When I was offered the task of reviewing Rag Doll Kung-Fu: Fists of Plastic for the Playstation Network, my first thought wasn’t to the 2004 release of Rag Doll Kung Fu on the PC; instead I had thought back to the fun I had with the original Xbox Kung-Fu Chaos.

 

With up to four players beating on each other mercilessly, special chi moves and a campy game setting, it had all the trappings of a successor to the over-the-top Kung-Fu genre. So the 10 dollar question is: is it good enough to steal your peach?

This game is not at all about the graphics, but the physics. They have, however, put some effort into making the characters look plastic enough to convince you that you are controlling cheaply made toys that you’d find in any flea market bargain bin.

 

There really isn’t a lot to say about the graphics otherwise; the backgrounds are nice but there aren’t any surprises to look for as each location is a static set. In the foreground, the special effects are limited but don’t hold the score back – I think that the use of the plastic-toy style is about the only thing that bothers me in this.

 

I can say that my personal preference would have been that they had made the characters more life-like or gone with cell-shading.  As is, the look of the game, while convincing, has me disinterested. The style feels like it was implemented to satisfy the title alone, and it comes across feeling forced and very -wait for it- plastic.

Although there is no dialog, there is plenty of voice acting by the way of “oyouahs”, “watahs” as well as the moans and exclamations ripped right from the pages of Kung-Fu movies of old. It doesn’t add to the game any, but it certainly would be missed if they had omitted them.

 

The music is also standard fare. in that it sounds exactly like the classic background music that every single other video game, movie, TV show or song that deals with any martial arts uses. The surround sound is used but since the game is two-dimensional all it can really add is a little ambiance.

I’m going to start off saying that if you have ever had a cheaply made action figure of any sorts, especially the ones where the limb movements are based on elastic tension, you have already played this game.

 

The arms can be individually controlled for taunts and poses (though they are ineffectual in combat while being used in the pose mode). The only benefit to posing is in the King-of-the-Hill game, and to help build up Chi. Otherwise you could taunt- which supposedly builds up your chi, or just play around once a battle is complete to monkey around with poses. The reason I say supposedly is that you will rarely get the chance to stand still long enough for it to have any effect.

 

The rest of the controls are pretty simple. Left joystick movement controls direction, and the X is used to jump. Triangle is to kick, square is your punch and circle is block or slam. These three uses can be directed 360 degrees with the joystick, so in other words, you can make her kick high.

 

You also have L1 to pick up items, and R1 to grapple. Some items you pick up can be swung in combat by moving the the right analog joystick (such as the staff or nunchucks), or aimed and fired like the dodgeball or the shuriken (throwing stars). Grappling basically means picking up an opponent, and then you can execute a slam, jump or toss them around.

 

The last bit of the controls are by far the most frustrating – your chi attacks. All executed by engaging the six-axis controls in different ways, and while I could get them to work, being able to effectively use some of them is almost impossible.

 

Some, like the firefly attacks (an attack that has you sliding across the screen with a punch or kick) require directional controls, both from the left joystick and the six-axis. You are also holding down the kick or punch button and can steer in the air so you’re not always aiming sideways. The healing requires you to turn your controller upside down which I found to be awkward.

 

There is no adjustment for any controls or any alternatives which is what I found more frustrating than anything else. Since the success in this game hinges on your timely use of chi attacks, this costs the rating of the game heavily. Simply put- Rag Doll Kung-Fu: Fists of Plastic is not the game to show off six-axis functionality unless your demonstration is intended to show how the controller is able to damage drywall.

I am not one to play games over and over again to get a higher score. I might try a few times, perhaps a dozen. RDKF:FoP requires this to even begin to enjoy the game. The entire single player experience hinges on you being able to beat the challenges (such as how many flips you can perform to how much you can juggle an opponent in the air).

 

There is no story at all to speak of, which works well because the characters don’t speak. There is little more than a dozen single player challenges to go through, and getting bronze, silver, gold and plastic fist ratings unlocks more costumes to wear.

 

On the multiplayer side, be sure you have room on the couch because this PSN title offers no online multiplayer combat. Shared screen only with a half-dozen maps (which are static in nature and pretty forgettable) and only four multiplayer game modes. You can fight it out, play King-of-the-Hill, fight to toss fish in a bucket, or play dodgeball. The AI options are flexible in that you can select how many computer opponents can participate, how capable they are, and which team(s) you’d like them assigned to.

Before having a friend of mine join me in the game, I thought this game was a total waste of time. With no single player interaction other than to unlock costumes and trophies, the real value in this title is if you have a group of friends over to play with.

 

Even playing multiplayer has it’s limits; unless you truly enjoy fighting game mechanics the limited number of moves and the awkwardness of the six-axis controls leads to frustration. Once the novelty wears off – you are left with a game that is little more than an updated version of a tech demo.

 

Completing challenges at different levels will unlock costume bits, but since they all ultimately are on the bad side of campy, I can’t get behind the idea of spending hours trying to learn to juggle to get one more footwear option.

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