I'm what you would call a lapsed Star Wars fan, someone who holds those three old movies in the highest possible regard but really hasn't cared one bit for anything with "Star Wars" slapped on it lately. In fact, my love of Star Wars starts and stops with that hallowed original trilogy, a handful of memorable games from the '90s, and one halfway decent series of books. I've had well over a decade now to accept the modern reality of Star Wars as a pandering, dramatically bankrupt cash grab, so there's no good reason I should find Kinect Star Wars especially disappointing. It's not like I expected much from it in the first place. Look at the name: it's just two disparate brands lazily shoved into a single logo that screams "THIS IS THE THING WITH THE LIGHTSABERS AND IT USES THAT EXPENSIVE CAMERA YOU BOUGHT."
Still, with the two halves of this game so clearly identified right upfront, you'd hope this might at least be a good Kinect game or a good Star Wars property, if not both. But it's neither. Some argue that the game isn't for adults, but just because it's clearly targeted at younger ages doesn't mean it can't also appeal to people of all ages if it's made well. And sure, most kids will gleefully waggle their hands in front of whatever crap you put in front of them, but that doesn't mean you should put crap in front of them. Kids deserve to have their intellects stimulated, not insulted. Kinect Star Wars fails to tell an engaging or original story in the Star Wars fiction, instead opting for the path of least resistance by cobbling together a clearinghouse of familiar characters, places, and events into a bland amalgam that resembles the movies in structure but doesn't even try to approach them (the good ones, at least) in emotional resonance.
There's been plenty of slack-jawed bafflement at the footage of the game's dancing mode that's been making the rounds. But in my mind Kinect Star Wars' chief offender is the story-based Jedi Destiny mode that casts you as a nameless padawan, slashing and Force-pushing your way through five hours of battle droids and Trandoshan lizardmen, because those seem to be the only bad guys worth fighting in the Star Wars universe. There's nothing remotely interesting about this mode. On the story side, you simply jump from one familiar prequel locale to the next, every few minutes meeting with Yoda or jumping between skiffs over a Sarlaac monster or teaming up with a rakish vagabond who sure dresses and acts a lot like Han Solo. Not far in you'll take control of your own ship, which is practically a dead ringer for the Millennium Falcon and is manned by a silver-skinned C3PO facsimile and a Wookiee pilot just like Chewb... wait, that is Chewbacca.
That ramshackle assembly of Star Wars cliches might be easier to tolerate if the gameplay were any good, but it merely recreates what would be the most simplistic of third-person action games if you were playing it with a controller. In addition to swinging your trusty saber you can Force push and lift stuff, and kick enemies when they're in your face. Since a lightsaber cuts down everything in its way, the game quickly rolls out a variety of enemies who can block your saber swings, but a quick hop will make your Jedi somersault over them so you can hit them in the back. Cue five hours of jumping over guys and hitting them in the back, then one of the least climactic final battles with a nameless Sith warrior, then an underwhelming awards ceremony that looks to be lifted shot-for-shot out of the end of A New Hope. The occasional Jedi dueling that punctuates this mode could have been interesting if you had direct control over your saber, but instead it's a block-by-numbers affair where your enemy attacks high, low, left, or right, and you have to respond a few times, then slash them a bit. Then repeat three or four times. Fighting with a lightsaber is practically what motion controls were made for, so it's especially disappointing that this mode turned out to be so rote and boring.
The podracing component is actually the closest thing in Kinect Star Wars to a traditional video game, mainly because it directly apes the format of that old arcade podracing game from years ago. Each of your outstretched hands controls one of the two pods, and it's genuinely impressive how quickly your hand movements correspond to the steering controls. Most Kinect controls seem plagued with at least a little latency, but the steering here feels almost one-to-one with your movements. Unfortunately, all the other controls--jumping your pod, repairing, using weapons--use those same two hands, and the game is bad about making you use a power-up and steer in that direction at the same time. The racing action is rudimentary to begin with and doesn't really benefit from motion controls anyway, once the novelty of the steering wears off, and the whole six-race story mode here only lasts about 90 minutes anyway.
There's not actually much else to round out the Kinect Star Wars package. You can unlock Count Dooku and Darth Vader as opponents in a standalone duel mode, and there are quick play options for the story and podracing modes. The dancing part... is what it is, and you're either going to be disgusted at the sight of Princess Leia dancing to a Christina Aguilera song in Jabba's palace, or you'll be totally delighted at the absurdity of it all. Then there's the mode where you rampage around a populated environment as a Rancor, which is, somehow, the most appropriate piece of content in this whole package simply because it embraces the silliness of flailing your arms and stomping your feet and puts it to use by letting you pick up and eat people, and barging through and utterly obliterating the buildings around you. It's basically Rampage for Kinect, and that, in itself, is not a bad idea at all.
That's hardly enough to make Kinect Star Wars worth playing for anyone short of the most diehard Star Wars fan or the youngest player with the lowest standards. It doesn't matter who you claim Kinect Star Wars is for, it's a shoddy product on almost every level. There are a few glimmers of what could have been in here, but this is not the game that legitimizes Kinect as a game-playing device, nor does it do a single thing to restore any vibrancy or value to the Star Wars license. Fans of Star Wars, Kinect hopefuls, and little kids all deserve better.