George Lucas' sprawling "Star Wars" universe has always lent itself to games — even if they were as simple as pretend light saber duels in your backyard.
"Kinect Star Wars" (LucasArts, for the Xbox 360, $49.99) is a light saber fan's dream title. Using Microsoft's Kinect camera, which translates your motions into on-screen activity, you start with training against floating droids shooting red rays. Eventually, you can challenge Darth Vader himself. It's a good upper-body workout, and you get the signature hum of the famous movie weapon.
Pod racing, though, really gets the blood flowing. Using your outstretched arms, you guide your hovering vehicle through a rocky, barren landscape. The racing controls are fairly intuitive, which is essential because there's no steering wheel to hold in your hands. Racing as San Maxus, a devil-horned dude with red skin, I was able to earn enough alien cred to upgrade my pod with turbo speed.
There's also "Rancor Rampage," which lets you take control of a huge, destructive beast. Or if you're in a more peaceful mood, "Galactic Dance Off" lets you bust some moves while Jabba the Hutt looks on. If you're a fan of Harmonix's "Dance Central" for Kinect, you'll feel right at home. Three out of four stars.
"Kinect Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure" (Microsoft, for the Xbox 360, $49.99) immerses you in five animated movie worlds: "The Incredibles," ''Cars," ''Ratatouille," ''Up" and "Toy Story."
After creating your avatar, you can stroll around Pixar Park before venturing off into one of the movies. In "Toy Story," the goal is to reunite stuffed hedgehog Mr. Pricklepants with the little girl who dropped him. Woody the cowboy helps your robot character navigate a minefield of toys and playground obstacles as you chase the car in which the girl is traveling. The graphics are very smooth and the textures on various objects are impressive.
In "The Incredibles" episode, you're transformed into a strapping superhero. There is plenty of running, jumping, zip lining and sliding, and it's a furious workout even in the comfort of your living room. A flying segment lets you glide with a sidekick through a cavernous facility, trying to track down some villains and bring them to justice. I crashed into a few walls early on, but in time I learned to spread my arms and twist my torso to better control my banking maneuvers.
In the "Cars" world, of course, you control a race car; in "Ratatouille," you're a Parisian rat. In the section based on "Up," you join forces with Wilderness Explorer Russell on a variety of missions. Overall, "Kinect Rush" is a lively alternative to watching your kids' favorite Pixar movie for the 100th time. Four stars.
Ron Harris can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/Journorati