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Star Wars: Jedi Challenges AR - Lenovo - Video Gaming

Title: Star Wars: Jedi Challenges AR

Release Date: November 2017

Manufacturer: Lenovo

Platform: Gaming (smartphone-powered augmented reality)

Retail Price: $199.99

Credits: Review & Text: Chuck Paskovics; Page layout & Design: Chuck Paskovics

Review | Discussion

Awaken your inner Jedi

  

Review

Augmented Reality (AR) is an up-and-coming technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user's view of real surroundings, providing a composite view. Naturally, a perfect fit for Star Wars! Star Wars: Jedi Challenges provides a fantastic combination of this new tech with our favorite Star Wars Universe. With a combination of custom hardware and smartphone software, we get to not only fight battle droids, have lightsaber duels, and play holo chess, we get to do it while standing in our own living room.

For those that have had the pleasure of trying Virtual Reality (VR), it's important not to get the two confused. VR fully immerses you in a virtual environment, while AR superimposes virtual elements in your real environment, giving you a heads-up display (HUD) effect.

If you are ready to jump into the world of AR gaming, and you are a fan of Star Wars, this is a perfect fit. The retail price of this set is a little on the high side, with a $199 MSRP at most etailers, but you can find sales as low as $150 from some outlets such as Amazon. With your smartphone driving the gameplay, there are ample opportunies for free updates and new gameplay long after you purchase the hardware. Since its launch, Lenovo has already added additional gameplay modes.

For this review, we will not only take a look at the gameplay for this AR system, but also how the components hold up from a collector's perspective. In other words, when you are not fighting battle droids in your living room, does this end up in a bin in the closet or on your shelf as a part of your display?

Packaging & Presentation

Manufacturers are becoming increasingly aware that Star Wars fans and collectors like their products to be wrapped up in nice packaging, and not just a generic box. Lenovo took care to make sure the presentation for their product met that criteria. Not only do we get attractive exterior packaging in a solid, sturdy box, the experience continues inside the box too.

   

The slipcase design allows the top half of the box to be easily lifted off (once the two seals are cut or removed), revealing the beautifully designed lightsaber as the first thing you see. It was also nice to see that they didn't bind the lightsaber in the box with cable ties, allowing for easy removal (and repackaging if necessary) of the hilt. The lightsaber controller rests in a separate box of its own, which then lifts off to reveal the rest of the contents.

   

Under the inner box you will find the Mirage AR headset in its own protective pouch, also easy to remove. There's also a semi-hidden compartment where you can pull out the rest of the contents, including the last piece of hardware necessary to play: the tracking beacon.

What's in the Box?

Included in the box is everything you need (other than the smartphone) to get started with your AR experience. This includes:

  • Lenovo Mirage AR headset
  • Lightsaber controller
  • Tracking beacon
  • Phone tray
  • Lightning to Micro-USB cable
  • USB-C to Micro-USB cable
  • Micro-USB to Micro-USB cable
  • AA battery x2
  • 5V/1A wall-charger and power cable
  • Quick start guide

The lightsaber controller and AR headset are both rechargeable, while the tracking beacon will require 2 AA batteries (included).

         

Once removed, the three main pieces of included hardware you will need to get started is the Mirage AR headset, lightsaber controller, and tracking beacon. There are also various cables and adapters to fit a variety of supported smartphones.

As of June 2018, this list includes iPhone® X, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy S8, Galaxy S7 edge, Galaxy S7, Google Pixel XL, Google Pixel, Moto Z² Force Edition, LG G6

      

After taking everything out of the box you will no doubt be ready to start your Jedi training like I was, but alas, you will need to top off the charge for both the lightsaber controller and the AR headset. It's a good idea to also get your phone charged up to 100% too. If you are anxious to get started then I recommend putting these two items on the charger the moment you take them out while you figure out the rest of the setup process.

Setup

Once you are all charged up and ready to play, the setup process is not too complicated. However, the first time you do it there may be a mild learning curve while you figure things out. This is where the instructions were not too helpful. Luckily, there are plenty of online videos and tutorials if you struggle too much.

Mirage AR Headset and Smartphone Tray

The headset was probably the hardest part to figure out. The door that opens revealing the smartphone tray is located on the side, and that will need to be lifted not only to remove the tray, but also to access the charging port. You will need to completely slide the tray out of the headset. Once removed, there are instructions located on the tray itself for inserting the smartphone, although they are not very clear. You will be tempted to jump right in and insert your phone to get started. Don't do it (unless you just want to see how it fits into the tray). Inserting the smartphone is the last step you will actually do when you are ready to play. There will be some on-screen setup instructions that will lead you up to that point when the time comes. I've included some pictures that might help you get started with the how-to portion of inserting the smartphone.

   

When you are all charged up and ready to play, launch the app and go through the setup process in the game. When you are through that process, you will be presented with a 'fitting' screen, and that's when it's time to insert your smartphone* and "Launch" the game. The phone tray slides back into the headset like a cartridge. Connect the included cable to both the phone and the headset before you continue. The fitting screen is a nice touch because after inserting your phone, you can verify that you have inserted it correctly using the on-screen diagram.

   *If your phone is in a protective case, you will need to remove it before it will fit in the tray

   

Lightsaber Controller

The lightsaber controller is pretty straightforward, but there are four key areas of the controller to identify. The power switch and the charging port are located on the bottom of the hilt, while the two 'in-game' buttons are located on the side of the hilt. There's no safety strap on the controller, so take care when you get into the action, and don't let it fly out of your hand!

The controller itself is the most "collectible" part of the entire set. Designed to be in scale with a "real" lightsaber, it looks like it could be pulled right out of the movie. Only the rubber light-up tip distinguishes itself from an actual prop. Its construction is primarily shiny plastic with rubber hand grips, giving it a lighter than normal weight. Just looking at it you would think it is made of metal. The addition of a nice display stand would have been nice with this set so when not in use you could sit it on your shelf as a unique display piece. The lightsaber is modeled after Luke's lightsaber from A New Hope/The Empire Strikes Back that made its way to Rey's hands in The Force Awakens. You will enjoy wielding this during your combat sessions!

Tracking Beacon

The last piece of equipment is the tracking beacon. You will need to put the included AA batteries in and turn this on when prompted. There are two modes on the tracking beacon. One will display a pink beacon, and the other a blue beacon. You will need to put the beacon in the 'pink' mode for single player. The blue beacon is used is you want to duel with a friend, who will also have to have a full hardware setup. I was unable to try this mode since I just have a single unit.

           

Below is the setup video provided by Lenovo. This will go a long way in helping you figure out how to get started. It's only a few minutes long but highly recommended to watch before you begin. This will help eliminate many setup issues when you are first getting started.

Gameplay

Once you figure out the setup process it's time to play! There are several game modes to choose from, with the latest (Lightsaber verses mode) just coming out in an update a few months ago. Each gameplay mode offers a different type of AR experience. The gameplay sends you through different worlds, with each world offering different experiences in the gameplay modes. When you first start you are put through a tutorial on Naboo, teaching you how to use your new gear. It culminates with a pretty decent duel against Darth Maul. The gameplay is in the guided style, which means you work your way through each world, and only when you complete it you get to move on. You can, however, revisit worlds to battle again if you wish.

             

The entire AR presents like a holographic training projection, which works well with a phone's limited graphics capabilities. While the field of view is not truly immersive, you do have to remember that this is AR, and not VR. It's meant to work with your actual surroundings and not immerse you in a completely new environment.

Lightsaber Battles

The Lightsaber Battles mode offers a true 'first person' experience, pitting you against opponents from the Star Wars universe. Step up and fight Darth Maul, Darth Vader, Seventh Sister, and more. When dueling, you are helped along with yellow line that appears where you need to either raise your lightsaber or prepare to duck and move to avoid an incoming strike. This is supposed to represent your 'Force' ability in order to predict an incoming strike. Match your blade to the yellow line and you will fend off your attackers blade. You can then counter with your own strike. The more you connect against your opponent the more his power level will drop and you can eventually defeat him or her. This mode was a lot of fun and you can find yourself really getting into the action. When Darth Maul comes at you all spinny and flippy it really feels a bit intimidating!

   

Before you can duel a bladed opponent however, you must first test your skills against their army. You will go against battle droids, stormtroopers, snowtroopers, and more. You will use your lightsaber to deflect the blasts back at them to kill them, or when they get close enough you can slice-and-dice them. It's pretty fun to see the different opponents to fight, but the gameplay against troopers can become rather routine.

           

The lightsaber tracking is the one thing in an intense battle that can be thrown off a bit. Basically, your lightsaber blade can be in 3 positions, with the position matching your hilt's angle the obvious 'correct' position. When swinging fast and moving around that position can be thrown off so that your blade is skewed either left or right. There is a button on the hilt to 'realign' the blade to the hilt, but if you are in a pitch battle with the Dark Lord having to stop to think about pushing the realign button can throw the experience off just a bit. It's not too hindering, but worth noting.

Lightsaber verses Mode

Available with a new update, Lightsaber verses mode allows you to do battle with another actual human in the same room with you. Each person will need to have their own Lenovo kit in order to use this mode. We were only given one sample kit so we could not test this mode.

Holochess

The holochess mode on each world is designed to be the strategic component of your Jedi training. While a lot of fun to see this holographic game board and pieces 'in the room' with you, this might be the game mode that gets old the quickest.

           

You use your lightsaber hilt as your controller to command the pieces across the board, attacking your opponent and trying to knock off enough hit points per piece to eliminate all of their pieces. This is turn-based, so if you strike and don't kill your opponents piece, they have a chance to counter. You earn more pieces to use on the next world when you win a game on the current world.

An app-update also allowed for this game to be played in the app without the Lenovo gear for anyone wanting to try this out on your smartphone. Obviously, being able to see a life-sized Dejark table on your living room floor increases the fun-factor for this game mode.

Strategic Combat

The Strategic Combat mode is another novel mode, this time helping to hone your Jedi strategic skills. For anyone familiar with tower-based games or other strategy games such as Command & Conquer, this is that type of game, with the added twist that the game board is on your living room floor at your feet, surrounding you in nearly 360 degrees. It appears as a 'holographic' projection with you at the edge of the action. Once again, your lightsaber is the controller, and you place pieces on the board to protect your army and defeat the attacking army. This is meant to give you that same battle overview look and feel that we have seen countless times in the movies and The Clone Wars cartoon.

I rather liked this mode. The immersion into the battlefield is pretty impressive, and I've always liked the stategy-style defense games. However, this game mode tends to tax your neck muscles the most. Looking down at the ground a lot with the heavy headset on will give you a stiff neck after a bit of gameplay. I couldn't sit and do this game mode for hours. Smaller stints are definitely the way to go for Strategic Combat.

Overall Thoughts

If you are in the market for a really good app-enabled AR experience, this one will fit that bill. Star Wars fans will love the holographic immersion we've seen so many times on the big and little screen over the years. The guided gameplay can become a bit predictable, but dueling is still a lot of fun, and intense at times.

Of all the gameplay modes, dueling is by far the most fun. You will find yourself fully getting into the action. The other modes are more in the novelty category, but still fun to try and experience.

The hardware for this set is well made, with each piece holding up well. The rechargeable pieces are a nice touch, otherwise battery use could drastically hamper this set. The hefty price tag does not come with cheap hardware, and the possibility of future updates to the software gives this set more life than one with standalone software would.

The biggest downside was the smartphone itself. The battery for my phone was always the first piece of equipment to fail, way before any of the Lenovo hardware did. I'm sure each phone will differ, but I'd be willing to guess the phone will always run out of battery before your hardware will (assuming your hardware is fully charged).

The added weight of the phone also made the headset a bit on the heavy side. I was testing with an iPhone 6s. You can also use an iPhone Plus, but I can imagine with that added weight you are going to struggle with keeping the headset in place!

Lastly, your smartphone will get hot. I mean Mustafar hot! And I'm not talking standing in the control room and looking out at the lava hot, I'm talking about standing on a mining droid and dueling a Sith hot!

In-Game Video

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External Links:
Added: June 23, 2018
Category: Other Product Reviews
Reviewer: Chuck Paskovics
Score:
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