Previews

Kinect Star Wars hands-on: has the Empire struck back?

We take a second swing at Terminal Reality's saber-fest

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there was an early build of a motion-sensitive, controller-free Star Wars game. And it was, quite frankly, a bit of a mess. Lumbering latency and misrecognition reduced what should have been a surgical Jedi thrill to a crayon rendition of a surgical Jedi thrill, scribbled on tissue paper by a fretful infant, trapped in the back of a three-wheeled bus. "That licensed film cross-over was our last hope," mourned one journalist, approximately referring to the fate of science fiction action on Kinect. "No," croaked a rubbery frog creature whose name I've redacted for copyright reasons. "There is another."

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Quick! Breathe on his helmet to mist up his goggles!

The other turned out to be Mass Effect 3, weaving Kinect features into a tempered third-person shooter setup with admirable grace and fluency. We loved the functionality so much we done written a whole feature about it. But don't turn a blind eye to Kinect Star Wars, a game that's still a few X-Wings short of A New Hope, but one that's come on in Force-leaps and bounds since last July.

Too many Star Wars gags? We're just getting started, dear. Whatever else it is, Kinect Star Wars is a love letter to every last component of Lucas's bloated entertainment franchise. The striking high-colour art design leverages the Clone Wars animated series, but the expanded mode suite reaches out to the original films and prequel trilogy. In Jedi Destiny mode, you'll eviscerate hordes of Separatist robots (including the dreaded rolling Destroyers), deflect blaster bolts from the back of Wookie landspeeders and watch Redacted Frog Creature open cans of asswhoop in cutscenes.

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Rancor Rampage, meanwhile, casts coordination to the winds in favour of stamping around destructible play-pens, hitting and eating everything you can lay hands on. Duels of Fate pits you against a selection of series Big Bads, with Darth Vader leading the charge, Pod Racing is pod racing, and in Galactic Dance-Off, you'll shake your booty at Jabba the Hutt. Of course you will.

Let's get the last of these out of the way first. It's a watered-down Dance Central which dumps the hipsters and Matt's favourite not-real lady in favour of tentacle-headed slave girls and Princess Leia (Gold Bikini Edition), who looks surprisingly cheerful for a woman chained to the gonads of a massive slug. Move prompts scroll down the left, Leia and her retinue shimmy on the right, and pop-up "awesomes" and "OKs" let you know when you've nailed the timing. Horrifying as the idea of a Star Wars dance game sounds, in practice it does the business.

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And lo, a million Star Wars pornographers cried out in ecstasy and were suddenly silenced.

Pod Racing is equally inoffensive, and sure to charm the younger padawans at whom this game is clearly aimed. You reach forward to grip invisible handle bars, angling your arms to turn. The obligatory boosts are performed by pulling back to slow down, then leaning forward to catapult into speedy first-person. A green racing line makes reading the fairly legible tracks a cinch, and if some cad of a battle droid should cling to your craft, you can dislodge it with a carefree wave of your hand, then fix damage by reaching out to the affected area.

Duels of the Fates is a pleasing but not quite watertight throwback to the Star Wars Trilogy Arcade Machine - a carefully regimented mini-drama in which you block Darth's swipes by aligning your blade to meet his, shove him back when the flash of grinding sabers peaks, then wail on him till a scripted stagger indicates that you've harshed his buzz.

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