After this, however, things get better in Kinect Star Wars. Pod racing still isn’t perfect - the tracks suffer rather zealously enforced out of bounds areas, and the group of racers bunches so that you’ll fall rapidly down the field if you make a mistake. However, the controls are extremely convincing, asking you to push and pull on the reins of the engine pods to control direction, and with some nice tossing and throwing gestures to put healing or blasting droids into action.
Surprisingly, Pod racing has both challenge and a certain amount of depth. Play in the normal difficulty mode and just cornering will keep you on your toes, and there’s a need to replay each track a few time and check the various alternate routes to work out which are the best. As with Jedi Destiny, the events are tied together in a story, with characters and locations familiar from Episode One.
It’s a great reminder of how spectacular Episode One’s pod-race was, with good-looking tracks pulled from around the Star Wars universe, up to 12 pod racers on-screen at any time, and an impressive sense of speed. And wherever you are on the track there’s always something going on, whether it’s Sarlaac awakening to cause mayhem on Tatooine, or a republic vs seperatist skirmish while you’re trying to navigate Felucia’s weird jungle scenery.
Better still - at least for a while - is Rancour Rampage. Here you take the role of Return of the Jedi’s infamous beastie, heading out onto the streets of Felucia or Mos Eisley, smashing buildings, eating, bashing and squashing the locals, and generally tearing the whole place up. Again the controls, which combine one-to-one tracking of your steps and arm-swings with the Rancor’s and some simple gestures to charge and jump, are sophisticated and sensitive.
What’s more, to keep things a little tactical - well, as tactical as you can be in a game called Rancor Rampage - the game constantly throws out new challenges, like picking up a bystander and throwing them so many feet, destroying a droid with a massive handclap or wrecking a building any way you choose.
Completing these tasks will earn you points, and by earning points you can level-up your Rancor. This in-turn unlocks new waves of attackers, such as speeder bikes or TIE Fighters, which try to come and see you off. By doing to them before they can do to you, you can build up some really big points.
Galactic Dance Off
The final mode might be the most controversial. Galactic Dance Off is a clone of the excellent Dance Central games, but with the action moved to classic Star Wars locations such as Jabba’s Palace or the Bespin carbonite freezer. Fellow dancers become exotic aliens, or established stars like Han Solo or Princess Leia. Even the songs get reworked with Star Wars-related lyrics, so that the old Christina Aguilera hit goes from Genie in a Bottle to Princess in a Battle, with Leia urging Han to man-up and join the rebel alliance.
It’s not hard to see some Star Wars fans cringing at the sight of Han Solo grooving to ‘I’m Han Solo’ just before he hits the freezer, but those with a more open mind will realise that, actually, it’s just all quite funny. The game does a good job of recognising and evaluating your dance moves, with clear feedback on where you’re going wrong and bonus points for perfect poise and timing, and it works both as a simple dance game and as a laugh for Star Wars addicts.
None of these games would make a full release on their own. Jedi Destiny is flawed and not varied enough, Galactic Dance Off has too few moves and music tracks, Pod racing suffers from having only six courses and Rancour Rampage from a lack of cities to, well, rampage. Yet when you put it all together, it just works.
The use of Star Wars characters and locations manages to give Kinect Star Wars atmosphere, and the game is cleverly balanced to appeal to both the thirty/fortysomething nostalgics who saw the original trilogy on first release, and the younger fans who came in with the prequel trilogy or Clone Wars. It also shows how far Microsoft has come in terms of making Kinect controls more sensitive, and more suitable for more demanding games. Most of all, Kinect Star Wars is a great game to dip in and out of, and a fine one to watch, making it a natural hit with families or groups of friends. This might not be the motion-controlled Star Wars game that so many of us think we want, but who cares? The bottom line is that Kinect Star Wars delivers a lot of Star Wars fun.
None of the elements of Kinect Star Wars could make it on their own, but here the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Whether you’re a kid looking for your own Star Wars adventure or an adult looking to wreck things as a Rancor or get down on the Jabba’s palace dancefloor with Princess Leia, there’s plenty of fun to be had.