As the temperatures continue to rise and air conditioners continue to break, we are reminded that summer has come. Often this means bad news for games, but new movies couldn’t be more plentiful. With this wave of new movies come new movie-based games, and this summer is no exception. Unfortunately, these games are often poorly made and rushed out in an attempt to make money. Thankfully, this proves not to be the case with Kung Fu Panda.
I know what you’re thinking: “It’s a movie game. It’s a cartoon. It’s rated E. Why would anyone want to play it?” Well, there are a couple of reasons, but it’s best to start with the biggest one: Kung Fu Panda is fun. After all, you play as an overweight panda that knows kung fu and sounds like Jack Black. Every word in that sentence shouts “fun.”
You play as Po, who dreams of being the fabled Dragon Warrior and fighting alongside the Furious Five, the best martial artists in the land. Po, however, is a panda, and a rather hungry one at that, and has no kung-fu training at all. Meanwhile, the evil Tai Lung has escaped prison and is quickly approaching the Valley of Peace to take the Dragon Scroll. It is up to Po, destined to be the true Dragon Warrior, to defeat Tai Lung and save the Valley of Peace. As Po, you’ll “perfect” his awesome moves, face mighty foes, and hear funny dialogue. Truly an epic journey.
The game is family friendly, so the controls aren’t all that complicated. You string together combos of light and heavy attacks using two buttons, and there’s also a block, jump and special-attack button. The special attacks range from belly flops to the Panda Stumble, all making use of Po’s, er, bodacity. These attacks can be used by acquiring Chi, which enemies frequently drop. Most of the game involves unleashing kung fu-style butt kicking with some creative twists thrown in such as river rafting and a firework cannon. On occasion, you’ll run into the all-too-familiar timed button sequences that have become overly used recently. These pop up unexpectedly and will at least keep you on your toes. Throughout the journey you also find coins, which you can use to amplify Po’s kungfuiness, as well as rare collectibles that unlock concept art, videos and multiplayer stages.
The story mode comes in three levels of difficulty, Student, Master and Dragon Warrior. The only real difference among them, though, is that the enemies are more durable and hit a little harder. Multiplayer consists of a cooperative mode in which you and a buddy team up to take on waves of enemies, and a battle mode comprised of one-on-one kung fu grudge matches.
There are still some things that should have spent a little more time training in the dojo. First off, even though the game is geared toward kids, its difficulty is still easy-peasy, with Dragon Warrior providing a slight challenge. Po also can’t jump very well, which is fine until he gets stuck on something while in the jumping animation, or if he fails to grab onto a ledge he is clearly able to reach. None of these things really makes the game unplayable, so the biggest setback being that the game is just too short (seven to nine hours, including cinematics).
Kung Fu Panda is colorful, with the art and backgrounds closely resembling those of the movie. The character designs are surprisingly detailed and well made; a protagonist has never looked so … fuzzy. Clearly, a lot of work has gone into Kung Fu Panda, and the game does not feel rushed like many movie tie-ins do. There are times when you will play as someone other than Po, but these sections are rather short.
Kung Fu Panda the game will entertain you or your kids, which is more than you can say for most games in general, let alone ones based on a summer film. The fact alone that it’s a movie game that’s actually good should be enough to warrant a play, even if it’s just to listen to Jack Black say “awesome” a lot. If you plan to play this game and see the movie, it would be best to see the movie first. The game has cool bad guys that are absent from the film, and the game may make the movie seem lacking. In the end, Kung Fu Panda is “an epic journey of kung fu awesomeness,” however short it may be.
- Score: 8
- The game looks good, plays good and is just as funny as the movie. However, it isn’t all that long and lacks challenge.
— John Dempsey