With every ounce of due respect to The Pokemon Company and Niantic, Lenovo’s “Star Wars: Jedi Challenges” is the jaw-droppingly immersive vision of smartphone-powered augmented reality the gaming community wished for in 2016 while riding the phenomenal cresting tidal wave of mainstream hype behind “Pokemon Go.”
To be somewhat fairer to last year’s most acclaimed juggernaut among mobile gaming apps, the two experiences reside in vastly different provinces within the same realm of technology. Both depend upon smartphone hardware to open up their worlds. Both bring interactive experiences that were unthinkable as recently as 10 years ago stunningly to life literally before our very eyes. However, “Star Wars: Jedi Challenges” ups the ante and demonstrates that catching, evolving and eventually battling Pokemon “in real life” was no novel fluke. This is legitimately incredible technology with gobs of untapped practical potential.
Powered by the dual motion-tracking cameras of the Lenovo Mirage AR headset and an innovative tracking beacon that expands and fills in the user’s environment while accurately marking player position, “Star Wars: Jedi Challenges” fuses three playable experiences into a single crash course employing the lightsaber controller’s Power, Blade and Force buttons to teach the ancient ways of the Force. After donning the headset and choosing your experience via your wireless device, test your one-on-one combat technique against such nefarious galactic scourges as Kylo Ren, Darth Maul and the incomparably ruthless Darth Vader. Exercise your strategic wisdom by playing a round of holochess in which you’ll maneuver holographic alien pieces across an impressive recreation of the set on which Chewbacca and R2-D2 squared off aboard the Millennium Falcon in “A New Hope.” Finally, hone your tactical acumen in the strategic ground-war combat simulator by fortifying Rebel outposts to hold off hostile Imperial battalions.
Judging from the trailer and promotional stills, the projected imagery appears nothing short of stunning and even evocative of the holographic technology seen in the Star Wars films since the very beginning of the original trilogy. This enticing trio of games will be compatible upon release with the following major smartphones:
- iPhone 7/7 Plus
- iPhone 6s/6s Plus
- Samsung Galaxy S8/S7/S7 Edge
- Google Pixel/Pixel XL
- Moto Z
More devices are set to be added to that list soon. Although no official shipping date has yet been announced, Lenovo’s “Star Wars: Jedi Challenges” is currently available for pre-order with all hardware listed above for $199. Reservations are limited to five units per purchase.