If you love Star Wars, at some point you've probably played with a toy lightsaber, perhaps even making the trademark sounds of the Jedi weapon. You may also have wielded one in video games set inside the film's universe. But neither experience makes it feel like you're actually Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader.
A new augmented reality (AR) game from Lenovo (NASDAQOTH:LNVGY) seeks to change that. Star Wars: Jedi Challenges costs $199.99 and comes with an AR headset, a tracking device, and a lightsaber that looks exactly like the one that started as Anakin Skywalker's, later became Luke's, and is now in the hands of Rey.
Jedi Challenges is an app that works on some iOS and Android phones (most, but not all of the higher-end ones). It features three games, including the version of chess that Chewbacca plays on the Millennium Falcon. Of course, the game the device will be judged by is the one in which the player wields a lightsaber to take on everything from battle droids to Sith lords.
How the game works
Setting up the game is a bit challenging. While installing the app is easy, sliding your phone into the headset is much less so. It's essential that you follow the directions in the app, which take you step-by-step through setup. I failed to do so, and I wound up putting my phone in upside-down and with the case still on. It got jammed in the headset, which required the inelegant use of a butter knife to rectify.
After you master the setup, the experience improves dramatically. It helps to be in a dim-lit room, and it's safest to play in a large, open space (think a decent-sized living room with the furniture pushed aside).
Once you open your lightsaber (which makes the noise you expect), the game play delivers. You begin by taking on battle droids, which are as clumsy and inefficient as they are in the movies. This allows you to practice batting away blaster bolts, redirecting them into the robots when possible. The strength of the bad guys grows as you progress through the game until you eventually get to battle lightsaber-wielding bad guys.
Is this the lightsaber game you've dreamed of?
The headset is not super-comfortable, which limits how long you may want to play, but the game itself is stunning. It does feel like you're using a lightsaber in an immersive environment. The battles are a little on the slow side -- think Darth Vader versus Obi Wan Kenobi in the original film -- but if you move deliberately, your lightsaber works as if it existed in the real world.
This is an augmented reality experience that will allow Star Wars fans to live out their fantasies of being in the film. You get to battle Darth Bane, Kylo Ren, and Darth Vader with both your lightsaber and some Force powers you acquire along the way. The AR is not perfect, but it's good enough that during the action of the game, you forget any minor imperfections.
This is a setup for hardcore fans. At launch, the only content is Lightsaber Battle and two less satisfying Star Wars games, Strategic Combat and Holochess. Basically, you're paying $200 for the chance to handle a lightsaber in a way that feels realistic. For hardcore fans, that's worth the cost. For anyone who has never donned a Jedi robe or lined up to see a new Star Wars movie on opening night, the system is too limited to be worth the money.