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Disney 'Star Wars: Jedi Challenges' hands-on preview

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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 have 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. It’s all made possible with Mirage AR, a Lenovo-built headset that uses your smartphone to power the experience.

We got a brief chance to try our luck fighting Kylo Ren in an early development unit, with pre-release software. Did I feel like a Jedi? Surprisingly, yes.

TAKE UP YOUR LIGHTSABER

Lenovo’s Mirage AR 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 — similar to the HTC Vive. On the top right side, there are three buttons for controls, and the top left edge is where you can insert your Android or iOS smartphone. You’ll need to install the companion Star Wars: Jedi Challenges app to make it all come alive.

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.

The headset comes with a Lightsaber Controller, designed to look like Rey’s lightsaber hilt (formerly Luke and Anakin Skywalker’s), and a Tracking Beacon. 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. The Lightsaber Controller, as the name suggests, acts as a controller, featuring two buttons to perform actions and commands.

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 the hilt feel more convincing, while the AR graphics are rendered in a ghostly blue that should be familiar to Star Wars fans.

THREE CHALLENGES, QUICK PLAY

You can choose from three game modes when you put on the headset. Of course, 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.’

Once you leap into the game, you’ll find yourself fighting against Stormtroopers equipped with the Z6 riot control baton, which can block lightsaber attacks – just like what Finn faced ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens.’ Once you’ve mastered that, you can square off against Kylo Ren.

Flashes warn you when you need to block an attack, and offer suggestions for when you should strike, which makes the game rather simple. Fighting felt accurate in most cases, though there moments when the beam didn’t quite match where the Lightsaber Controller was, which obviously broke the immersion. We tried a pre-release unit with pre-release software, so kinks may still need worked out.

We never had an issue with the graphics, though. Kylo Ren looked just as menacing as he was in the movie, and while our fight with him ended in victory, it wasn’t easy.

The other Jedi Challenges, which we didn’t get to try, are Strategic Combat, and Holochess. Strategic Combat lets you “marshal the forces of the Republic, Rebel Alliance, and the Resistance against the might of the Separatists, Empire, and First Order.” It’s basically a tower defense game where you can deploy X-wings to destroy enemy AT-ATs. Star Wars characters will also appear, working both for and against us.

Holochess is a little less intense, as it mimics a game played between Chewbacca and R2-D2 in the original movie. You use holographic aliens to gain more territory, and control over the board. On paper, this sounds the least exciting – but a VR chess game set in the Stars Wars universe could be great, and might have more replay value than the lightsaber battles.

AVAILABLE SOON, FOR JUST $200

The Mirage AR headset coupled with Star Wars: Jedi Challenges will be available on November 1, but you can pre-order it now from Best Buy and Lenovo’s website for $200. You can check if your smartphone is compatible here. We think only the most hardcore fans will go for the headset at that price, given that it has just three games, but a Lenovo spokesperson says there will be updates to add more game content after the headset is released. If so, it could become an easy, approachable entry into augmented reality gaming.

This article was originally posted on Digital Trends

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