Update, 9/1/17, 10:05am PT: Star Wars Jedi Challenge is now available to pre-order from Lenovo's website. The bundle includes the Mirage AR headset, lightsaber controller, and tracking beacon for $290.
Original article: 8/31/17, 8:00am PT:
Kylo Ren stood in front of us, and since he already had his lightsaber drawn, we assumed he wasn't there to calmly chat about the relative merits of the First Order. Indeed, the would-be Sith Lord slashed at us with his lightsaber, but our Force sense flashed before our eyes, showing two yellow lines where we could hold our own lightsaber to parry his attacks. Soon, we were trading blows, and we think Rey herself would have been impressed by our mastery of the Force.
Our own personal battle with Kylo Ren came courtesy of the $199 Star Wars Jedi Challenges, a joint effort between Disney and Lenovo to bring the Jedi experience right before your eyes via augmented reality. Strap on the Lenovo-built headset, grab your lightsaber, and you're ready to bring an adventure from a galaxy far, far away to your very own room.
In addition to Lenovo's Mirage AR headset and lightsaber controller—which bears more than a passing resemblance to the one Luke Skywalker used to wield—the Star Wars Jedi Challenges includes a tracking beacon that helps pinpoint your location for all those battles with the likes of Kylo Ren and Darth Maul. Jedi Challenges is now available for pre-order at Best Buy and Lenovo before it arrives in time for the holidays.
Having wires dangling from the back of a headset might trip up even the nimblest of Jedi, so Lenovo designed the Jedi Challenges' Mirage AR headset to be powered by a smartphone, giving you some freedom of movement. You slide your smartphone into the top of the headset—similar to how Google's Daydream View works—and you're ready to battle the Dark Side of the Force.
Lenovo's headset should work with a broader range of phones than the ones you can use with Daydream View. For starters, the headset works with the iPhone—the iPhone 6 and later are supported, a Lenovo rep told us. On the Android side, the Mirage AR headset works with Samsung's Galaxy S6 and later as well as a host of Motorola handsets.
The 1.04lb headset sat comfortably on our head when we took Jedi Challenges out for a test battle, and though we were bopping around the floor like the "Star Wars" kid from that viral video, the headset never slipped out of place. Likewise, the 12.4 x 1.9" mock lightsaber was comfortable to hold even during extended play sessions.
As impressive as the hardware is (and Lenovo's built a pretty slick, inexpensive headset that uses two fisheye cameras for its inside-out positional tracking) the software struck us as the star of the show. Disney sees augmented reality as a great platform for telling new types of stories, and Jedi Challenges offers three categories of games with more than 30 challenges. So don't expect that headset and lightsaber to gather dust in the back of a closet after a few gaming sessions.
Our only hands-on time with Jedi Challenges was spent in the Lightsaber Battles mode, which gives you the opportunity to build up your fighting skills so that you can eventually take on Darth Vader his own bad self. We wish we would have had the chance to try out Strategic Combat, which lets you direct a virtual battle that unfolds across your flow. Imagine recreating the Battle of Hoth by positioning rebel forces, gun turrets, and other weapons to stop the onslaught of Imperial AT-ATs and stormtroopers.
Jedi Challenges' third mode recreates the Holochess game from "Episode IV." You decide which monsters to place on the circular chessboard. As each monster has different strengths and weaknesses, there's some degree of strategy involved beyond just letting the wookiee win. And in addition to harnessing brainpower, Jedi Challenges will also get you up and moving, as our huffing and puffing after fighting off Kylo Ren can attest.
You're playing on the Light Side of the Force in Jedi Challenges. It might add an element of intrigue if you could choose between the Light and Dark sides as you can in other "Star Wars" games like Knights of the Old Republic and Battlefront. Disney's focusing on the Light in the current iteration of Jedi Challenges, but we think it's safe to say we weren't the first to suggest the possibility of picking a side to the nearby Disney reps.
From what we've seen, Star Wars Jedi Challenges is a promising blend of software and hardware that puts you smack dab in the "Star Wars" universe. You can learn more about the package at the official website, and the companion apps are available via iTunes and Google Play. Lenovo said in a press release that Star Wars Jedi Challenges will be available from Best Buy stores in the U.S. starting this November.
This post was written by Philip Michaels.