We had the chance to try Disney’s Star Wars Jedi Challenges. It’s an augmented reality game compilation, but unlike other AR experiences like Pokemon Go or games built on Apple's ARKit, you have to put on a headset to play it. The headset is designed by Lenovo and is perhaps most similar to Microsoft’s HoloLens. Perhaps the biggest distinguishing factor between the two is that Lenovo’s solution requires a smartphone.
The device comes with a sleeve for your phone, and you simply need to download the Star Wars Jedi Challenges app before you slot it in. The headset is equipped with a 60Hz screen and uses mirrors to reflect augmented reality projections within your field of view.
Unlike the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift VR headsets, Lenovo’s AR headset doesn’t block the environment around you, but merely augments it by projecting additional characters and objects into your room that aren’t actually there. The Jedi Challenges package comes with a tracked Lightsaber and a spherical light beacon that you put on the floor so that the headset’s two cameras can tell where the ground is. Disney advises using the device indoors away from sunlight so it can work most effectively.
Using these accessories, the first thing we did was whip out our Lightsaber to duel Darth Maul. Turning on the Lightsaber and seeing it woosh out with the infamous sound effect is very satisfying. From here, we could physically hack and slash away at the Sith Lord, who was walking around our studio trying to take us down with his double-sided Lightsaber. The game requires that you block attacks, and highlights where you should position your Lightsaber to do so. Mixed in between your hacking and slashing, these moments can feel very much like quick-time events (QTEs).
Once we brought Darth Maul to his knees, we moved onto a level where we fought a bunch of droids shooting at us from off in the distance. Using our Lightsaber, we could deflect their blasts back at them. As they marched closer, we could slash them apart. Disney asserts that there are many enemies in this mode and that the challenge will progress so that we’ll face tougher foes like Kylo Ren and Darth Vader, who have their own unique abilities and attack patterns.
Moving onto the strategy game mode, Jedi Challenges had us looking down at tiny troops on the floor. The ground beneath us was split down the middle with our base on the left and the enemy AI base on the right. It felt like a tower-defense game. We could summon turrets down onto the battlefield below along with additional clone troopers to ward off incoming enemy droids. This game mode employs a timed cooldown mechanic for summoning troops, and towards the end of the battle, we eventually got access to Obi Wan Kenobi. When we plopped the Jedi down onto the battlefield, he wreaked havoc and lead us to victory.
The last mode we played was Dejarik, which is perhaps better known as the Star Wars chess game. Here, we picked three monsters and took turns moving forward to attack the enemy team on the far side of the virtual table. It played like a simple version of a traditional turn-based tactics game. While we only played a few minutes of it, each monster among the 10 or so that were available to choose from featured different strengths and weakness, which suggests some depth to the mode.
The Disney representative we spoke to said that there are plans to incorporate multiplayer between two headsets in the future, and that the company is experimenting with developing additional non-Star Wars games to take advantage of the headset.
All in all, the company says you should expect roughly a dozen hours of gameplay in total. Considering that the entire package is $200, Star Wars Jedi Challenges is not quite in impulse-buy territory, and seems more tailored for Star Wars enthusiasts at the moment.