Kinect Star Wars Review (Xbox360)

I have to admit that when I wrote my detailed last-ditch preview of Kinect Star Wars which hit the site this time last week I thought it would be my final throw of the dice on the title. That probably explains why my preview is so review-like, going over the modes of the game in detail and saying what I thought of them without attaching a score – because, of course, the embargo forbids it.

There’s no such restriction now, though, and so after getting my hands on the final disc I was able to really sink my teeth into the game’s modes proper and see if my opinion changed from that preview. The answer was quite clear early on – not so much.

How many of you have fantasized about being in this iconic fight?

To start with, Kinect Star Wars is a well-constructed game. News came out this week that the game has allegedly been worked on by over 200 people at 10 different development studios in collaboration.

One wonders if too many cooks would ruin the broth, or if that’d result in a lack of direction, but the experience on offer feels quite cohesive. Split into five specific game modes, it retains the feel of a mini-game compilation even though most of the modes in the game are more robust than the tiny offerings from your average mini-game mash up.

C3PO and R2D2 guide players through the suite of modes on offer, openly breaking the fourth wall and addressing them directly. The menus are standard Kinect fare, ripped from the Kinect Sports style of menu navigation.

The core of the game is the ‘Dark Side Rising’ mode, essentially a mini side-story in the Star Wars universe which touches all of the major story beats and clichés of the Star Wars series without interfering too much with the main plot. Set in the Clone Wars, it references events from the movies that take place around the war, but never dips into movie events properly.

Playing as an all-new Jedi Padawan you’ll meet big names like Yoda and Mace Windu (sadly not voiced by Samuel L. Jackson here) and spend your time slashing through masses of trade federation droids. It’s all reminiscent of the Clone Wars cartoon series – which is also where the game has borrowed its chiselled art style from.

The controls are exactly as you’d imagine – slicing with your right hand, using the force with your left. Jumps, kicks and steps help you to dodge and move around, though much of the experience is on rails. There’s a nuance to the motions, though – stepping forwards to dash towards a new enemy requires a particularly exaggerated movement, slamming your foot down – and it takes some getting used to.

Editing how you stand and move is an easy enough ask, and it’ll soon become second nature as much as any weird control foible in a game. Kinect Star Wars sadly still suffers from that Kinect syndrome where characters look a bit like they’ve got horrible bone breaks and fractures when the sensor can’t figure out what you’re doing, bodies twisting and contorting in unnatural ways – and watching your Jedi fold into himself somewhat as you turn to grab your drink can break the immersion just a little.

How many of you have fantasized about dancing with a camp robot?

Duels of Fate is the next mode and offers a bunch of remakes of classic Star Wars battles such as Luke and Darth’s fight in Cloud City outside of the context of the game’s story mode. Podracing plays like Kinect Joy Ride did, while Rancour Rampage is essentially like being in a Godzilla movie, casting you as the gigantic beast that can smash buildings to pieces and eat ships and people to earn points.

When videos of the Galactic Dance Off mode leaked online I saw a few meltdowns – but I actually think it’s hilarious. It plays like Dance Central, but offers up remixed versions of songs from contemporary artists like Bruno Mars right through to the Village People – all rerecorded with Star Wars lyrics. It’s stupid and campy, but this mode is perhaps the greatest statement of Kinect Star Wars’ purpose.

This is all more Star Wars Holiday Special than Empire Strikes Back – it’s more battles on Naboo than a duel to the death on Mustarfar. It is Star Wars at its most shameless and campiest through and through, even in the story mode which threads through serious events – and I’m okay with that.

While Star Wars has some wonderfully dark moments, I know that it is a franchise for kids and families - like the Saturday Morning Matinees it was based off. Kinect Star Wars embraces that history with its attitude.

The problem with Kinect Star Wars is down to the use of the Kinect Sensor itself – while the package is a well constructed and well thought out one, it’s all too often that the sensor misreads something and it becomes frustrating.

The more time I spent with the game the more I became aware of the strings being tugged in the background to hide where Kinect’s inadequacies rear their ugly head – and so the end result is a game that becomes frustrating because the immersion is broken as you fumble through a boss battle, arm tiring, because the Kinect failed to read that all important boot to Darth Vader’s crotchal region.

Whatever your Star Wars fantasy, this has you covered

It’s here, then, that I defer to my original preview. “I can’t help but see the strings being pulled behind the scenes to make it all work,” I wrote there. “For a young Star Wars fan I can only imagine that this game will be absolutely mindblowing. Kinect Star Wars is accomplishing exactly what it set out to do – it just isn’t for us.”

I might be able to see the strings – but the people for whom this is designed – kids and families who either won’t know better or won’t care – won’t be effected by it. Kinect Star Wars isn’t for us, and as a package is good value, part of an attractive franchise and a damn sight better than a lot of the rubbish shovelware on the shelves for kids today.

If all else fails, we can laugh at the so-bad-they’re-good Star Wars pop songs, at least.

Best Game Moment: Every time the controls click, it’s amazing. But when they don’t...