(CNN) — Whenever anything involves the “Star Wars” franchise, there are certain expectations that need to be met to satisfy die-hard, and even casual, fans. So when a new video game wants to bring “Star Wars” to life like never before, that’s setting the bar really high.
“Kinect Star Wars” tries to use the power of the Kinect controller for the Xbox 360 to put players into the action, using full-body motions to wield lightsabers, drive podracers and, unfortunately, dance for Jabba the Hutt. The game has a few high points but also has more disappointments than a bad motivator on a defective R2 unit.
There are five sections to the game, offering different styles of gameplay and a complete campaign in each. One section, Duels of Fate, is locked at the very beginning, but quickly unlocks after players complete the first mission in the Jedi Destiny section.
Jedi Destiny is where players learn how to use their body movements to control the Force and use their lightsaber. Players start out as training Padawans (those who are just learning how to use the Force) and are quickly thrust into a conflict with the Sith.
When the Kinect controller works, the actions are seamless and fluid. The animations look somewhat similar to what you’d see in a “Star Wars: Clone Wars” cartoon, which means they are easy on the eyes and familiar.
Force actions are fun to use. Grabbing a battle droid with the Force and flinging it into a group of its mates is quite enjoyable.
However, when the Kinect controller failed to read my actions properly, no amount of flailing in front of my screen would alleviate my frustration. More often than not, I couldn’t control the action as well as I would have liked, and I ended up many times just wading into groups of enemies and waving my lightsaber around.
There are times during Jedi Destiny when you control a speeder, gun turret or X-wing fighter for battles, but the controls seem sluggish and make it difficult to accurately pinpoint shots.
Rancor Rampage was probably the most fun out of all the segments. Players act as a freed rancor (Remember him? The monster in the pit at Jabba’s lair?) and get to smash people, droids and buildings with abandon.
Here is where flailing about actually works to your advantage. The rancor smashes the ground to level opponents, charges through buildings with abandon and, yes, eats people to gain health.
The controls felt responsive to the appropriate moves, providing the best one-to-one movement experience out of all the game segments.
The podracing section is pretty straightforward. Players act as the driver and use their motion to control speed, direction and ramming abilities. The storyline occurs years after Anakin Skywalker won his race in “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” but many of the characters are still around and add some great dialogue in between races.
The feel of being in a podracer is well animated and would be fun, except that holding your arms out continually to control your racer gets tiring and painful. The races are rather long, and you’ll need to take breaks often just to rest your shoulders.
Galactic Dance Off is the least “Star Wars”-like segment of the entire game. It is pretty much any Kinect dancing game, given a “Star Wars” coating. Modern dance songs are slightly tweaked to include “Star Wars” characters or plot points.
Some of the dance moves are named after Force moves, and even iconic characters are dragged onto the dance floor.
From a straight gameplay perspective, the dancing works and will be enjoyable to those who like those games. For someone hoping to have a “Star Wars” experience, the Dance Off is best avoided. It seemed to be more game padding than substance.
Duels of Fate puts you in one-on-one lightsaber battles with different foes from “Star Wars” lore, advancing your way through the ranks to face off against the dark lord himself, Darth Vader. If any part of the game was going to appeal to fans, it was going to be this one.
However, this segment is plagued by the same problems found in Jedi Destiny. The motions appear off at times, it is hard to string together actions for a successful hit, and the feel of the action is less than enjoyable.
Overall, “Kinect Star Wars” has so much going on that it’s is likely to have something that appeals to almost any style of gamer. It is just unfortunate that the two areas where the gameplay actually works best are the two segments that do the worst job representing the “Star Wars” canon.
Maybe we expect too much from a “Star Wars” title when we want it to reflect exactly what we’ve seen in the movies and television. Maybe our imagination’s desire to put ourselves in the place of Luke Skywalker or Darth Maul can’t successfully be translated into a video game.
The right ideas are here for what could have been a fulfilling experience. However, the Kinect controller, for all the good that it does in other titles, lets the player down and doesn’t see through with the promise of a new hope for the gamer/fan experience.
“Kinect Star Wars” is available now exclusively for the Xbox 360 and can be played only using the Kinect controller. It is rated “T for Teens” because of mild language, mild suggestive themes and violence. This review was done playing on the Xbox 360 with the Kinect controller.
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