Given Star Wars has been milked for every licensing opportunity going since its inception, it's faintly surprising that its latest videogame spin-off has sparked such outrage among the Lucasian faithful. Scenes of Han Solo dancing boy-band style have been greeted with claims that it's the ultimate betrayal of our childhoods.

It's anything but, to be honest. There's been Star Wars bubble bath and Star Wars biscuits and Star Wars everything since 1977, but most of all there have been Star Wars toys - and from that an infinite spread of roleplaying from kids. You could bet your bottom Imperial Credit that someone, somewhere used their Han Solo figure in a dance routine.

In any case, Han, Lando et al throwing themselves around to infectiously silly pop music is but a consciously ludicrous sideshow to the main event in Kinect Star Wars. The core of the game is a controller-free Jedi adventure, a chance to wave your hands around while holding an imaginary lightsaber as several generations of kids (and grown adults) so often have, but having it become something like reality on-screen.

Perhaps inevitably, the Kinect sensor's shortcomings complicate the fantasy-fulfilment, with occasionally sluggish or misread response meaning it's a struggle to be omnipotent Jedi we've all hoped to be. Most of all, the  sensor's ever-ludicrous requirement for over six foot of space between it and the player means that half the required acrobatics will be done with non-mansion-dwelling players' backs pressed firmly against the wall or sofa.

Despite that, if you can accept the silliness and, frankly, partial rubbishness, Star Wars Kinect is a whale of a time. It really is like having a pretend lightsaber battle in the garden, except all the noises are there and your enemy is truly defeated. It's a reasonably good looking game, opting for a middleground between cartoonish and photo-real that spares it from any trips into the uncanny valley, while the plot of the main game is essentially a greatest hits of the Star Wars saga, offering a chance to be involved in most of the main beats of the films both old and new.

Kinect Star Wars

Jedi action with lightsaber duels and rock-flinging, landspeeder bike chases, manning the turrets on a ship that's suspiciously similar to the Millennium Falcon... Sadly, it's set in the Clone Wars era, so your enemies are primarily droids with Disney voices rather than Stormtroopers but hey, at least it's Gungan-free.

It's lightweight and arbitrary for sure, rarely allowing you to unleash the Force fully because it's too determined to drop another scripted sequence or bit where you have to dodge some flaming logs in there, so enjoying it does require going in with low expectations. Treat it as just a muck-about and it's honestly a good time, even if lightsaber duelling controls are all over the place.

 Next page - podracing, rampaging, dancing

The most delight comes from the sideshows, however. A body-controlled Podracing mini-game is remarkably well-realised, replacing a sort of high-speed canoeing control system whereby you pull an imaginary lever down with your left hand to turn left (and vice-versa for the right), or a consistently exhilarting double-handed slam down then up for a temporary boost. It's more attuned to broad gestures than the lightsaber stuff, and as a result there feels like that much more of a connection between player and hurtling, fragile vehicle. Inevitably, it's shortl-lived and couldn't be called a serious racing game, but it's a surprisingly satisfying realisation of one of the Phantom Menace's few saving graces. It could and perhaps should have been fleshed out into a game of its own, as it's that distressingly rarest of things - an experience that makes owning a Kinect seem worthwhile after all. It's also a hell of a workout on the shoulders.

The Rancor rampage mini-game, wherein you steer one of the giant beasts from Return of the Jedi around assorted familiar Star Wars locales trashing everything you can is a laugh for the first ten minutes and repetitive and totally disposable afterwards, not to mention being the mode that most shows up Kinect's body-mapping shortcomings. Which leaves the notorious dance mode. It's nothing more than a deliberately dumb bonus that is only relevant to Star Wars in that famous characters appear and body-pop. Again, it's a giggle - especially if you're not a grim puritan about the original movies - but nothing more.

As a package, Kinect Star Wars is flat-out weird and riddled with design and control failings, but if you can treat it as the galactic joke toybox it intermittently strives to be rather than another sucker-punch to Star Wars' increasingly tarnished reputation it's certainly one of the most entertaining Kinect titles around. Not that it has much competition, of course -  a year on, Microsoft's overpriced motion camera has summarily failed to live up to its early hype, and as it stands doesn't offer much more than the PlayStation 2 EyeToy did. 

Kinect Star Wars: Specs

  • Available for Xbox 360 only. Requires Kinect sensor (sold separately).
  • Available for Xbox 360 only. Requires Kinect sensor (sold separately).

OUR VERDICT

The controls are all over the place and it's packed with ways to irk the purists, but treat Kinect Star Wars as a logical and thoroughly 21st century evolution of the toys we lapped up in the 80s and it's a right old giggle.

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