The Lenovo booth at IFA 2017 was ground zero for augmented and mixed reality experiences. I’m not a gamer, nor would I classify myself as a Star Wars fanatic but I absolutely could not pass up the opportunity to try out Star Wars: Jedi Challenges, a new toy by Lenovo and Disney. So did this skeptical, type A blogger become a Jedi? Surprisingly, I did.
What is it?
Jedi Challenges combines a smartphone-powered Lenovo Mirage AR headset, a Tracking Beacon, and a Lightsaber controller to simulate Star Wars fight sequences. The game is compatible with both Android and iOS smartphones and the list of compatible phone models grows daily as testing is still underway. There are currently three games available; LightSaber Battles, Holochess and Strategic Combat. I played LightSaber battles against the notorious, Kylo Ren.
How does it work?
You start by downloading the Star Wars: Jedi Challenges app onto your smartphone and then slide it into the tray of the Lenovo Mirage AR headset. The headset also comes with a Tracking Beacon, which is placed on the floor and acts as a stable base for the headset’s sensors to detect movement during gameplay. The Lightsaber (modeled after the one wielded by Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker) acts as a controller and pointer, allowing you to navigate the user interface, with all controls, actions and commands activated with a simple two-button configuration.
When I was ready to play, I slid the headset onto my head using both hands; I held it steady with my left hand and twisted the dial on the rear of the device to loosen it with my right hand. (I’ve got a lot of hair, not a big head). Once the headset was adjusted to fit my head comfortably, I flipped the spectacles down over my eyes. I was surprised that I could see through the transparent screen. But that’s the beauty of augmented reality; it merges your real and virtual environments and the Lenovo Mirage Headset enabled me to see the outside world with an image layered over it.
How do you play?
A hologram of Kylo Ren appeared before me. He was wielding a sword and automatically, my instincts made me fight back but I wasn’t effective. The woman running the demo said, “try matching the position of the LightSaber with the yellow lines”. I followed instructions, by placing the LightSaber in the yellow guidelines and immediately starting scoring against my opponent. Each time I lined up the LightSaber just right and pushed the button, a beam would shoot across the display. Even better, the feedback when I struck my opponent was exhilarating. Most of the time, I nailed the guidelines but there were a few times when I felt like my movements weren’t registered correctly resulting in lost points. Kylo Ren wasn’t a static character either. He was fluid as he fought, advanced and retreated to new locations. I could hear background music streaming through the phone’s speaker with varying intensity. I started off rather awkward and slow but after a short time, I was pulled into the action. After a while, my adrenaline was pumping, I was fighting to win and I almost forgot that I was being watched by people around me.
Perhaps it was because I played in a public space, but I did feel quite self conscious about people watching me awkwardly fight the air. But once I was lost in the game, it didn’t matter. I was sticking and moving all over the space. The headset felt comfortable and reasonably light. I didn’t have problems moving around with it on and there weren’t any wires to become tangled in.
In the end, I won the battle and I was over-the-moon excited. I had become invested in winning and felt like a total Jedi Warrior. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I’d gladly do it again. Here’s the thing though, Jedi Challenges is indicated for children 13 years old and above. My kids are 5 and 2.5 but they’d love it as much as I do. I don’t think I could get away with buying it for mommy and daddy only – but maybe I’ll try it.
Star Wars: Jedi Challenges is a great gaming experience – whether you’re a Star Wars fan or not. Priced at $199 USD, it’s also a great value for the money. Pre-orders can be placed now. The product is scheduled to ship in time for Christmas so may the force be with you this holiday season.