The latest installment in the Star Wars franchise has been in theaters for some time now. And while 3D and IMAX viewings have given fans an even more immersive way to experience their favorite galaxy from far, far away, they fall short of what many fans, including myself, are clamoring for. That’s where Lenovo’s latest smartphone accessory comes in, the Jedi Challenges Augmented Reality Kit.
But calling Lenovo’s Jedi Challenges just a smartphone accessory is selling the package a little short, as the headset-based kit packs an entire augmented reality and immersive experience. That’s right. With just effectively a headset and your smartphone, you can enter the Star Wars universe.
Once donning the headset and wielding the Lightsaber, you’ll be put to the test through various challenges; from fending off Stormtrooper blaster fire to battling Sith Lords. And while not trying to oversell it, firing up the Lightsaber for the first time was seriously impressive.
What’s included |
The $200 Augmented Reality kit comes with everything you’ll need to turn your smartphone into an interactive Star Wars experience which is centered around Lenovo’s Mirage AR headset. You’ll also find a tracking beacon, a microUSB charging cable as well as various cables to connect your phone with the goggles.
Of course the real star of Lenovo’s AR kit is the extremely well-built replica of the Skywalker’s famous Lightsaber that acts as the primary controller for the various game modes. It has a real weight to it and along with its chrome exterior, features many of the details you’d expect to find onscreen.
All-in-all, it’s safe to say that Lenovo really put in the extra work to make the Lightsaber a worthy addition to any Star Wars fan’s personal collection.
Jedi Challenges is based around three different modes that offer a fairly wide range of gameplay to the AR headset and controller.
Hollochess, as you can expect, mimics the game shown in A New Hope played between Chewbacca and R2-D2. The game is interesting and in my opinion an obvious inclusion for the AR kit, but was the least entertaining to play. This isn’t to say it isn’t a fun game, or not one worth including, but just that the other games were much more captivating.
Strategic Combat |
Strategic combat is an overhead real-time strategy type game that allows you to command a variety of characters on the battlefield. I’d say it’s the more difficult game mode of those included.
The mode has a large replay value to it, as you can keep playing to test different techniques and strengthen your skills. Throughout the game you’ll focus on destroying enemy troops, protect ships and accomplish objectives.
Lightsaber Battles |
But what would an interactive Star Wars experience be without the ability to actually wield a Lightsaber? So of course, Lenovo has centered most of the AR headset’s functionality around Lightsaber-based combat.
As you battle your way through various stories, you’ll fight against enemies from just about all of the Star Wars eras. Things kick off by taking down Battle Droids and Darth Maul on Naboo and end as you take on First Order Stormtroopers and the fearsome Kylo Ren.
This mode is by far the most interactive, as you get to battle against moving targets that will do their best to take you down. The play style really lets you get creative with your combat, and different levels emphasize various skills, from reflecting blaster shots to parrying Lightsaber strikes.
Set Up |
The entire Star Wars AR experience is based around an iOS and Android companion app that you’ll need to install from the App Store or Google Play. Once downloaded, the app then walks you through paring the beacon and Lightsaber.
Before sliding on the headset and assuming your Jedi stance, you’ll first place the included beacon on the surface in front of you, be it the ground for your epic duels or a table to try your hand at Holochess. This gives the headset a better idea of where it should be placing the virtual objects.
From there you’ll reply on the controller and headset for navigating through menus and taking on Battle Droids in your first mission.
The headset relies on a pretty ingenious tray that can fit devices from the larger iPhone 8 Plus down to the iPhone 6. In practice it held my iPhone X just fine: snuggly and without damaging the phone. It’s quite easy to snap your device into, but is more time-consuming than just slapping a case on your phone.
Just about all of the flagship smartphones are compatible with the headset, but just to be safe, you can check the full list here.
Aside from physically placing your phone in the headset, the only thing I found to be tricky was getting the two devices paired, which was a tad inconsistent sometimes. The headset is also a bit heavy, but I found it to only be a problem after longer sessions.
All in all, Lenovo’s headset offers one of the most immersive Star Wars experience you can have at home, or anywhere for that matter. The gameplay is extremely engaging and loads of fun. Part of me still can’t believe I was able to duel against Darth Vader in my living room. For a smartphone-powered headset, Lenovo has really pulled off some seriously impressive stuff.
Audio is a big factor here, and Bluetooth headphones really took it to the next level. So if you’re looking to purchase Jedi Challenges and don’t already own a pair, it’s worth the investment.
Battery life is something to keep in mind, but wasn’t anything to really worry about. Given the nature of the game — one where you’re almost constantly moving around — odds are you’ll start getting tired or finalize your session before the batteries give out. The headset and Lightsaber both need to be charged, which wasn’t a big deal, as they both charge over micro USB.
The content available right now is pretty sizable, with the main Lightsaber battle including several hours of combat. The Holochess and Strategic Combat modes add very solid replay value to the AR kit as well.
If that weren’t enough, Lenovo has an upcoming update that will be adding additional levels based on The Last Jedi. This includes battles against characters like Praetorian Guards from Episode 8. A strategy level centered around the newly introduced planet Crait will be available as well, and you’ll even have the chance to earn augmented-reality Porgs.
Final thoughts |
The only way to describe it is magical. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face while working my way through the levels and as a life-long Star Wars fan, taking on Battle Droids, Stormtroopers and Sith Lords is something I’ve always wanted to do. By far, this has been the closest thing I’ve had experienced to wielding a Lightsaber.
But at $200, the question of whether the Jedi Challenges kit is worth the money is an important one. It provides an unparalleled Star Wars experience that many fans will appreciate at its price tag. If you can’t get enough of a galaxy far far away and have already played your fill of games like Star Wars Battlefront, Lenovo’s Augmented Reality kit is worth the $200.
And as one of the first commercially available AR experiences, it’s a great way to try out the tech with a familiar and wonderfully executed IP. There’s nothing else like it on the market, meaning this is a one-of-a-kind experience for Star Wars fans. One that’d I’d highly recommend.