Lenovo's Star Wars: Jedi Challenges
Star Wars fans have something just for them in the world of VR/AR headsets and gaming with Lenovo's Jedi Challenges. The complete bundle not only has some fun games to play, but also delivers a stunning collectible for fans to enjoy. Come inside to check out my full review!
Lenovo didn't cut any corners when it comes to Jedi Challenges, and they put as much effort into the game/headset's packaging as they did the design and games themselves. Seriously, the minute you lay eyes on the box, you know you're in for something special. The box art is clean and eye-catching, with a smooth covering that makes it clear the contents within are worth spotlighting.
Upon sliding the box open, the first thing you're greeted with is a slick replica of Luke Skywalker's (now Rey's) Lightsaber hilt. On its own, this is pretty gorgeous. It's sleek and well crafted, looking more like something you'd display on the shelf rather than use for a game.
This Lightsaber acts as your primary controller for the game, and in this capacity it works well. It has some heft to it, giving you some 'feedback' when it comes time to swing it around, but it's not bulky to the point of being uncomfortable. As a martial artist for over a couple decades, it seemed a tad light; lacking the balance that an actual blade would have (instead you have a little silicone light nub poking out).
That said, it's doesn't feel plasticky either, with enough weight to be easy to use, while also appearing very sturdy. My infant got a hold of it, and the Lightsaber hilt held up without any issues. If it can survive that, it'll be able to withstand the play time you put into it, while still looking sharp enough to display within your collection.
Beyond the Lightsaber, inside also contains the headset itself, a slew of connecting cables (to allow for a variety of phone options), and a 'light ball' stand that's used as a tracking beacon for the controller. Aside from a smartphone to run the games, the box contains everything you need to complete your Jedi Challenges.
The headset is slightly different than your typical phone based VR headsets, and is slightly wider, coming in at 8.2 by 3.3 by 6.1 inches. The top, sides, and bottom utilize a clear plastic casing which, coupled with the outward facing pair of fisheye lenses, ensures that you can see just about everything, as if you weren't wearing a big gaming headset.
The larger size is nice, making it easy for just about any phone to fit in it (I used a Moto Z2 for this review). Best of all, however, is the fact that it was big enough for me to wear with my glasses comfortably. Too often, these things, even regular 3D glasses at movie theaters, don't fit around my glasses and become uncomfortable to wear in a short amount of time. As such, the Lenovo headset is comfortable to wear even after playing for significant periods of time.
Getting Set Up
Getting everything ready to play is fairly simple, and the Jedi Challenges App (which you'll have to download in order to play) will walk you through the setup step-by-step. Simply follow the prompts, which go through choosing the correct adapter cord and calibrating the Lightsaber controller, and you'll be playing in about 15-20 minutes. Once the initial setup is complete, jumping into a game later on is a tad bit quicker.
As I mentioned before, the headset is built towards making sure you're not blind to the surroundings, and the game takes advantage of that. The images from the games are presented as a hologram, meaning you can still see everything around you in the space you've decided to use for the game. Despite this, you'll still want to ensure you have a good amount of space in which to play, with nothing too close in your immediate vicinity.
Sure, you'll be able to see your living room, but when you're locked in mortal combat with Darth Maul, it would be easy to swing your Lightsaber into objects or trip over something on the ground. This was uniquely interesting for me, as I have an infant who's now crawling all over the place and keenly interested in the bright glowing ball in the middle of the floor!
Regardless, despite the many moving parts and elements contained within the box and connecting everything through your phone, the setup is relatively easy. While it obviously isn't as quick as popping in a game disc/cartridge and playing, it’s still pretty painless.
Jedi Challenges itself is comprised of three different games, all rolled into one. You'll visit 5 different planets, though you'll start on Naboo, and have to face three "trials" on each one: a Trial of Combat, Trial of Leadership, and Trial of Wisdom. Combat boils down to the Lightsaber battles between hordes of enemies (battle Droids, Stormtroopers) before facing down a boss, while Leadership presents you a strategic tower-defense style game, and Wisdom is your Holochess option.
The big selling point of the system is the Lightsaber combat; using the controller to strike down enemies, use the Force, and generally feel awesome. Cutting through Battle Droids is surprisingly addictive, and neat touches like the ability to deflect laser bolts back into enemies, make you feel like a badass. The boss fights, which include Darth Maul, Vader, and the Seventh Sister are fun as well, but essentially boil down to figuring out their pattern. Block their attacks and strike back when the time is right. Overall, it’s not terribly difficult, but having these characters “in your face” and attacking definitely gets your heart racing.
This mode, however, is also where the only real issues I encountered came into effect. Swinging around the Lightsaber is fun and all, but if you move around too fast or try to get too fancy with your moves, the controller will lose tracking with the system. It wasn’t a major thing, and it was fairly easy to get everything synced back. However, it does take you out of the game for a bit, lessening the immersion factor.
The next two modes require less Lightsaber movement, so the tracking issue was nonexistent. Leadership was absolutely my favorite, as I was able to command troops and repel the enemy army right on my living room floor. It’s not the most complicated game, but seeing all of it play out in hologram form in front of your eyes adds a lot to the experience.
Holochess, gives you the chance to recreate to play the iconic game we saw Chewie and R2 battling it out over. It’s neat, but far more simplistic than I was expecting. This game is less about strategy and more about powering up your monsters and beating up the others. While it’s cool to be able to play this in your home, I found it to be the game I played the least.
The changing difficulty options gives the game some replay factor, but you may feel it’s light on content overall. Considering it’s a $200 set, that could be off-putting, but the game itself can easily be updated with new levels and challenges as time goes on (like any mobile or online game). Couple that potential for future gameplay, along with the collector quality device itself, and the price seems justifiable.
A Challenge Worth Accepting
Lenovo put a lot of thought and effort into crafting a fun gaming experience for Star Wars fans. From the detail they put into the controller and headset, to the gameplay, Jedi Challenges does most things right. While the tracking during saber battles can be an issue, the overall AR experience makes you feel like a Jedi in the best possible ways.
Even once you feel you’ve played through it as much as you can, and the game part of it is done, it still works as a high-end collectible that will look great on display. It’s a one-two punch that offers a lot of bang for your buck.