x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Kinect Star Wars: Finally, motion-sensor technology meets the Force

At last, the masses get the chance to act out their lightsaber fantasies, though the game occasionally becomes a more workout-intensive version of button-mashing.

Kinect Star Wars
LucasArts
Xbox360 Kinect
***

Since roughly May 26, 1977, it's fair to say that much of the world's population has spent at least a few minutes making buzzing noises while swinging their hands around, chopping invisible Stormtroopers to pieces. Sure, there have been toys, even some that make a "George Lucas-approved sound", but given that a futuristic, intergalactic war is still a few years off, the most damage anyone was ever going to do was hit someone a bit too hard with some plastic.

And then Microsoft announced Kinect Star Wars on its motion sensor wizard box. Finally, it seemed, you could pretend to be Luke Skywalker and actually do some damage to the Galactic Empire, albeit a pixelated version on a TV screen.

Unfortunately, with anything that comes brandishing the words Star and Wars, there comes a degree of scrutiny and expectation perhaps far higher than any other franchise, and for a game that actually invites you to "Step into Star Wars" using your body motions, the die-hards are probably going to come down harder than usual if you slip up.

The initial parts of Kinect Star Wars are more than impressive. In seconds, you can be controlling a young Padawan on his journey to aid the Rebel Alliance, waving your right arm to control a lightsaber (you don't need to add sound effects this time) and using your left to unleash the force, lifting up various objects and chucking them about. Thrust almost immediately into vast battles, you'll be scything and chopping your way through legions of battle droids in no time.

But before too long, the action begins to get a bit similar and the cracks in the gameplay start to show. Just as button bashing becomes the norm in various one-on-one fighter games, frantically swinging your arms about is soon the main exhausting thrust of this part of the game, along with occasionally jumping or swaying from side to side to avoid obstacles.

There are six sides to the game in all (the lightsabering is just one of them, although obviously the first most will head to). Each comes with its own storyline and missions, taking you from pod-racing to controlling rampaging giant Rancors, mostly within settings from the three prequels. A Galactic Dance-Off game should be avoided at all costs by fanboys, unless the idea of dancing with Princess Leia with modern "Star Wars remixes", such as Hologram Girl (yes, that'll be Gwen Stefani's Hollaback Girl) is one you approve of. How Lucas let this pass is anyone's guess.

There are some standout moments. Using your hand to pick up a droid and fling it against the wall rarely fails to satisfy, and shooting an entire fleet of ships to bits from across the room without a controller in your hand is likely to impress your party guests.

But the movement control just seems too out of control, too reliant on frantic arm gestures and hip swinging rather than anything more considered. It's not helped by the separate, stand-alone adventures, making it feel more like a compilation of mini-games than one complete entity. Perhaps a dedicated Jedi title will arrive soon on the Kinect that'll satisfy the world's lightsaber cravings. Till then, fazummmmm (yes, that's what they sound like).

aritman@thenational.ae