Rapid Review

Star Wars: Jedi Challenges review – The force is surprisingly strong

By Oliver Smith 21 November 2017
Summary

Augmented reality and Star Wars collide, and it’s glorious.

The short of it

Star Wars: Jedi Challenges is an augmented reality headset, made by Lenovo, and a lightsaber controller, ‘tracking beacon’ along with a smartphone app made by Disney.

Together they form one of the best Star Wars experiences – and undoubtedly the best augmented reality experience – money can buy.

Why do I care?

Ever dreamed of wielding the weapon of a Jedi? Not as clumsy or as random as a blaster, but a more elegant weapon for a more civilised age… well, now you can.

Jedi Challenges plays like a collection of mini-games, from lightsaber duels with your favourite characters (hello, Darth Vader!) to a game of Holochess just like Luke Skywalker.

It’s also the first example we’ve seen of a real consumer augmented reality headset – Microsoft’s HoloLens being still aimed at the business market, despite earlier excitement.

So, what’s it like?

The good

Jedi Challenges’ augmented reality is great.

The moment you snap on the headset and see the blade of virtual light coming out your lightsaber controller, you know Disney and Lenovo have built something special.

Within minutes I was lunging, leaping and jumping around in my battle against Darth Maul, and because the headset isn’t tethered to a computer (it’s powered by your smartphone) you’ve got the freedom to quite literally dive around your opponent.

You’ll get some funny looks but, unlike virtual reality where you’re often oblivious to such mockery, in AR you can see through the action to better appreciate the spectacle you’re creating.

Speaking of which, the digital avatars you’ll face are rendered in a ghostly semi-transparent form, rather than life-like holograms. Think Princess Leia’s original holographic appearance in A New Hope “Help me Obi Wan Kenobi…”.

The bad

Wonky lightsaber syndrome, or WLS, is a common Jedi affliction. Wait- no it’s not, unless you’re playing Jedi Challenges.

That’s because, even though Lenovo’s tech is really quite good, it’s still not perfect and the solid beam of your lightsaber will often solidly point out from the hilt of your saber in the wrong direction.

That’s a little off-putting when Darth Vader’s bearing down on you, or a group of droids are approaching, but luckily there’s a shortcut button on the side of the controller which quickly cures WLS by straightening things up.

Jedi Challenges is also a fairly shallow experience. It really is a collection of mini-games, rather than a deep video game, which is probably why it’s marketed as an “experience”.

That said, Lenovo has hinted that its Mirage headset is experience-agnostic, possibly opening the door to future plastic controllers from other franchises.

Think wands, phasers, hammers, etc.

The price?

At £250 for the Mirage headset, lightsaber controller and ‘tracking beacon’ (that’s placed to let the headset know where you are in the room), Star Wars: Jedi Challenges is clearly aimed at fans of the series.

You’ll also need to own one of the latest smartphones to run the app on, think iPhone 6S, Galaxy S7 or newer.

Our take

Jedi Challenges is a lot of fun and is a must-play for any Star Wars fan.

But it’s not without its weaknesses, a lack of content being the main one.

In time Jedi Challenges will likely be updated with more levels/characters but, for right now, everything feels a tad repetitive.

If Lenovo manages to deliver on the Mirage vision, expanding the platform with other franchises and accessories, that could change everything.

Right now, it remains the best example we’ve seen of augmented reality.

That’s why the force is strong with this one.