Unlike the console versions, the DS version of Kung Fu Panda
is primarily a side-scrolling action game, with a twist of Metroid
-style exploration and ability acquisition. The game's plot loosely follows the plot of the movie, focusing primarily on Po having to rescue the Furious Five from their cages scattered all over the Valley of Peace.
Similar to Metroid, Po begins the game in a weak state; he has access to a limited set of moves and not many places to go. As you progress through the game, Po learns new moves such as a very Metroid-like rolling ball that lets him move through small spaces or a monkey grip that lets him grab objects and launch himself to higher locations. Most of the levels are action-oriented, though most are based around solving puzzles in order to unlock paths to different levels. Some involve beating the clock while others might require Po to throw objects at certain areas or navigate other environmental puzzles.
Although the overall level design is smart (sometimes a little too smart), the layout feels stiff and linear. In Metroid, or any other exploration-heavy game, you have the freedom to explore your surroundings and unlock branching paths to new areas. Here, the path is incredibly obvious - once you unlock a skill, you are told exactly where to go next, most of the time following a strict path. This takes away from the exploration aspects, which are one of the game's stronger features.
There are also several missed opportunities to use Po's skills in less than obvious ways. There are some really cool things that can be done by mixing abilities, like throwing an object in the air and then using the monkey toss to launch to higher platforms. Then there's the Po Ball, which is criminally underused for anything other than the odd tunnel or ramp.