“Hey Moo,” my boss-type calls me Moo, “how’s that Kung-fu Panda game coming along?”
“I think I need an MRI on my arm. Do you cover that?” I asked.
He just laughs and cracks the whip. “Wax on, wax off, buddy!” he grins as he shuts the door on me. I unpause the game with a quicktap of the + button on the Wiimote. I give my 7 year old daughter a nod. I wince a little as I grip the nunchuk, but smile as I focus my qi and prepare for the next battle.
Kung-fu is actually a Chinese term alluding “to any individual accomplishment or cultivated skill obtained by long and hard work.” It is not necessarily a martial arts discipline. Kung-fu Panda is a Dreamworks animated movie coming out Summer 08. In wushu, the actual kung-fu martial art, one can be recognized in certain competitions by wearing a black belt. In Kung-fu Panda, one can easily recognize Jack Black. So you see the ying and yang going on here. These Dreamworks guys are genius. Geniuses. Genii? Genies?
So thanks to modern technology, speaking of genies, I am hooked up with a voice recognition program. This is so I can talk to you about the game while my left arm is in my homemade MRI machine made out of refrigerator magnets.
Note to self: pay better attention to medical coverage benefits.
Here’s the part where he says the graphics are bright and functional. Yes, I am saying the graphics are bright and functional again. It’s true. They are. And I don’t know where my thesaurus is. Very well, we’ll try some suggestions from thesaurus.com.
The graphics for Kung-fu Panda are irradiant, lustrous, and conducive to the imagination! *sets off a Chinese firecracker bundle* Hey that was fun. So too are the game’s visuals. The levels offer enough freedom for you to do a lot of wandering around, but the path is defined so it isn’t hard to find out where you’re going next. Whether you’re following a trail of gold coins, or just faced with crossing a bridge it is not an exercise in vexation to know what needs to be done.
There are a couple difficult parts when we go into the multi-player modes. The battles can be 2-player, 2-player vs, and up to 4-player. So you can go head to head, team up against the world, or go head-to-head-to-head-[to-head]. The last one is in brackets because its optional. You can go with 3 or 4 players in this mode, but that’s a lot of head-to-head so have some Tylenol handy. Use only as directed! Some of the levels are large, and dark. There is this one bit where you can fall off the platforms trying to jump back and forth between them, and fall off the platforms we did — a lot. It’s very hard to judge your leap, especially when the opponent is far away leading to a wide-angle shot, and chances of bouncing off a support rope and to your doom below are great. This can be mitigated with practice, of course.
The multiplayer had its moments, but its not nearly as fun as a game dedicated to the topic such as Street Fighter or Tekken. Having more than two-players on the screen is chaos, but not nearly as Captain-Insano as the 2-player vs the world mode. You and your partner are in a large area and the mobs just pour into the place like the Wang family reunion. I’m not familiar with the Wangs, but I’m told there are a ton of them in the phone book for China. The only problem with this metaphor is that instead of raking in a behemoth of a food bill, you have to kick everyone’s butt as they chase you and try to kick yours.
You cannot get Jack Black to do the video game. That’s impossible. Instead, try and realize the truth: Jack Black’s voice isn’t that hard to pull off. Then you will see the game does not need Jack Black, but rather some aspiring actor with a talent for voices and an intravenous drip of Mountain Dew in one arm, and IT-grade coffee in the other.
I love Jack Black. I love Tenacious D. No disrespect to Jack. He’s very busy and good for him. There’s no singing so that’s in the kid’s favor, but he does the voice and vocal mannerisms very well. A couple other folks from the movie are in the game. James Hong — perhaps best known for his role as Lo Pan in Big Trouble in Little China — is a lot of fun as Mr. Ping. Fred Tatasciore — widely known in the industry and most recently as Mass Effect’s Saren — is Shifu. Brian T. Delaney — who isn’t widely known, but one has to start somewhere — does a very serious Master Mantis.
As with most animated-movie-turned-into-a-game-so-I-can-fulfill-my-hyphen-quota, the sound effects are right out of the movie. They’re high quality and meant to re-kindle the joys of the movie. Shawn Thomas Odyssey does a fine job, but kung-fu sound effects aren’t really an area in which one may be innovative. Hyah ho woo hyah, etc. Da-da-da-da da da-Da-da-daaa. Smash gong.
There is good and there is bad parts to the control system. And while I played the game until my arm was dead, I could have kept going if not for a couple of those bad parts. Then again, I had trouble putting the game down so perhaps it was for the best. Fighting is largely done with the Wiimote. The good: side-to-side shake of the Wiimote for the big attack, good use of combo-moves, and B-trigger for quick attacks. The bad: using the A-button to jump and double jump, some latency with attacks, and excessive use of the rarely used +/- buttons to advance the story. Getting around the world of Kung-Fu Panda utilizes nunchuk. The good: using the chuk’s sensors for balance when crossing over tightropes or similar narrow walkways. The bad: using the thumb-stick for everything else. As far as bad things go, that’s about as good as you can get though. The odd: using the Z-button for blocking and the C to re-center the camera. It works, but why didn’t they do more with the X-axis of the Wiimote?
The big move is why my left arm is so tired. I was constantly trying to do the big flashy maneuver, but there’s a certain talent, or perhaps a knack, to know when it is time for said move. And apparently I lack in said talent, or perhaps knack, when it comes to that moment. This translates into me shaking the Wiimote vigorously along the Y-axis to try and be flashy when all I probably had to do was flick the trigger a couple times. Fortune cookie says: No need to kill housefly with Magnum .44 handgun [except in bed].
So aside from some timing issues, and a lot of Wiimote wagging, the controls are good. They’re pretty standard, but might have put this revolutionary control set to better use.
The game is based on a movie. If you’ve seen the movie you have a good idea where the game is going to go. If you played the game, you have a fair chance of guessing the final scene in the movie. The problem with anything “based on” is that you either know pretty much what is going to happen, or you’re going to cry foul when it deviates too far from its source. It’s a sort of meh/meh situation most often.
The multiplayer options are somewhat lacking, and since I haven’t seen the movie yet I cannot really make suggestions as I’d like to. The fights are short and quick. One has an odd scoring system as it goes by 3s for player vs player, and the team-against-the-neverending-bag-of-foes scoring is really weird. I scored over 120 and my daughter racked up 80 points and all we get a a huge You Lose in red. I don’t really know what the point was other than to make your Wiimote-arm sore. There’s other games where you shoot targets and stuff, but I didnt have enough people around to really explore those much.
There are lots of opportunities to gather coins and use these to buy accessories like costumes, or even skill bonuses. Everything starts out relatively cheap, like 10 per point, but gets expensive really quick so pay attention before you start tapping buttons on a particular skill/bonus. The game isn’t extraordnarily strategic, but you do have to be on your toes.
There’s a certain puzzle aspect to some of the levels, but really the game is aimed at kids and it seems that bar is getting lower and lower any more. Why I had to walk to school uphill both way … ahem, I digress. There are some parts that look like you can reach them, but you can’t. Yet if you move passed them a little you find a way to get what you couldn’t reach. Perhaps its a lesson in patience. I hate patience.If you really loved the movie, then you will want the game. At least you have the game to play and relive before the DVD comes out. The kids seem to like it quite a bit and its not so hard that they give up after a couple tries.