the wrong enemy just because you moved your hand the wrong way. It feels like the developers were trying to go for a "dual wielding" type of feel where you use the Force in tandem with your lightsaber, but this feeling just falls flat. Very few enemies or objects in the game can even be affected by the force. Most enemies will just stumble a bit if you try to Force push them, and will then continue toward you as if nothing happened. In fact, it takes you so much time just to attempt to use the Force correctly that it's better if you just don't try at all.
The resulting gameplay is flawed to the extent of frustration. It feels as if you are doing everything correctly and yet your character still won't respond. Even when he does respond, random slowdowns and graphical glitches will cause numerous cheap deaths that would make you want to throw your controller at the screen if you were actually using one. This is only compounded by needless platforming segments and poorly thought out "puzzle-like" stop gaps in the action.