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Kinect Star Wars Review (Xbox 360)

That's no moon.

Kinect Star Wars is the game that old Star Wars fans fear the most. Luckily, for LucasArts, they don’t really seem to care about the relatively small number of original trilogy fans who bemoan anything new to their once-beloved galaxy far, far away. Star Wars has gone in another direction and it is still incredibly popular, albeit to a different crowd.

Kinect Star Wars is for those new Star Wars fans. The people who don’t think Jar Jar Binks should be force choked until his big floppy ears fall off. The people who couldn’t care less whether Greedo shot first. The people who think The Force really is something to do with bugs in your blood. Kinect Star Wars is for fans of the Clone Wars, prequel trilogy and Dance Central.

The game's launch trailer.
Hold on, what? Dance Central? Yes. There’s a substantial game mode dedicated to dancing, which you might have seen videos of, read about or recoiled in horror at the notion of. It really is just like Dance Central, too.

Shameless in its similarities, it could easily have been an add on skin pack for the dancing game. There are a selection of pop songs, mostly adapted to feature Star Wars related lyrics and themes. You pick one and dance to it, using all the Dance Central moves, which now have suitably Star Wars-y names like Jedi Mind Trick and Double Blaster.

To an old Star Wars fan it’s horrendous, from the ridiculous set up – an attack on the Jedi archives corrupted some data to make it erroneously show Star Wars staples dancing – to the conclusion. And yet, it will be very popular because it works just as brilliantly as Dance Central and it looks like the Clone Wars cartoon series. The Galactic Dance Off mode might have stolen all the hype in the weeks before this game’s release but it is only one game mode.

The other modes include a few glorified mini games. Rancor Rampage is an incredibly entertaining stomp-a-thon in which you score points by stamping about pretending to be an escaped Rancor, wrecking the scenery and swatting away the terrified populace.

It works well because it requires big, bold movements so your actions map effectively to the on-screen action. Unfortunately, that doesn’t apply to the Duels of Fate game mode, in which you engage in lightsaber battles with a series of foes.

A lightsaber duel should be all about precision and timing. You should spend the duel closely watching your opponent for the first hint of movement to strike so that you can block and strike back. It should be fast and fluid and natural. In Kinect Star Wars, it’s none of these things. Opponent attacks are usually telegraphed seconds before they actually strike, meaning that you have plenty of time to move your imaginary lightsaber over to block. Or you would have, if Kinect was picking up your movements with the necessary precision and speed.

Too often, the sensor doesn’t detect an arm movement and translate that to the screen quickly enough. The sensor’s inability to accurately track things like wrist angle and smaller, faster movements makes the lightsaber battles too reliant on vague arm-flapping and that is exactly opposite to what an older Star Wars fan would want from a lightsaber duelling game. Younger kids might still enjoy the experience because, after all, waving your arms to make a cartoon Jedi swing a glowing lightsaber around is likely to be captivating to a certain age group.

Definitely not as cool as it looks.
Those vague control translations are also the bane of the main game mode, Jedi Destiny: Dark Side Rising. We’re used to narrative liberties being taken with Star Wars lore at this point but the main story mode of Kinect Star Wars is still frustrating in its tiny inaccuracies (things like the Padawans all being far too old).

Add to that the inference that Yoda, who was always the Star Wars universe’s paragon of virtue before his days of peddling call plans for mobile phone operators, is now totally fine with Padawan child soldiers and you can see how traditional Star Wars fans might not be too happy with this addition to the brand. Perhaps it won’t matter though, since the narrative is so easily forgotten anyway.

The gameplay for the Jedi Destiny mode is a kind of amalgam of the Podracing game mode and the Duels of Fate mode with a little extra thrown in. You step forward to force dash ahead, swing your arms around for that laggy lightsaber control and jump, gesture, duck and dodge your way through enemy attacks. It’s fairly enjoyable but the controls aren’t responsive enough to make it anything more than a casual interest for most over a certain age.

Pod Racing provided one of the least egregious moments of The Phantom Menace and has, in the past, been the subject of at least one quite passable game in its own right. Here, it works better than expected, with controls being mapped to your outstretched hands – just like holding the control sticks of a podracer. You boost by thrusting forward, brake by pulling back and steer by leaning. All with your hands out in front of you. It was surprising how quickly the ache set in and that made the frustration of the non-racing controls even more niggling.

You must, at times, use a hand to wipe your screen clear or launch a droid. So you would raise your right hand to wipe and find you’re steering right too. Quick correction to your course and have another go at that wipe gesture but be quick because if you’re slow or raise your hand too high, you might launch a droid. No, now you’re breaking.

Mapping all of the controls to two hands was a good idea, right up until the decision to include these extra gimmicks, and that breaks it. Luckily, the Pod Racing is so easy that you can fail in this way several times and still win the race by a distance.

It’s all presented like a spin off from the cartoon series and it’s clearly aimed at younger audiences, so we shouldn’t be too harsh about its dalliances away from what Star Wars was before 1999. Silly things like the slightly dodgy Anthony Daniels impression being performed for C3PO’s voice over are grating to my old ears but kids will just hear a camp English butler and love it. It’s very easy to forget that this isn’t a product for ageing Star Wars cynics but a collection aimed at the new breed of Jar Jar-loving pre-teens.

Rancor Rampage is actually a great game mode and would probably have been better released as a smaller downloadable title by itself.
What we absolutely should call out, though, is the unavoidable feeling that large elements of this game simply don’t work very well. Vague control translations mean that any old flailing will do for most of the largely on-rails Jedi Destiny mode. Slow motion opponents in the Duels of Fate mode make it easy to win but the polar opposite of what a lightsaber duel should feel like. There are too many restrictions on when and how you can attack and it all feels like a glorified quick time event.

Podracing works better than expected and has some potential but you can’t shake the feeling that it would be more enjoyable with a traditional controller. The excess of controls reliant on just two hands is an unnecessary spanner in the energy binders. The racing is fine and, as an addition to a larger collection of games, it would have been enough but the decision to add more mechanics and still only track two fists hampers the quality of the core racing.

The Galactic Dance Off works as well as any of the other Kinect dancing games, even with two players, but adds nothing new aside from cheesy Star Wars references and cringe-worthy cutscenes. It feels cheap, like a knock-off karaoke DVD that has a court case pending from the makers of Dance Central. There’s no innovation here and that just makes it seem even more obviously like an afterthought.

Rancor Rampage is the only game mode that seems largely unhindered by control issues or baffling irrelevancy but it isn’t strong enough to hold up the rest of the disc’s contents, though it would have been an enjoyable downloadable Kinect Arcade game on XBLA. The bold movements required and the oversized character you control makes for a fun distraction which could be hilarious if played surrounded by a group of friends.


  • Rancor Rampage is enjoyable and could be great for parties.
  • The dancing works as well as Kinect dancing always works.
  • Kids will love the art style and forgiving controls.


  • Controls are slow, laggy and often not translated accurately enough.
  • The narrative in the story mode isn’t interesting enough.
  • Some odd control choices make Podracing barely playable at times.
  • It makes lightsabers feel slow, boring and awkward.

Kinect Star Wars had some potential but the direction in which Lucas has taken the franchise over the past 13 years, coupled with the seeming inability to use Kinect control for anything other than dancing or broad stroke movements has resulted in a product that is often exactly opposite what I, as an older Star Wars fan would have wanted.

Partially, that’s on purpose, this is aimed at the new generation of Star Wars fans. Partially, though, it’s just a failure on behalf of some or all of the numerous studios involved in the game’s production to fit any new ideas into it or even make existing ideas control in an enjoyable way.

There’s no doubt that Kinect Star Wars is aimed at a younger, more forgiving audience but even for that group, there are signficantly better products already available that do similar things, albeit without the LucasArts license.

Score: 4/10

  1. jikomanzoku
    Since: Jan 2010

    Post episode 1 star wars game in pile of toss shocker. Good review mate, nice read and I don’t envy you the onerous task of playing this one, but respect is due to you for taking it on :D

    The comments about the lightsaber bit, revived my wishes for a Move based kendo game, it’s one of the few things I really would love to see for it and would see my Move return to the top of the TV.

    It’s a good job Child Of Eden is so damned fine or I’d have burned my Kinect by now – gah!

    George Lucas – you are a bad, bad man of few principles!

    Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 09:12.
    • colossalblue
      Team TSA: Editor
      Since: Forever

      Bushido Blade on the PS2 was really good and that’s exactly what I want, in some form, from Move.
      If they’d let Kinect use peripherals and shipped KSW with a little lightsaber grip, I imagine that would have been easier to track and offered more precision.

      Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 10:00.
      • jikomanzoku
        Since: Jan 2010

        Exactly that my man. Bushido blade was ace and I still have an import copy of Bushido Blade 2 for PSone that won’t work on PS3 due to the region protection on the disc :(

        Sword of The Samurai was very good on PS2 as well (though pig ugly and an acquired taste).

        Imagine if someone did the aforementioned Kendo/kenjutsu/move game and just had it follow the life and story of Musashi Miyamoto – Dunno if I’d ever play ‘owt else :D

        Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 10:19.
      • mugsybalone
        Since: Aug 2008

        Peripherals? Pah! You are the controller! Don’t you get it? It’s genius, and what everyone wants.

        Seriously though, it occurs to me that allowing the hardware to have an object to track that isn’t the player’s body, seems a little like a concession that Kinect isn’t that great in practice when compared to motion control via the Wii or Move. Having the Kinect, and then not using it’s body-tracking clever bits, would be counter-productive for the brand.

        Oh, and Greedo shot first because he’s the bad guy.

        Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 11:01.
      • Nocure-fd
        Since: Mar 2010

        Ahh Bushido blade. I’m sureI would have gotten better college results if it wasn’t for that gem of a game.

        On topic: Respect to CB for playing this game enough to write a review. I’m not touching it with a ten foot pole though. I don’t know how George Lucas sleeps at night after episode 1.

        (Well, probably on a big pile of money…)

        Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 11:19.
      • jikomanzoku
        Since: Jan 2010

        But think how much better we could have been at Bushido Blade had it not been for college? :D

        Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 11:24.
      • Nocure-fd
        Since: Mar 2010

        Good point Jiko. Nice to have you around to give me a little perspective ;)

        Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 14:15.
  2. cc_star
    Team TSA: Writer
    Since: Forever

    What I’ve seen of the game looks good fun, but It’s a shame that so much didn’t work out, but when you have over 10-20 development studios working on a project, the end result is always going to be hit & miss… at best.

    As for Star Wars fan service, who cares… it’s Lucas’ product he can do what he wants to bring it to a new audience, halfway through RoJ it left behind what I loved about it so I’ve barely given a f*ck since.

    Great review Cb

    Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 09:13.
  3. Dan Lee
    Common like the rest of us.
    Since: Jun 2010

    The farce is strong with this one…Sorry! This is a shame really. Like many others have said – a Move based Star Wars game could be really fantastic.

    Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 09:14.
    • kjkg
      Since: Apr 2010

      I just guffawed in my coffee and stained my shirt, cheers. ;)

      Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 09:35.
  4. Boomshanks
    Since: Dec 2008

    This is not the game you are looking for.

    Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 09:37.
    • tonycawley
      Pint! Pint!
      Since: Feb 2009

      This beats the comment above.

      Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 09:41.
  5. The Lone Steven
    Never heard of him.
    Since: May 2010

    It seems that in their rush to make some easy cash, they have killed Star Wars. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

    Not surprised that it’s below average as it didn’t look good when it was annouced, Kinect is not powerful enough to match the requirements of what’s needed to for a decent lightsaber battle on Kinect.
    plus, the dancing mode was the final nail on the coffin for Star Wars.

    At least, Jar Jar doesn’t make an appearance in this game, right? RIGHT!?

    Unless there is a KOTR3, i am done with Star Wars. Shall only get the films and KOTR1&2.

    Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 09:39.
    • cc_star
      Team TSA: Writer
      Since: Forever

      Killed Star Wars? Haven’t you seen the second half of Return of The Jedi, the prequel trilogy and everything that has followed?

      It’s been dead since 1983… That’s before many people reading this were born.

      Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 11:57.
  6. Gamoc
    Since: Forever

    I think we’ve reached suffering now, folks.

    Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 09:39.
  7. Omac_brother
    Since: Nov 2011

    Congratulations to CB for what I imagine was a hard review to write. Great read.
    I think 4 is quite generous, but I dislike Kinect and tried just the Pod Racing (What I thought would have been the most impressive part f this game).

    Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 09:45.
    • jikomanzoku
      Since: Jan 2010

      Even the most ardent (not that I am saying you are) critic of Kinect should have a crack at Child Of Eden, if only to stop me banging on about it :D

      Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 10:21.
  8. GhostViper
    Since: Aug 2008

    Is it to late to hope for a Move game based on Star Wars?

    Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 09:49.
    • cc_star
      Team TSA: Writer
      Since: Forever

      Sony called… They want to know what this ‘Move’ thing everyone’s talking about is.

      Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 11:59.
    • Porcupine_I
      Since: Aug 2009

      Never! George Lucas likes them monies!

      Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 12:01.
  9. bigbaldwolf
    Since: Mar 2012

    It’s a crime that this wasn’t done better. The lightsaber duels could have been epic. You could have had an easy mode which gives you hints and time to react and a hardcore mode where you have to read what the opponent is doing. It would have brought a thrill to lightsaber battles. I guess I’m back to waiting for a new Battlefront or Knights of the Old Republic

    Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 09:54.
  10. seedaripper1973
    Since: Forever

    *ahem* HAHA.

    Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 10:12.
    • jikomanzoku
      Since: Jan 2010

      Genuinely lol’d at that mate :D

      Comment posted on 11/04/2012 at 10:21.