Today I give my take on the super fun (does that give anything away?) Lenovo Star Wars: Jedi Challenges AR Headset with Saber & Beacon. If you’d like to hear all about what it’s like to battle Darth Vader in a one on one lightsaber duel, then you’ve certainly come to the right place. But first thing’s first: The Blog’s own Matt Paligaru reviewed this set himself a few weeks ago in a post entitled Live out your Jedi Fantasies with Lenovo Jedi Challenges, and you should definitely read it. In it Matt covers areas that I won’t necessarily get to (this set is seriously full featured), and he provides some really great information as well as a cool video review showing the set off (I’ve added Matt Video to the end of this article to make it easy for you to find).
In fact, Matt’s video has one of the coolest openings I’ve ever seen on a video review, so it’s definitely a must watch. In my own case, I’ll try to hit some of the areas that Matt’s blog and video don’t entirely cover. Of course, there will be some overlap between these two posts, but if you read them both and watch both videos, you’ll really have the BIG picture of what this amazing AR set is all about. Keep on reading for all the fun.
Star Wars Jedi Challenges Hardware
There are 3 main pieces of hardware that make up the Lenovo Jedi Challenges set. These include the Mirage VR headset (see image gallery at page bottom), the small beacon from which the scene in front of you seems to emit (pictured above with hilt), and the lightsaber hilt controller (which is based on the Episode IV lightsaber that originally belonged to Anakin Skywalker and was given to Luke by Obi Wan Kenobi in that film). The headset part of the set has a special place to hold your smart phone, and the lightsaber itself is the main controller for all of the different games (although your body’s own movements also control some of the elements of gameplay).
Exploring Augmented Reality
Powering this game is the Lenovo Jedi Challenges App, which works with both iOS and Android based smart phones of fairly recent build. You’ll want to make sure and check out Lenovo’s approved list of devices before you pick up the set, but most late model devices should be fine. Somewhat surprisingly, my own Samsung Galaxy S5 phone actually worked with the set despite not making Lenovo’s list of recommended devices. WOOHOO!
By the way, back in January Lenovo released a major update to its app that increased the variety of challenges you can undertake as a Jedi in training. Included in the upgrade are fun themes from The Last Jedi, like those awfully cute Porgs (see photo gallery) and even a one against two duel with those nasty Praetorian guards. This incredibly fun development leads me to speculate on whether or not we’re in for more cool upgrades in the future? I would assume so. I’d also absolutely love a duel with the 4 lightsaber wielding General Grievous. I guess only time will tell if such a battle is meant to be.
(Note: Above I’ve included a shot of both the charging adaptor and the various connecting cords that marry your phone to the Mirage headset. There are multiple connecting cords to fit the different kinds of phones users may have.)
The first game in Jedi Challenges that I want to discuss is called Holochess (or Dejarik, if you want to get more technical). This game is probably the most sedate of the bunch, but it’s certainly not boring. In fact, I enjoyed playing it very much. In it, you have a variety of different pieces (or creatures) that you can use (which is very much like real chess). Each type of creature can move a specific number of spaces per turn, and each has its own particular strengths and weaknesses. To make things more interesting for this particular set, you don’t have access to all of the different creatures right away.
As you progress through the different levels of the game (which are set up as planets in Jedi Challenges gameplay), you unlock more and more interesting creatures to use. You do this simply by winning games against the Archivist (your instructor, shown at right) and learning the different successful strategies that can be used in the game. Some creatures possess brute strength, some shoot poison at their enemies from all the way across the board, and others still possess the power to heal their comrades. Similarly, not all creatures have the same ability to move an equal number of spaces in a single turn. Employ the best strategy to beat your opponent, and you move on to the next level and potentially unlock even more interesting and useful creatures. It’s really quite a lot of fun, and perfect for when you need a rest from the more active aspects of Jedi Challenges.
Large Scale Ground Wars
More active than the Holochess, though not quite approaching the pace of the lightsaber duelling, is the large scale ground wars. As with the other aspects of gameplay in this set, there are many different battles that you can undertake on your way to becoming a Jedi Master. Essentially how it works is that you have to quickly, continuously, and strategically place various weapons and warriors on the field of battle such that you achieve the unique goals of that level’s specific missions. As you work your way through missions, the challenges become more difficult, but you’ll also unlock new abilities and resources that will help you achieve your goals.
It’s fairly fun, but not exactly my favourite part of Lenovo Jedi Challenges. There’s just always so much going on that it can be somewhat difficult to follow what’s important. But then again, therein lies the challenge. I’m sure that many users will really enjoy this particular type of gameplay. It’s especially cool if you enjoy strategic war games such as Risk. In fact, it’s almost like a Star Wars variation of the classic board game Axis and Allies, only with all of the action come to life right in front of you. It’s pretty crazy!
Taking on Darth Vader is every bit as difficult as one might expect. And then some. But it’s also incredibly fun! In fact, the same goes for Darth Maul, The Seventh Sister, The Grand Inquisitor, The Praetorian Guards (which are new additions to the app as of a big January update), and even Kylo Ren. So far I’ve beaten all of these opponents at least once, though it seems that I have to go through them all another time to get to a final battle with the Archivist (my trainer in the game). There may be another pathway to that battle, although I haven’t quite completed that yet either. In any case, these battles require quick reflexes and a lot of moving around. I’ve actually worked up a bit of a sweat on more than one occasion playing this game, and I absolutely love it. The way it all works is that you ignite your lightsaber and your opponent appears before you. As he or she approaches to attack, you’ll begin to see yellow guide lines in front of your face. You must align your lightsaber blade within these lines to block your opponent’s strikes. These strikes begin to come fast and furious at times, and it can be pretty difficult to block them all. If you’re not quick enough, you’re going to be struck and lose some of your allotted life force (that’s not an official term, I just don’t know what else to call it). In between attacks, your opponent will briefly back off. This is your opportunity to strike back at them them (unless you’re quick enough to hit them while defending). You’ll need to get in a lot of licks to fully take them down, and between your key opportunities you’ll really have to do some smart blocking.
As you progress further up the opponent ladder, more and more complexity enters the game. For example, some opponents may throw their lightsaber at you, or attack you from a particular angle, or with laser firing droids. When these kinds of attacks happen, you may see small yellow circles that indicate where to position your sabre to block laser fire. Alternatively, a big yellow arrow may appear in front of you directing you to dodge either left or right or to duck down. The game can tell whether or not you’ve dodged fast enough and far enough to avoid the attack too, and if you’re not quick enough, again you’ll suffer strikes and lose some of your power. These are just some of the things that can happen in the lightsaber duelling part of the Jedi Challenges game, and it is incredibly fun to play.
Examining the Video Evidence
If you want to see what it looks like to play Holochess, manage a large scale ground battle, or go head to head against most of the opponents in the Jedi Challenges game, this is the video for you. I’ve tried to include footage of as many of the most unique aspects of the game as possible all in one video, so go ahead and check it out for yourself:
Final Thoughts and Recommendation
I love this set. That’s all I really need to say. If you’re a big fan of Star Wars, there’s a very good chance that you’ll love it too. It’s got excellent graphics, heaps of variety (as in tons of things to do), and it’ll even get you a good bit of exercise. What’s more, I undertook the challenges entirely on a phone that wasn’t on Lenovo’s list of recommended devices, meaning that it technically doesn’t meet the set’s minimum requirements to work. The phone I used was my Samsung Galaxy S5, and everything still worked perfectly on it. Did I mention I love this set? Highly, highly recommended!