Comes with Lenovo Mirage AR headset. Cool, high-quality lightsaber controller. Compatible with Android and iOS phones.
Some tracking issues to sort out. Narrow field of view.
- Bottom Line
Star Wars: Jedi Challenges is an AR game that contains everything you need for first-person lightsaber battles to tense rounds of Holochess.
Everyone wants to be a Jedi. Lightsabers, mind tricks, blowing up Death Stars…it's a pretty cool gig. Lenovo and Disney have joined forces to tap into this desire with Star Wars: Jedi Challenges ($199.99), an AR game that promises to "fulfill the wishes of anyone who's ever wanted to wield a lightsaber or take on Empire forces on the battlefield." Naturally, I jumped at the chance to demo the game after its launch at IFA and have some firsthand accounts of what it's like to be a Jedi.
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The Tools of the Jedi
The game comes with a Lenovo Mirage AR headset, a lightsaber controller, and a tracking beacon. The Mirage is a little different from other headsets we've seen, in that design is a bit elongated, especially in the visor area, to give you a broader view of your surroundings as well as to accommodate eyewear comfortably.
You'll notice the top, sides, and bottom of the headset have clear panels, and there are a pair of fish-eye lenses facing outward. Lenovo wanted to make sure the Mirage wouldn't completely block out your surroundings, and you'd still be able to track objects and people. It works pretty well; no matter what was going on in the game, I didn't have an issue of keeping track of what was around me.
Picking up the lightsaber controller is where things really get cool. Lenovo calls it a "collector-quality" piece, and despite not being a big Star Wars memorabilia collector myself, it's something I'd be proud to display on a shelf. The lightsaber feels solid, looks legit, and has haptic feedback for vibration during gameplay. The tracking beacon, meanwhile, is a glowing pink orb that keeps track of the floor's position.
One thing to keep in mind is that the Mirage AR headset requires a smartphone. According to Lenovo it's compatible with a number of Android and iOS devices, including most recent iPhones and Samsung handsets. It isn't yet clear whether the headset will support any additional AR experiences outside of Jedi Challenges.
Fight Like A Jedi
There are three components to gampelay: combat centered around lightsaber battles and gaining Jedi powers by accessing Holochrons, a strategy game that lets you command battles between the Empire, First Order, and Rebel Alliance, and a board game based on Holochess.
Remember that this is AR (augmented reality) and not VR (virtual reality), so everything you see through the headset is slightly transparent, making figures seem like they're holograms standing right there in the room with you. The main action takes place in front of you, in the space of a narrow visor that gives you a 60-degree field of view horizontally and 30 degrees vertically.
For my demo, I was limited to the lightsaber battle. Upon putting on the headset, I activated my lightsaber to the classic woosh-hiss sound accompanied by satisfying haptic feedback. The lightsaber blade didn't render correctly on screen the first time. The second time fixed this issue, though it wasn't quite perfectly aligned with the controller.
Almost immediately, I was confronted with a holographic Kylo Ren. How visible he is depends on how bright or dark your surroundings are. The first time I tried the demo in a brightly lit public area, I found it a bit difficult to see him. A second demo in a more dimly lit room rendered a much clearer image.
And that's when he attacked me. The narrow field of view offered by the headset is a bit limiting. As Kylo Ren advanced on me, his head or feet vanished and I was often confronted by his distended torso sometimes just floating in the air. I had to move my head up and down to keep him in view, which made blocking, parrying, and thrusting with my lightsaber frustrating because I often didn't know where his lightsaber was.
Luckily, the game shows you where the next blow is coming and you gives you time to block it. Successfully blocking lets you throw your enemy off balance and gives you a window of opportunity to strike. Needless to say, I polished off Kylo Ren in short order.
Overall, I found combat to be rather simplistic, but this was just an early look. And despite the issues I encountered, it still feels pretty cool to be a Jedi. Star Wars: Jedi Challenges is expected to go on sale in November, so check back for a full review, and to see how well I do at Holochess.
By Ajay Kumar Mobile Analyst
Ajay Kumar is PCMag's Analyst obsessed with all things mobile. Ajay reviews phones, tablets, accessories, and just about any other gadget that can be carried around with you. In his spare time he games on the rig he built himself, collects Nintendo amiibos, and tries his hand at publishing a novel. Follow Ajay on Twitter @Ajay_H_Kumar. More »
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- Star Wars: Jedi Challenges