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Kung Fu Panda

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

Kung Fu Panda deserves more credit for its animation system than the overall visual picture. Although everything is true to the movie and looks decent, some parts look a little too muddy, almost as if there was an attempt to squeeze in as many details as possible. However, considering the source material, less may have been better.

Getting back to the animation system, the swipe-based control system requires a lot of flexibility and freedom. There are a few minor hiccups, though they aren't that noticeable with the only problems being a result of some not-so-different stylus motions.

While the visuals aren't particularly impressive, sound is really good. The background music always fits the situation and there's a lot of voice acting during story sequences, which is pretty impressive for a DS game. The quality isn't the best, but Po's personality really comes through.


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.


Unlimited lives means that there's really no way to lose the game, so your game is never really "over" until you decide to save and turn off the DS. However, this doesn't mean that Kung Fu Panda is an easy game. Although the combat doesn't present many challenges beyond the final boss, who is incredibly cheap, the puzzles in each level are well-designed. There are a few where the solution is obvious; however others are probably too clever for their own good. Some require near expert timing with the touch controls, while others may require you to hold onto an object and fight at the same time. Some of the more challenging puzzles didn't take too long to figure out - especially with some really creative solutions - though I can see younger players having issues.

Game Mechanics:

Kung Fu Panda uses a combination of stylus and face buttons to control Po. Both the D-pad and face buttons control movement, making it comfortable for both righties and lefties. Everything else is handled using various slashes and taps on the touch screen. The system is generally responsive, though there are only so many ways you can slash the stylus across the screen, so there are some issues when it comes to the game recognizing what you want to do. For example, Master Crane teaches Po a glide trick that is activated by drawing a long line across the screen. However, the game will sometimes read the line as an attack, usually ending in a long trip down a bottomless pit. There are safeguards in place, like a symbol appearing at the end of the drawn arrow or a short time pause whenever the stylus touches the pad, though it isn't always reliable - which is usually about the time you'll end up saving and turning off the game.

Even with its problems, it is really hard to not like Kung Fu Panda. It's a smart game (sometimes a little too smart) that takes a moderate gamble and succeeds, resulting in a product that is better than your typical movie tie-in.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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