With the publication of the “Dark Side Expansion” around a year after the appearance of the basic set, the augmented reality game Jedi Challenges has become more topical again. Instead of just fighting for the good guys as before, fans of virtual sword fights can now slip into the role of the Sith. Time to visit the interactive arena: In our test on Jedi Challenges from Lenovo, we reveal how AR-knocking performs in practice.


Star Wars is becoming a niche

Even if it says Star Wars: What Lenovo has created in cooperation with Disney can definitely be described as a niche product, because not least hardware limitations ensure that only a narrowly defined group can have fun with this AR game hardware. In order for Jedi Challenges to strike at home, like the Death Star laser in the planetary surface of Alderaan, three things above all have to come together: You have to like augmented reality technologies, you shouldn't be averse to Star Wars and - most importantly - you have to you have to call one of the supported smartphones your own. These include the Moto Z from Motorola, the Google Pixel (XL), the Galaxy devices S7 (Edge) and S8 from Samsung, the LG G6, the Mate 10 and the Pro version as well as the Apple devices iPhone 6S (Plus) , iPhone 7 (Plus) or iPhone X.

We tried the Samsung Galaxy S9 together with Jedi Challenges and thanks to the included, suitable adapter, this device also worked perfectly.

What is that? Blue light. What is it doing? It glows blue. Photo: André Volkmann

Other smartphones should be checked for compatibility before buying; in cases of doubt, the official ones provide information about this Lenovo website or customer service. Otherwise, the - by the way, very high-quality processed - game box contains everything that budding lightsaber fighters need for their entry into the adventure, including the Lenovo Mirage AR headset, the lightsaber controller, a tracking transmitter as well as various adapters and cabling.

Above all, the chic lightsaber controller knows how to inspire. The control unit is just as solidly built as the other hardware components, but it can turn out to be a bit too small in the hands of big Wookie warriors. After all: the lightsaber feels wonderful, the feel fits. Shortly after unpacking, the player can already imagine how to swing the weapon in the "extended living room" against dozen of battle droids.

Calibration is tricky

Before the first battle can even begin, the Jedi Challenges hardware must first be set up. And that turns out to be quite tricky at times. Yes, the system works like a kind of “plug and play”: Download the appropriate app from the store, set up the direction finder and have the lightsaber ready - no problem until then.

Then the AR glasses need to be made ready for operation and the test of patience begins. Tech-savvy gamers will hardly have difficulties setting up the Mirage headset, but the impression arises that the necessary setting steps could have been made more beginner-friendly, perhaps should. The smartphone must be removed from the protective cover (if present), placed in a plastic compartment, wired, pushed into the headset and locked in place.

Jedi Challenges put to the test
The calibration does not always lead to optimal tracking results. Photo: André Volkmann

Then the movement control of the lightsaber is calibrated. All in all, it takes several minutes to prepare - every time. If you now consider that the headset is hardly suitable for "continuous gaming" due to its noticeable weight, the process can be described as annoying overall. However: The enclosed instructions as well as the instructions on the smartphone guide even inexperienced players through the entire set-up process without any problems.

Lenovo Mirage: a headset like a diva

In addition to the lightsaber, the headset is the real star of Jedi Challenges. The solidly manufactured frame projects what is happening on the smartphone display with the help of diverging lenses directly into the player's field of vision, in addition to the real view. What is called "Augmented Reality" in English can also be described - far less cryptically - as augmented reality in this country. All content is projected into the physical environment of the player. And that's exactly what proves to be an excellent trick in this motion-heavy Star Wars game. It is not uncommon for you to immerse yourself so deeply in the action that the furniture comes dangerously close to the sword swing. Fortunately, most of it is noticed in good time.

Lenovo Jedi Challenges hardware test
Sits well on the head, but is front-heavy: the Lenovo Mirage AR headset. Photo: André Volkmann

What bothers a bit with those intense movements is the headset itself. Due to the inserted smartphone, the weight is well in the front area: This presses on the nose uncomfortably during longer gaming sessions. Otherwise, however, the Mirage headset is very comfortable and, above all, safe to wear. It sits firmly, is well padded and can be adjusted to the player's head size. The Velcro fasteners make a high-quality and long-lasting impression. And, conveniently, there are three control buttons embedded on the side to control the app while playing, because you can then no longer access the smartphone.

The headset, like the lightsaber, is powered by a built-in rechargeable battery. And this is exactly where Lenovo fails in the B rating. Instead of adding the right accessories for both devices to be charged, the game box only contains one set: either you charge the devices one after the other - or you have a second plug and USB cable in your household. Incidentally, the direction finder is powered by two batteries.

Here we go: This is how Star Wars Jedi Challenges plays

Once everything has been successfully set up and space has been created in the fighting area, things can finally begin. Admittedly: As a player, you are curious about what to expect. And in the first few minutes you will not be disappointed, which is mainly due to the fact that the graphic presentation is much better than you would expect from a "game app". The bluish shimmering holograms look excellent and the characters' movements are also fluid. And all of that while you let your gaze wander over your familiar living environment.

In the menu you first select your favorite game mode - either with the lightsaber controller (cool!) Or using the buttons on the Mirage headset (uncool!). There is a choice of lightsaber combat, which sends players into a multi-round battle against battle droids before one of the legendary Siths is to be defeated as the "final boss", so to speak, in the grand finale.

Lenovo Jedi Challenges hardware test (21)
The Jedi Challenges lightsaber controller sits comfortably in the hand. Photo: André Volkmann

Tactical foxes may prefer strategic battles as a game variant that is based on classic tower defense matches. Players erect defensive structures and summon troops and hero characters from George Lucas' sci-fantasy epic onto the battlefield. Instead of acting from the first person perspective as in lightsaber mode, players view the action from a top view: this is less beautiful, but enormously valuable in terms of play, because the perspective contributes enormously to a good overview. In terms of play, this mode is more demanding than you would expect, because the level of difficulty increases continuously. With it, however, the strength of one's own troops also grows. Class!

The final mode should never be played against a Wookie: holochess.
The intergalactic Star Wars board game can be described as a nice bonus, because this game variant does not offer anything more than shallow strategic duels. The short holochess games are nevertheless entertaining, not least because as a Star Wars fan you feel transported back to the time when you saw “A New Hope” for the first time. After all: In this mode, too, the number of available creatures changes, which provides motivation.

Multiplayer modes are of course also available: players then either rake in classic lightsaber duels or in battleship battles. The latter put players in the roles of admirals who have to control the fate of their fleet.

Hustle and bustle leads to broken glass

How much the AR game Star Wars Jedi Challenges is able to cast a spell over players after a short time can be seen from the fact that the living environment is being forgotten despite its visual presence. Overly eager lightsaber acrobats have to be careful when lunges or sword swings are particularly sweeping, because then it is not uncommon for a piece of furniture to come within striking range. Basically, that's a good sign of how immersive the AR experience can actually be. Sometimes the generally rather shallow fights turn into sweaty affairs; What thankfully does not arise is nausea, i.e. the well-known motion sickness.

What sometimes lets players feel that the actions only take place in one game world is the fact that the lightsaber does not align with the physical lightsaber controller if the calibration is unsuccessful. This makes movements appear out of round and feel strange. This can be remedied, but the distractions mean that players sometimes look completely disoriented through the virtual arena and lose sight of the essentials - namely the opponents. The so-called tracking can be described as solid overall. It works and reacts, but not always precisely

The field of vision sometimes causes some difficulties, because the holograms require a minimum distance so that they can be perceived in their full glory "full screen". If opposing units are too close to the player, you sometimes only see sections. Coupled with the not entirely flawless image stability when moving (the holograms then flicker), some game situations become very hectic and confusing. This is especially a shame because applications from some other manufacturers do not have this problem.

Nevertheless: What Lenovo has put together with Jedi Challenges is surprising, and in a positive sense. If you then consider what is offered from the point of view of the price-performance ratio, the AR adventure can be recommended to all Star Wars fans without hesitation. The costs are now well below the previous RRP of 299 euros, and in some cases the purchase price has even slipped below 100 euros.

Players are busy with the content for around 10 to 15 hours. The existing multiplayer mode then provides an additional boost in motivation - provided the appropriate hardware, of course.

Media for Star Wars Jedi Challenges

Infobox

Number of players: 1 to 2 players
Age: from 0 years (USK)
Playing time: 10 to 15 hours
Difficulty: low to medium
Long-term motivation: medium

Publisher: Lenovo / Disney
Developer: Lenovo
Release year: 2017 (content update 2018)
Platforms: Android, iOS
Language: German
Cost: 99 to 149 euros

Summary

The AR lightsaber simulator has its technical quirks, but works well over long distances. The question remains as to how well current, inexpensive hardware can reliably implement such game ideas at all. In terms of content, the hardware package, which has become more and more attractive over time due to falling acquisition costs and new content, can in any case.

In any case, the atmosphere exudes an enormous Star Wars feeling that will make the hearts of the fans beat faster. In addition, an invaluable plus point: Jedi Challenges can also be played wherever there is no powerful gaming PC. The content update released in autumn proves that Lenovo continues to support the idea - also working on bug fixes to iron out some clearly noticeable errors.

Yes, there are some points of criticism, including those that have a lasting impact on the gaming experience. Even so, Star Wars Jedi Challenges from Lenovo offers users a gaming experience that no other title has ever offered.  

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