A lot has happened within the gaming industry since Microsoft originally unveiled Kinect with a rough-looking Star Wars demo all the way back in 2010. The Xbox 360's controllerless device has arguably outperformed commercial expectations by leaning heavily toward the casual audience, with very little in the way of compelling software to back it up. With that in mind, in steps Microsoft's attempt to capitalize on one of the most lucrative franchises in popular culture, Kinect Star Wars.
From the outset, the game's emphasis on appealing to younger audiences is clear, and there is certainly some charm to be found for them here. However, for everyone else, Kinect Star Wars may well represent an odd collection of motion-based mini-games and uninspired narrative.
The setting of the game, to its credit, takes advantage of elements from both the original and prequel trilogies in George Lucas' universe. Players are guided through a tour of the recently-discovered Jedi Archives by none other than the lovable C-3PO and R2-D2. This is probably as good as Kinect Star Wars gets in terms of narrative, unfortunately. Anyone who's a hardcore fan of the franchise may find this story difficult to swallow, but at least it's good for children who have no prior knowledge.
Beyond their cheeky banter, players can take a virtual tour of the memories of a Jedi Master and her padawan trainees during the Clone Wars. Overall, the writing, animations, plotlines and so on all feel half-heartedly thrown together to create a comfortable, accessible journey for the game's coveted audience. In other words, it doesn't feel as though any real consideration was put into this part of the game.
Looking past storytelling, Kinect Star Wars assembles a somewhat strange, if varied, collection of mini-games, in order to take players on a tour of Kinect's proven motion stomping-grounds. This mash-up includes everything from lightsaber duels, pod races and... dancing? That's right! Fresh off the breakout success of Harmonix's Dance Central, Microsoft and LucasArts were apparently determined to let budding Jedis in on the party as well. Regardless of how relevant the mini-game is to Star Wars, additional variety never sunk a game, as far as I know. It's just a shame that Kinect Star Wars essentially serves as a Star Wars-skinned technical demo for the peripheral. It just highlights the missed opportunity here.
In the end, all of these mini-games suffer from a series of control issues, resulting from the general unresponsiveness of Kinect's implementation. Far too often, the game seems to simply ignore certain, at times crucial, physical gestures the player makes, leading to a frustrating, repetitive experience across the board.
While some offerings perform better than others - podracing works consistently well, whereas lightsaber duels frequently turn into sluggish wars of attrition - Kinect Star Wars never really hits its stride, and will likely fail to satisfy most players, regardless of age or association with the series. It's functional more often than not, but can also be far from enjoyable. And when something as iconic as lightsabre duels isn't implemented correctly, something has definitely gone wrong somewhere along the line.
Similarly, the game's audio/visual presentation is held back by a number of technical issues, ranging from voiceover syncing missteps to rough pop-in details within the environment. If you're sensing a theme developing here, don't be alarmed - Kinect Star Wars simply feels loosely and quickly thrown together without the careful attention to detail one would expect from such a major license.
It's a very ironic turn of events, considering how long this game has been in development for. The initial demo, as previously stated, was shown in 2010, and it seems this is the best they could come up with.
Kinect Star Wars sets out to recreate the magic of George Lucas' revered universe with motion-controlled fun primarily aimed at a younger audience. In that context, when performing at its absolute best, the game can be given a handful of victories. However, the vast majority of time, and for anyone outside its core demographic, Kinect Star Wars' numerous technical issues, frustrating controls and generally uninspired delivery will make that magic difficult, if impossible, to see.
|It'll make the kids chuckle a little bit.|
|Who ever thought we'd see Han Solo strutting his stuff like that?|
|It's finally been released.|
|There are numerous technical hitches.|
|The writing of the script is poor.|
|It's finally been released.|