Last November, Disney and Lenovo partnered up to release Star Wars: Jedi Challenges, an augmented reality experience that combines video games with a lightweight AR headset and a matching lightsaber. With the headset on, you can play Holochess, command field troops on Hoth and, of course, have duels with bad guys like Kylo Ren. Today, Disney is releasing yet another update to the game with a hotly requested feature: local multiplayer, so you can duel your friends in the same room.
The feature is called Lightsaber Versus Mode, and as you might expect, it does require you to have two sets of the Jedi Challenges kit, each of which includes the smartphone-powered Lenovo headset, a lightsaber hilt plus a movement-tracking beacon. They have to both be on the same WiFi network in order for both players to engage in multiplayer. The two aforementioned beacons should also be in front of both players, ideally placed on the floor about three feet apart. Then fire up Versus mode, find your buddy, and start the battle.
I tried out a demo version of this with a Disney spokesperson last week, and it's essentially the lightsaber duel mode, but with another person. Visual cues will appear on the screen to guide you through the duel, and you can see each other's health bars at the top. To block your opponent, you line up your lightsaber with random bars that appear in front of you. To dodge, simply duck or swerve in the direction it shows on the screen. It'll also tell you just when and where to strike, which prompted both of us to slice and swat at each other with our imaginary lightsabers. The battle will get tougher over time as the difficulty and the speed of attacks increase, and the person who manages to deal with those challenges better will likely emerge the victor.
Because I could actually see him in front of me -- remember, this is augmented reality, where you can still see the world around you -- I found it pretty funny to see him waving his lightsaber hilt around, and ended up laughing as I tried to fight off his attacks. It felt like playing swords at an arcade, and made me feel like I was 10 years old again. In short, it was a lot of fun. I will say that multiplayer did seem a lot more challenging than the standard duel if only because it lacks a tutorial mode, so I'd suggest trying it out solo first to get a feel for it before playing with your friends.
The multiplayer mode is the latest upgrade to Star Wars: Jedi Challenges. The first one was an expansion earlier this year that added content from Episode 8, like a duel against two Praetorian guards and three new Strategic Combat levels on the planet Crait. There was also a smaller update for iOS devices where they could play Holochess on their phones. Like with all updates, the multiplayer mode will be a free download. It'll be available on both iOS and Android.