|System: Wii, PS3, X360, PS2, DS, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: XPEC||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 3, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
If I couldn't tell from the hot, humid weather outside or the fact that all the neighborhood kids are home now, then I could still figure out fairly easily that it's summer. Why? Because Kung Fu Panda is the second movie-based video game that I've had to review in about ten days. While it's pretty much a typical movie knock-off video game, it is better than average and has some fun moments to offer.
Kung Fu Panda's story is just about identical to that of the movie (it works nicely as a little preview if, for some reason, you're really excited about this Jack Black film). The morbidly obese panda named Po dreams of becoming a Kung Fu master, and finally gets his chance to shine when an evil presence (Tai Lung) invades Po's peaceful home. It's up to Po to learn from the "Furious Five" and his Kung Fu teacher to master the skills he'll need to defeat Tai Lung's armies and eventually the head honcho himself. It's a pretty basic kids' movie story about following your dreams and never giving up. The characters are unremarkable, as is the dialogue, but you'd be hard-pressed to call Kung Fu Panda's plot "bad".
Kung Fu Panda is a pretty fun action game, that focuses mainly on combat and some basic platforming. Po's arsenal is pretty standard fare: jumping and double jumping, some other neat moves, as well as a variety of attacks. At your disposal, you've got a basic quick attack and a slower, stronger attack. The A button is used for jumping, while the B trigger and shakes of the Wii remote are used to attack. The motion-sensitive controls actually work quite well, which was a nice surprise. Shaking the remote is used for special attacks, and the motion sensitivity of the Nunchuk is used in a few instances throughout the game (for example, keeping your balance as you cross a rope). Combat is pretty satisfying, and stringing together combos on enemies is strangely fun.
But beyond this simple gameplay, Kung Fu Panda has a deeper experience to offer. Firstly is the fact that this is far more than a simple beat-em-up game, and some basic role-playing elements definitely help to make that clear. Throughout the game, you get coins for defeating enemies. These coins can then be used to upgrade various aspects of Po's character. For example, you can upgrade his life bar, fighting strength, as well as make certain moves stronger. Additionally, there are some unlockables here, but they'll likely only be of interest to younger gamers who are really into the movie.
The second big aspect of this game that really helps it out is there's a ton of variety to the gameplay. It's not a game that was developed quickly as a cheap cash-in (or so it seems). Instead, as you play you really get the sense the development team put some real effort into making this an enjoyable game. While you play most of the game as Po, there are also times where you get to play as various members of the Furious Five. Though the basic gameplay mechanic remains intact, each character plays quite differently -- for example, it's a big change to play as a speedy character after the slow, lumbering Po. In addition, you'll also square off against some fairly fun bosses, engage in mini-games, or complete action scenes requiring specific inputs. It's a fairly fun system, and it's surprisingly well done for a game of this sort.