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Kung Fu Panda

Score: 60%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: XPEC Entertainment
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Fighting/ Platformer (3D)/ Action

Graphics & Sound:

Kung Fu Panda is one of those games that you wish had more time and resources in order to make it better. Kung Fu Panda for the Wii may not make you want to trade in copies of Metroid or Mario in order to buy this game, but it may provide a few hours of distraction for a fan of the film.

Visually, Kung Fu Panda doesn't hold up to many other titles available on the Wii. Muddy textures and a very basic art style make this game look a little dated. The character models are decent and resemble their onscreen counterparts fairly accurately, but the jagged edges and blurry color palette make the whole world of Kung Fu Panda feel washed out and flat. However, the animations and framerate are both very smooth and rarely cause a disruption. One problem the game does suffer from is graphical glitches and other technical issues that really remove the player from the experience. The issues range from loading level pop-ups to glitches that caused me personally to fall through a floor and die.

At least the graphics behaved most of the time. The sound and audio design for Kung Fu Panda are seriously inconsistent and nearly ruin the experience. The voiceovers that they used remain functional a majority of the time, but there are spots where the audio is barely audible or sounds as if they swapped voiceover talent in the middle of production. The dialogue and scriptwriting are also bland and uninspired. The music department is... okay. The soundtrack fits nicely, but it is drowned out by the sound of the action on-screen. The Multiplayer Modes are even worse because sound effects don't play properly if they play at all and many of the multiplayer levels are not accompanied by any sort of music.


Gameplay:

Kung Fu Panda takes place in ancient China where animals are fierce warriors and train rigorously every day to master their techniques. Players will assume the role of the main character, Po the Panda. The game starts off with a dream sequence where Po dreams that he is the fabled "Dragon Warrior" and defeats all those who wrong others. Po eventually meets the famous warrior group known as "The Furious Five" and becomes a student under their master. A villainous feline named Tai Lung escapes from prison and has vowed to confront Po's new master, Shifu. Throughout the game, players will take on the role of different characters from the Five in order to stop Tai Lung and his minions from succeeding.

Gameplay is a standard Action/Platforming affair with the usual health and energy meters. You will collect items throughout the game in order to purchase new skills and upgrades for your rotund panda. The game also has you fighting seemingly endless waves of enemies on your way to becoming a true Kung Fu master. Unfortunately, none of the aspects are done very well. However, there is an attempt to break up the monotony with motion-controlled sequences ranging from God of War style inputs to frustratingly unresponsive steering missions. The motion-controlled features added to the Wii version don't really feel fully planned out and seemed tacked on. But at least they tried to mix it up a bit.

The Multiplayer section has a nice selection of mini-games that you can play if you are done with the single player adventure. The only caveat is that in order to play most of the multiplayer modes, you have to collect "Rare Coins" in the single player in order to unlock them. Once you have them unlocked though, there is enough available to find something to like. These modes include various brawling stages where players fight each other in combat and it also has cooperative modes where players have to work together in order to protect a villager from enemy attack.


Difficulty:

Kung Fu Panda is not a very difficult game. On the normal mode, it can be completed in less than six hours. The other difficulties don't really make the enemies smarter (they stay pretty brain-dead) but you take more damage from attacks and special attacks use more chi energy. The platforming bits are made way too easy, with the game literally throwing coins at the player and making the leveling process very expedited. If you decide to level up at the end of every chapter, enemies will generally die with one hit and you will never die from enemy attacks. You will die from falling off ledges and crashing into river beds frequently, though. The game is made much harder than it should be because of poor collision detection and a frustrating camera and jump mechanic.

Action sequences in Kung Fu Panda don't generally last that long, but the amount of enemies you will encounter make the game dreadfully repetitive. Swinging the Wii-mote for heavy attacks is often unresponsive and pressing the (B) button a thousand times to attack gets the job done more often than not. The fighting parts aren't bad per se, there just isn't enough variety in the combat to keep it interesting. While there are other characters to play throughout the game, all of them use the same move sets with different animations to accommodate their character, so there really isn't a strategy to use when playing as different characters.


Game Mechanics:

Probably the biggest problem Kung Fu Panda suffers from is the poorly designed button layout. Attacks are performed by pressing the (B) button for quick attacks and swinging the Wii-mote to produce heavy attacks. The quick attack on the trigger is nice and works well, but the heavy attack is pretty useless and there are only two enemies in the entire game that really require the heavy attack in order to defeat them. The camera is controlled with the D-pad, but I found I was centering the camera with the (C) button because the camera migrates too often. The (Z) button blocks, but this is another useless button because there are enough health items throughout the game so you won't worry about defense. There are special moves to pull off, but I found that I hardly used them because of how quickly most enemies die.

Lastly, the Nunchuck controls certain parts of the game to balance your character left or right so they don't fall off tightropes and small bridges. The balancing portions seem reasonable, but then there are segments where you have to use those same motion controls in order to move the character away from danger during a scripted event. The game makes you stop controlling the movement of your character with the analog stick and replaces it with the unresponsive motion-controlled Nunchuck. This is a game design choice that I will never understand. These portions of the game are easily the hardest because finding the finesse with which to rotate the controller the smallest degree is much more difficult than the final boss of the game.

Overall, Kung Fu Panda fails to break out of the traditional movie-game tie-in. It is a decent platformer that will keep fans of the movie pleased, but not many others. A recommendation for this game only comes after watching the movie, and even then it is only if you want more of its anthropomorphic Kung Fu action.


-HanChi, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Hanchey

Sony PlayStation 2 Chaos Wars Sony PlayStation 3 Enemy Territory: Quake Wars

 
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