The Star Wars franchise is one big broken promise. Ever since the first three films created an entire galaxy stuffed with fascinating characters and stories, Lucasfilm (and its subsidiaries) has set about dismantling it, piece by piece. Awful prequels, (mostly) rubbish videogames and that bloody Dixons advert, amongst other things, have seen to this. Our childhood lays in tatters.
But perhaps that’s the wrong way of looking at it. The Star Wars universe continues to bring happiness to millions of kids around the world, who lap up everything upon which that iconic logo is placed. Maybe we’re just too old for it now. Maybe it’s time we put down the replica AT-AT, roll up the Tauntaun sleeping bag and just grow up. Maybe Star Wars isn’t for us anymore.
Those were the thoughts zipping around my head as I played the E3 demo for Kinect Star Wars at a recent Microsoft event. Touted as ‘fun for all the family’ it’s a game that’s undeniably made for kids. You could easily dissect its wafer-thin gameplay like a hot lightsaber through butter, but what’s the point? Considering the target audience, how critical can you really be?
Rumours of podracing levels may add some depth to the game.
The on-rails action began as my Jedi player-character leapt out of a transporter and onto a platform below, to tackle a phalanx of Trade Federation Droids. With the aid of my lightsaber (no “lightsaber on” moment sadly/happily), I carved my way through the crowd by waving my arm around in a rough approximation of Jedi sabremanship. It’s not terribly responsive yet, to be honest. And combined with the lack of feedback, it just doesn’t feel as if you’re making contact with your victims. But onwards I ploughed.
It’s in this fashion that I made my way down the light-filled corridors of Cloud City – with the occasional brief speed-burst executed by lunging forwards. In addition to the rudimentary slashes, there were a few other varieties of attack available, including kicks and the ability to repel enemy lasers with the lightsaber. The latter works by holding your arm out in the direction of oncoming fire to send it straight back where it came from. It’s pretty easy to pull off – when the Kinect sensor does what it’s supposed to – but it’s hardly sophisticated.
Indeed, unsophisticated is probably the best word to describe the entire demo. The only slight nuance to proceedings came in an encounter with a couple of Droidekas, those rolling gun turret robots from the prequel series. To bypass their force shields you have to jump over them with a real-life hop, then slash away at their exposed backs; because droids always have weak points on their backs, obviously. Dur.
Using your force powers is incredibly satisfying.
It works like this: Hold out your left arm (the right is for your lightsaber) and after a brief moment the nearest enemies will be highlighted. From there all you have to do is fling your hand left or right to dismissively chuck your attacker at a wall, down a chasm or into a group of squad mates. It’s simple, it’s incredibly easy and the odds are that the novelty will wear off quickly, but for the entirety of my demo it was oh-so-enjoyable.
And that, ultimately, sums up my reservations with the game in its current state. There’s just no depth there. Yes, it’s fun to pretend to be a Jedi. Yes, it’s kinda cool to wave a lightsabre around. And hell yeah, it’s great to chuck baddies around using the Force. But right now it’s a pretty meagre offering and despite talk of X-Wing and podracer levels yet to be unveiled, it’s hard to imagine Kinect Star Wars providing any kind of depth.
Which brings us back to where we started. If Kinect Star Wars is just for kids, do any of my reservations really matter? I’m not sure. But my generation grew up playing the likes of Super Mario Bros., titles that needed no such get out clauses. Not every game can be a stone cold classic, of course, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. You get the feeling that Kinect Star Wars isn’t trying hard enough.