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Star Wars: Jedi Challenges review

Star Wars Jedi Challenges review – If a Star Wars film a year isn’t enough to satisfy your appetite for a galaxy far, far away, perhaps taking the mantle of a Jedi will. Disney and Lenovo teamed up for Star Wars: Jedi Challenges, an augmented-reality game where players wield a lightsaber to fight enemies like Kylo Ren, fend off blaster fire from Stormtroopers, and play Holochess. All that is possible with Mirage AR, a Lenovo-built headset that uses your smartphone to power the experience. It’s even getting a January content update with new games inspired by The Last Jedi.

SET UP

The packaging for Star Wars: Jedi Challenges looks like it can fit a full desktop computer. There are a lot of components, so if you bought this for a child, you may want to spearhead the setup process. Inside the box is the Mirage AR headset, a Lightsaber Controller, a Tracking Beacon, a MicroUSB charging cable for the Lightsaber, and two AA batteries for the Beacon. You’ll also find three MicroUSB cables each with different ends — MicroUSB, Lightning, and USB Type-C. You have to connect a smartphone to the headset, so these options help ensure you can connect your phone, whether it’s an iPhone or an older Android phone.

You’ll need to make sure your phone is compatible with the game before you buy the headset. Lenovo told Digital Trends said most phones dating back to two years should work, including an iPhone 6. Ideally, you’ll want a high-end phone, considering the game is heavy on graphics and can also run hot after a lot of gameplay. We tried to use the new HTC U11 Lifesmartphone, but found it’s the one of the few phones that will not work with the game, largely because the placement of the charging port is on the bottom right edge, rather than the traditional bottom center. We ended up using a Google Pixel 2 XL, but we’ll keep trying it with more devices.

The first thing you’ll want to do is head to the Google Play Store or Apple App Store and download the Jedi Challenges app. Once installed, open it and begin following the setup prompt. You’ll be asked to turn on the Lightsaber Controller (the switch is on the bottom), and the phone will connect to it via Bluetooth. You’ll then need to calibrate it by pointing it parallel to the ground and making an infinity sign. Then you’ll need to place the Tracking Beacon on the ground (make sure you have a spacious room), and your phone will pair to it.

On the left side of the headset is a flap you can open. Pull out the tray that’s inside — this is where your phone will sit. Continue the setup instructions, but we recommend choosing the appropriate MicroUSB connector and plugging it into the headset, and plug the other end into your phone. For example if you have an iPhone, choose the MicroUSB to Lightning cable and plug it into the headset and your iPhone, respectively. You’ll get a prompt on your phone asking if you want to give the headset access to it. Once this is done, unplug it from the headset, and place the phone into the tray (which opens up). Make sure the screen is facing away from you, where there’s a gap in the tray. Close the tray, and insert it back into the headset. Connect the cable back to the headset.

Now put the headset on. The strap is secured via Velcro on the left and right edges — you can loosen them or tighten them here. The headset is comfortable, but it’s heavy; it may get tiring after playing for a prolonged period of time. Look at the Tracking Beacon, and you should see a Holocron, which looks like a cube. The Archivist, a new character in the Star Wars universe, will pop up and introduce you to the game.

The idea is simple: The Archivist is training you to master Jedi challenges, which is a good explanation for why everything looks like holograms.

The setup process is complicated, and it can be a little annoying. The app does a good job of taking you through it, but the idea of pulling out a tray and putting your phone in it, then plugging your phone into the headset with the right cable, makes the whole thing feel like a prototype — it should be simpler. Perhaps Disney and Lenovo really want you to feel like a scrappy rebel.

TAKE UP YOUR LIGHTSABER

Speaking of rebels, the Mirage AR headset looks like a helmet you’d find the rebels wearing, except a little too polished. The strap sits on top of your head and around, keeping the headset secure. On the top right side, there are three buttons for controls.

While it may look like a completely enclosed virtual-reality headset, the Mirage AR actually has a transparent display, which is where the gameplay is projected. This means you’ll be able to see the real-world environment while engaging in the Jedi challenges.

You can move the lightsaber around to deflect attacks, or assail your enemies.

The tracking beacon is placed on the floor, and it keeps the experience stable, helping the fisheye cameras on the headset track the player’s movement. There’s no fake blade attached to the Lightsaber Controller, but when you’re engaged in a Jedi challenge you’ll see the beam light up on the headset’s display. You can move the lightsaber around to deflect attacks, or assail your enemies. Haptic feedback in the hilt makes it all feel more convincing, while the AR graphics are rendered in a ghostly blue that should be familiar to Star Wars fans.

We didn’t have any connectivity issues between the phone and the Beacon or Lightsaber, even after stopping and coming back later. We did note that notifications sometimes appeared on the screen when the phone was in our headset, and it can block your view of what’s happening. You may want to make sure you go into Do Not Disturb mode on your phone.

LIGHTSABER DUELS

The challenges are ranked through multiple levels. You start out on the Outer Rim, and progress towards the Core. You have to fight the Archivist, your mentor, when you reach the Core. We’ve yet to defeat her, if that’s a good indication of tough it is. Each level is based on a planet — so for the Outer Rim, you’ll be training in Naboo.

You can choose from three game modes when you put on the headset. We went straight to the Lightsaber Battles. It’s the game mode we’ve all wanted to play ever since we saw the first lightsaber duel in ‘Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.’ There’s also Holochess, which lets you strategically control creatures from the Star Wars lore to defeat enemies; and there’s a Strategic Combat, a tower defense-like game.

There are three tiers to every challenge. For example, with Lightsaber duels, you’ll have to first defeat waves of low-level droids, then another wave of stronger droids, and finally you’ll be able to fight a Lightsaber-wielding member of the Dark Side, like Darth Maul. There’s a good mix of enemies to fight, including Stormtroopers equipped with the Z6 riot control baton, which can block lightsaber attacks – just like what Finn faced in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Flashes warn you when you need to block an attack, and offer suggestions for when you should strike, which makes the game rather simple. It progressively gets harder though, and ultimately your success boils down to your mastery of hand-eye coordination. Fighting felt accurate in most cases, though there occasional moments when the beam didn’t quite match where the physical Lightsaber Controller was, which obviously broke the immersion. You can easily tap on a button on the Lightsaber to correct it.

It can get repetitive, but we didn’t find it any less fun. The different Lightsaber-wielding enemies you fight have varying fighting styles, which helps to keep things fresh.

We never had an issue with the graphics. Kylo Ren, Darth Maul, Stormtroopers, and animations looked surprisingly great, and we didn’t find the gameplay to be glitchy or janky; it was fluid. Our only major issue problem lies with the headset’s field of view. It needs to be wider, because it’s tough to see a full character standing in front of you. We found ourselves quickly having to look around all around the place just to make sure we saw every attack we needed to block, or blaster we needed to deflect.

STRATEGIC COMBAT AND HOLOCHESS

Strategic Combat might sound simple, but we failed on the third tier in Naboo.

You get a wide variety of characters and units to place on your side of the battlefield, from Obi-Wan to a rocket turret, as enemies approach. It’s not necessarily just about obliterating the enemy, sometimes you have objectives to protect ships and droids. You have to make sure you’re keeping an eye on all parts of the battlefield — which is why you may want to make sure you’re in a large enough open space.

The Lightsaber Controller is what you use to choose and place units, and things can quickly get serious — we’ve had a few close saves (thanks Obi-Wan). The more you play, the different types of units you unlock. It’s a fun, and satisfying game when you win.

Holochess, which mimics a game played between Chewbacca and R2-D2 in the original movie, was our least favorite, as it quickly got a little boring. You use holographic aliens to gain more territory, and control over the board. Like Strategic Combat, you’ll need to pay close attention to the amount of damage some monsters can do, but that seems to be all there is to it.

FUTURE CONTENT

Now that Star Wars: The Last Jedi is hitting theaters, Lenovo and Disney have announced fresh content to hit Star Wars: Jedi Challenges in January 2018. The expansion will add a new planet called Crait for Strategic Combat; you can dual two elite Praetorian Guards in Lightsaber Duel; and Assault mode will feature new levels and enemies, like the First Order Stormtrooper Executioner, and Riot Control Stormtrooper.

Porgs are also making their way to the game, as Disney and Lenovo said, “Players will be rewarded with fan-favorite Porgs in augmented reality.” It’s unclear what other role Porgs will play in the game.

PRICE, AVAILABILITY, AND WARRANTY

Star Wars: Jedi Challenges is now available for purchase for $200.

Lenovo offers a standard limited warranty, meaning everything in the box is protected from manufacturing defects up to a year from the date of purchase.

OUR TAKE

Star Wars: Jedi Challenges is a fun, casual way for Star Wars fans and kids to stay engaged as they wait for the next film installment. Gameplay can get repetitive, but it holds a decent amount of replay value.

Are there better alternatives?

No. If you’re a Star Wars fan and you’ve always wanted to wield a lightsaber, this is your closest bet to becoming a Jedi.

How long will it last?

The build quality is high-quality, so unless you frequently drop the headset, we think this headset will continue to work for about two years or more. It largely depends on how long Disney intends to support the app, and whether we’ll see fresh content in the future.

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