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Kung Fu Panda

Score: 56%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Beenox
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Adventure/ Fighting/ Action

Graphics & Sound:

Kung Fu Panda is a game based on the movie of the same name and releases right around the same time. The movie features a rather out-of-shape panda named Po who has fantasies of being a martial arts hero. Po's actual heroes are a group of kung fu masters known as the "Furious Five." The five are fittingly masters of several animal inspired syles, with a tiger being master of tiger style, a monkey with monkey style, etc.

Kung Fu Panda for PC doesn't win the award for graphics among the different versions of this game. It definitely doesn't look as good as say the Xbox 360 version. This is probably in order to ensure that a wide range of hardware can run it. Even so, Kung Fu Panda asks for a whopping 5.5 GB of hard drive space for installation, so be prepared.

So while you'll see a bit of that feathery hair that will remind you of the painstaking CG animation from the movie, and you'll hear sound bytes from the movie's famous cast, you won't be fooled into thinking you're watching the movie here. The animation is also not as fluid as you'd like to see. In fact, the normal behavior for NPCs is simply to remain glued into place. There are also some graphical glitches every now and then, such as some really badly pixelated water in one level. It doesn't help that all the cut scenes are done with the in-game graphics, so you're never really given that visual feast you're looking for when you come back from watching the movie.


Gameplay:

Kung Fu Panda is a simple beat-em-up style game that is laced with scenes from the movie. As for your role in the action, you'll be sent off to fetch various items such as eggs and vases, and of course beat up tons of bad guys. If Kung Fu Panda does anything well, it's reminding you of how to perform various attacks. There are scrolls scattered around that will give you tips on how to do special moves and perform various attacks. They remind you about how to do some attacks repeatedly, but it usually seemed to correspond with the best strategy of attack for each area. Goals for each level are explained pretty well, but carrying them out is a different story due to camera problems and other various issues.

There are some multiplayer games available in Kung Fu Panda but many have to be unlocked by finding special coins throughout the game. These multiplayer games aren't going to be much fun if you don't enjoy the rest of the game. It would have been nice to have a co-op story mode to make things easier in the main game. You can use the multiplayer games as a slightly more relaxing way to spend your time with this game. For example, in addition to the competitive multiplayer fighting games, there is a puzzle game and a matching game.

This game version of Kung Fu Panda does a pretty bad job of setting up the story and creating a stand alone world. You get the feeling you've supposed to have already seen the movie to enjoy the game. Okay, this is understandable - the game is geared toward fans of the movie. But if you take the game by itself, it does a poor job of explaining character motivations or background. For example, in the early stages, Po is rescuing rabbits from boars. There's no explanation about why the boars are picking on the rabbits though. Also, it seems like the rabbits and other townspeople are fond of Po, but there's no development of this. In other words, to be motivated enough to finish this game, you have to absolutely love listening to sound bytes from Jack Black. Either that or you have to love the movie a whole lot. In other words, this is your typical case of lazy movie licensing.


Difficulty:

Even on the hardest difficulty, Kung Fu Panda is quite manageable until the very end. You can get through most fights with a bit of strategy, and learning effective combos only makes battles go by faster. There aren't any big "one-hit killers," so you'll be able to explore and try new things pretty leisurely. At least as far as fighting goes this is true, but there are still places where you can instantly "die." There is a level you will have the pleasure of visiting a few times where apparently bottomless ponds of water are an ever present hazard. But like so many other games, adjusting the difficulty level does nothing to curb other problems, like awkward camera action and controls.

Kung Fu Panda does make an attempt to structure the first level into a sort of tutorial mode. It guides you into using strong attacks against strong enemies, using the panda roll to roll through certain areas. This, and the many repetitive tips you get throughout the game, do ensure that you'll know the basic controls. Still, when you get near the end of the game, little can be done to make fighting the hordes of enemies you're thrown against any easier. It's just your classic game of quick attack, dodge, and repeat for as long as you can stand it.


Game Mechanics:

Kung Fu Panda starts you off with a pretty awkward keyboard placement that requires you to lift you hand in order to change the camera. Not very handy, especially in a game that asks you to do lots of silly platformer leaps. Of course the layout is customizable, which should make this issue a little easier to deal with. In fact, I wanted to go with the mouse and keyboard combination, but the camera controls suddenly become shaky and even more awkward when you use the mouse. Add that to the fact that some scenes require you to use the keyboard layout anyway (for simon says style button-pressing sequences), so you're better off getting used to it anyway.

One good option this game has going for it is the compatibility with the Xbox 360 controller, which will probably make controlling it all a bit easier. Ah, but if you have an Xbox 360 controller, it's a wonder why you don't just buy the 360 version of this game.

Either way, this game suffers from a bad, uninspired platformer mentality. One level in particular has this and all the worst qualities of the game rolled up into it. Apparently someone thinks it's loads of fun to jump from identical lily pad to identical lily pad with instant death waiting everywhere. This was mentioned before, but what makes it worse is the fact that if you're not spot on, you'll often get "stuck" on the edges of the lily pads. Sometimes you can jump repeatedly to get unstuck, but more often than not, the game decides to send you plummeting to your demise anyway. The glitches aren't exclusive to the platforming aspects of the game, as sometimes you'll find yourself vaulted into the sky or stuck in other areas for no particular reason. I didn't run across anything that was game-stopping, but it was very annoying either way.

In addition, the camera is not very friendly in this game. Sometimes it will switch to a fixed camera in order to aid you with a particular jump. The decision to help you with platform jumps seems to be a bit random, however, and often is more detrimental than helpful.

So in the end, Kung Fu Panda is one of those movie based games where you're supposed to be utterly enthralled just because you're in control of your favorite movie character. You don't get to do or see anything particularly unique here, and there's not much fun in the gameplay here to make up for it. Frustrating controls don't help the case for Kung Fu Panda - I have a hard time finding anything fun about this game at all. I'd say it's safe to pass this by, even if you're a fan of the movie.


-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows Vista/XP, Pentium 4 2.4 GHz or Athlon XP 2400, 512 MB (XP) 1024 MB (Vista) RAM, 5.5 GB free hard drive space, ATI Radeon 9500 128 MB RAM or NVIDIA Geforce FX 5600 128 MB RAM (onboard chipsets not supported)
 

Test System:



Windows XP, 3.20 GHz Intel Pentium 4, 4 GB Ram, RADEON X850, Creative SB Audigy 2 ZS

Macintosh Neptune's Secret Sony PlayStation 3 Kung Fu Panda

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated