'Star Wars: Jedi Challenges' Is a Blast for Lightsaber Fans

My dream has always been to wield a lightsaber like a Star Wars Jedi. From the first moment I finished watching Episode IV, I picked up any stick, pole or rod I could find and pretended it could slice through whatever stood in my path. Over the years, I've played with nearly every game or toy meant to replicate the feeling of swinging around a blade made of pure energy. From the comically expensive Force FX line of movie replicas to the abomination that is Star Wars Kinect, nothing has satisfied my need for Lucas-inspired nostalgia.

Star Wars: Jedi Challenges, created by Lenovo, claims that it finally solved the puzzle and makes you actually feel like a bonafide Jedi (or Sith lord.) For the steep price of $199.99, you can travel to the worlds of Hoth, Endor and more, fighting countless waves of Stormtroopers and facing off against the franchise's greatest foes. Lenovo sent Newsweek a copy for review, alongside the Motorola Z² Force smartphone.

star wars lenovo headset
The Lenovo headset, lightsaber and tracking beacon Lenovo

The set-up for the device is simple. Download the Jedi Challenges app and follow the instructions step-by-step. Turn on the tracking beacon and place it on the floor, pair the lightsaber with your phone using Bluetooth (calibrating it by spinning it like a baton) and then place your phone inside the tray which goes inside the visor headset. Realizing which side of the tray slides in, or how to get the locking tabs to fit inside, can be a hassle at first but became easier the more I did it. Once your phone is inside and hooked up to the visor, just stare at the beacon and a floating cube should appear. Then, your journey begins.

Or, at least it should. My visor, no matter how many times I adjusted the straps or moved the review phone, just wouldn't align straight. Battling Darth Vader while at a 35 degree tilt can get frustrating when you start missing slashes solely because of janky controls. A Lenovo representative told me that connecting my device to the internet and downloading a hot fix would solve my problems, but sadly they persisted. If a VR set tilted like this I'd feel sick for hours after playing, but the AR worldview made the problem less game breaking and more annoying.

Jedi: Challenges has three modes: Holochess (a recreation of the classic board game from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), Strategic Combat (an RTS with minimalistic controls) and Lightsaber Battle. The menu works seamlessly with the controller, allowing you to drag the map of the galaxy to pick one of the games' five planets: Naboo, Garel, Lothal, Hoth and Takodana. Every planet has three missions for each game mode, progressively increasing in difficulty. I didn't play much of Holochess or Strategic Combat, they felt more like a gimmick rather than a core gameplay experience. I can play Holochess on my computer and trying to control an RTS on the floor of my tiny Brooklyn apartment was a pain, I just didn't have enough room to properly assess the situation and command my troops.

There's also a new multiplayer option I did get to try, but only very briefly.

The lightsaber combat makes up for the other two modes. I can honestly say, without a shred of irony or sarcasm, that Jedi Challenges is the best lightsaber experience I've ever had in my home. Blocking projectiles that ricochet back in the faces of stormtroopers and droids made me feel like Obi-Wan Kenobi. The controls were incredibly precise, each slash came with a hum of the blade and proper vibrational feedback.

After clearing waves of mindless soldiers, you'll have to face off against a classic baddie from the Star Wars universe. Beating Darth Vader and Kylo Ren with my bare hands felt satisfying. You block their attacks by placing your blade in slot prompts on your screen, knock them down with force powers earned by completing planetary missions or just slash away until their health bar reaches zero. The fights are hard, I ended up covered in sweat by the end of my playthrough.

If you are a Star Wars fanatic, the sort of person that buys a Death Star Bluetooth speaker or Darth Vader toaster, then you need this device. For the rest of the us who aren't completionists and don't have $200 to spend on a whim, then this might not be for you.