- Editor's Rating
Augmented reality is a hot, hot trend, and so is Star Wars. Lenovo has combined these with Star Wars:Jedi Challenges, an AR game in which one takes on the role of a Jedi in training, lightsaber in hand, mastering various challenges.
The game includes a headset into which a smartphone is plugged, a Bluetooth enabled “lightsaber” that serves as a controller, and a tracking beacon. It can be used with either Android or iOS devices.
Star Wars: Jedi Challenges is $199.99, and it available now. Is it the gift your young padawans need this holiday season? Read on to find out.
Jedi Challenges Build and Design
The Lenovo Mirage AR headset is what makes this a virtual reality game. The user inserts their phone into the headset, and mirrors then overlay what’s on the the phone’s screen onto the user’s surroundings. Smartphones include gyroscopic abilities, so when the user moves their head, the images shown on the Mirage AR move too, allowing the user to look around a virtual landscape.
This sounds cumbersome, but it’s actually quite natural. And the high-resolution displays on phones mean the characters and items shown in Jedi Challenges look quite realistic. To be clear, the game isn’t trying to be photorealistic; instead, everything looks animated, as if one is inside a cartoon.
It’s a decidedly different experience from playing a standard video game, even one on a big screen. Scenes in Star Wars: Jedi Challenge can take place over a 180 degree arc, with items appearing overhead as well.
The Mirage AR headset is a combination of chrome and plastic, with an appearance appropriate to a scifi-themed game. There are straps to fit it onto a variety of head sizes; we had no problems quickly re-configuring it for multiple people. It weighs about a pound without a phone inside, which can add close to another half a pound. The result for us was a neck ache after an hour or so of use. Still, regular play will probably build those muscles up.
The phone is inserted into a tray that then slides into the headset. This is necessary because it’s the phone’s screen that provides the video for Star Wars: Jedi Challenges. The downside of the arrangement is that the phone is buried inside multiple layers of plastic, where it’s not at all convenient to take a call, respond to a text, or even change the game volume.
The Mirage AR headset is designed to work with a range of smartphones, not just ones made by Lenovo. We tested it with a Moto Z2 Force, Apple iPhone 7 Plus, and iPhone X, and it worked well with all of these. The official list of supported devices includes a range of models from Apple, Lenovo, Samsung, and Google.
The lightsaber controller has only two buttons but it accomplishes a lot with them. It’s used to move a cursor in many of the games, but in many more the user highlights items by looking at them, and then presses one of the lightsaber’s buttons to select it. And of course, sometimes it’s used as lightsaber.
This controller continues the chrome-heavy theme of the headset. As a result it looks like a toy, not like a “real” lightsaber. In Lenovo’s defense, it’s necessary for a game controller to be as light as possible, in this case 0.6 pounds, so even aluminum wasn’t an option.
Jedi Challenges: Tracking Beacon
A virtual-reality game like this one needs a tracking beacon to allow the user to center the gameplay. The landscapes and other on-screen elements stay still relative to this, enabling the user to walk around 3D objects.
In the case of Jedi Challenges, this is a small glowing ball that sits on a stand. Be careful with it, as we encountered a dog who seemed to think it would be a tasty chewtoy.
Although there’s obviously no such thing as real Jedi school, if there were the young students would surely be just as surprised as players of Jedi Challenges: training is about learning strategy and tactics, not using a lightsaber to hack down hordes of battledroids, stormtroopers, and the occasional Sith.
To be honest, we were expecting (and maybe hoping for) something along the lines of Fruit Ninja with a Star Wars theme, but instead the player begins by learning the basics of Dejarik, the holochess game Chewbacca played against R2-D2 in A New Hope. Later challenges include acting as a general to strategically place clonetroopers and cannons to win a tower defense game against battledroids.
Don’t worry, there are game segments that involve using a lightsaber. They just aren’t a majority of gameplay. There are more strategy challenges than hack and slash ones. By the third game segment, the player is slicing up battledroids and Darth Maul.
As one progresses, the levels/mimi-games get more difficult, of course. There are additional opponents on the holochess board, more complicated tower defense scenarios, and opponents no longer stumble into the lightsaber.
Even at the beginning, this game lives up to it’s name: it’s challenging. It requires a level of maturity and patience to get through the strategy levels before reaching the occasional points when just swinging a lightsaber will get one through. This means that players won’t get bored with it in an afternoon, but it also requires some dedication in order to get good. Or even competent.
Jedi Challenges: Final Thoughts
Star Wars: Jedi Challenges is innovative; it’s far, far from being just another Xbox or Playstation title. And that has positive and negative aspects. It should appeal to people who are looking for a new experience, as the immersive feeling is is very different from a traditional game played on a TV. On the other side of the coin, controlling a game with a lightsaber and VR headset requires learning new skills. Years of experience using a joystick are no help, and might even be a hindrance.
No surprise: being a major Star Wars geek really adds to the enjoyment. There are points when the game can be frustrating, especially dealing with the hardware issues discussed earlier. A desire to fight Darth Vader helps smooth out the minor irritations.
At the MSRP of $199.99, Star Wars: Jedi Challenges is an expensive proposition. It’s for people who really want to try an high-end augmented reality game and are also big fans of Star Wars.
- Immersive gameplay unlike traditional console games
- Graphics look great
- Challenging enough that users won’t quickly complete the game
- It can be a hard game
- VR headset causes neck-aches and occasional headaches