The last time we had a hands-on with LucasArts and Terminal Reality's Kinect Star Wars for the Xbox 360 was way back at last year's Electronic Entertainment Expo. Back then, we used the Force to push away droids and slice up foes with a lightsaber on Bespin. Xbox Singapore recently held a Star Wars-themed event where the main focus was a recent build of the game showing off a few more minigames, ranging from dueling and podracing to Rancor-steering and dancing. We are not making the last one up, by the way.
Before we get to all of that, we had a playthrough of the main draw of the game called Jedi Destiny mode. Here, we could pick any one of the Padawans (Jedi apprentices) and go through the game's story set around the events of the prequels. We played through a section set on the planet Kashyyyk 5, where we had to cut our way through tons of battle droids and trandoshan mercenaries, lift up a tree using Jedi powers to help a fellow Imperial comrade, and deflect oncoming laser shots by spinning our lightsaber around.
The controls were self-explanatory: Move forward to advance, make swinging sword motions to kill what is in front, and jump on the spot to leap forward to any enemies and attack them from behind. Some enemies could block our slashes, so we had to move left or right to flank them. If you get confused as to what to do next in a segment, a bottom-left blue hologram shows you what gesture you need to perform.
While it was mildly entertaining to swat down enemies, the Kinect couldn't register our gestures for Force powers segments properly when we were trying to push away missile shots from an oncoming tradoshan-driven cruiser. We took a lot of explosions in the face, but that didn't stop us from proceeding through the rest of the hack-and-slash moments.
The segment at Kashyyyk 5 was capped off with a space battle as we got out of the planet. We were greeted by Galactic Republic ships, which were more than happy to shoot us to smithereens. Piloting our getaway ship required us to put our hands up like we were holding a steering wheel and move the onscreen cursor to paint our targets. The laser shots from our ship came out automatically when a ship was within our sights. While the segment got really hairy, and we died a couple of times just getting through wave after wave of ships, it did bring back memories of Star Wars Arcade.
You probably remember the podracing parts in the film prequels, so Kinect Star Wars has turned them into a racing minigame. Imagine Kinect Joyride with Star Wars painted all over it, and you get a clear picture of how to play. You hold both your hands to steer the vehicle left or right as you automatically accelerate through the course. You pull your arms back and then push them out to do a speed boost. Rinse and repeat until you reach first place.
The Duels of Fate game is where things get slightly interesting. You face off against any members of the Sith order mano-a-mano in a duel to the death. In this instance, we went up against everybody's favorite lord of the Sith, Darth Vader. Each fight takes place within three rounds, and each round has three phases: defend, clash, and attack. You first defend against Darth Vader's attacks by blocking each lightsaber strike from four sides (left, right, up, and down), evading by moving back on the spot, or jumping. Each successful attempt at blocking and dodging earns you more attack time and stacks up an attack multiplier, which we'll get to in a bit.
After dodging enough strikes, you clash with your opponent; here, you have to do a kicking motion with your feet when the lightsabers shine the brightest to knock your opponent off balance. The timing of the shine varies, and we could tell when it was the best time to kick by how bright the ball of light became as it moved up and down.
After that, comes the attack phase; here, you get to wail and slash at Darth Vader as long as you like depending on how much attack time you managed to gather during the defend phase. How much damage you deal also depends on the attack multipliers you accumulate. Once Darth Vader was down to his last breath, the game prompted us to finish him using a multitude of lightsaber slashes complete with satisfying slash marks on our foe for a job well done. Controls during this part were fine, but blocking saber attacks and doing the kick motions during clashes were responsive at best.
By far, the most fun we had with the game was with Rancor Rampage mode. Essentially, you control a rancor that is rampaging, and your objective is to cause as much property damage to Mos Eisley as humanly possible. Players can run in place to move the Rancor forward, swing their arms to either demolish parts of a structure, or just pick up innocent bystanders and fling them as far as possible to earn points. Jumping makes the beast do a ground stomp that demolishes anything at the end of its trajectory.
Terrorizing the countryside with a giant sci-fi monster using motion controls was satisfying, if only for a brief moment. We were told that we could control four different types of rancors and act as forces of abnormal nature onto Mos Espa, Felucia, and Naboo in the final game. Yes, it does sound like it could be palette swaps of the same beast, but we admit that it acted as a good stress reliever at the very least.
We capped off our play session by playing and checking out bystanders strutting their stuff in Galactic Dance Off mode. It's basically Dance Central with Star Wars characters, the Star Wars theme, and the eclectic musical talents of Figrin D'an and the Modal Nodes (that band from the Mos Eisley cantina). We should also mention that this is the only time you'll see digital versions of Lando Calrissian busting a move and Princess Leia in her famous slave bikini outfit gyrating sensuously onscreen.
It's obvious that Kinect Star Wars is a bunch of minigames strung up to make use of Microsoft's motion-sensing vertical plastic bar, but we can't help shake the feeling that this was what the Star Wars: Rebel Assault series could have been if it were taken over by the Star Wars marketing machine focused on selling wares to crowds tuning in to the recent Clone Wars TV series.
In any case, the Duels of Fate and Rancor Rampage modes stood out to us as the more fun and interesting parts of this package. The Jedi Destiny mode was also promising, so hopefully, the development team has enough time to tweak a few of the motion-control issues we had before it is released on April 3 this year.