Since Microsoft announced Kinect Star Wars at the video games trade show E3 last summer, the gaming world has waited with breathless anticipation for a game that combined the "you are the controller" wizardry of the Microsoft Kinect and the fun of Star Wars.
So now that Kinect Star Wars has landed in stores, how amazingly great is it? What did Microsoft do right and what did they do wrong? And more important, is it a great game for kids and kids at heart?
Sadly, the answer to the last question is probably "No."
The game is set in the Star Wars universe and you're a young Jedi, training at the wrinkled pleasure of Master Yoda. You don't actually use a controller for this title and instead your entire body controls your on-screen avatar. Your right arm controls your light saber and your left arm controls the Force. You can jump, run, and duck during the course of the game and it is similar to any "rails" shooter that corrals you into various pre-set passages and battle scenes.
First, if you were thinking of buying this game for a Star Wars-loving adult, don't bother. The Kinect controls are bad enough in some of the simpler Xbox titles but this game is pretty terrible. Swinging your arm this way and that does, in a sense, control the on-screen action but there is very little fine control of weapons or Force powers and you end up simply flailing around in front of the TV until someone asks you to sit down -- most probably younger members of the family.
This isn't your Dad's Star Wars.
Littler ones will enjoy the many movie and TV show tie-ins and, in a way, they will be more pleased with the game's Kinect controls. My own son was sweaty and exhausted after playing a few missions and today he complained that his "arm hurt" because he was swinging his light saber too much. It is important to note that this game is rated T for Teen, which means it does involve a bit of "biological" killing beyond hacking up enemy robots. There is no blood or dismemberment, but bodies do fly.
So is it amazingly great? Yes and no. It is good in that it rethinks the Star Wars franchise for a younger, more excitable audience. Too long have convention goers dressed up as Obiwan Kenobi and discussed the finer points of Tatooine's moisture farming practices. This puts a lot of fun into the Star Wars world again, something that a lot of games forgo in order to maintain accuracy and role-playing engrossment.
What did Microsoft do right and what did they do wrong? To be quite honest, it's hard to tell. This is definitely not the game many gamers expected -- they wanted to swing light sabers around with two hands and really feel like they were Force choking people from across the room -- so obviously quite a bit of the game is disappointing to purists.
However, for those who just want to play a fairly energetic Star Wars game, a few minutes of game play could double as an aerobic workout for sedentary kids. While I actually dislike turning Kinect games on for my son simply because our living room floor is quite rickety and his gaming often threatens to knock over our TV, this game was so engrossing that I actually welcomed the modicum of unwitting exercise he got out of it.
That said, this isn't a game for lovers of the old Star Wars. It's for lovers of the new Star Wars, the kids who grew up with Jar Jar Binks and little Ani. If your kid has always wanted to lead a team to help a scrum of Wookies, this may be the game to get.
Do you think your kids will want to play this Star Wars game?
Image via Microsoft