Kung Fu Panda Review

Bet you thought we forgot about this one. Fear not, we have finally managed to get what we came for, and now present that unto you. Best buckle your shoes.

Kung-fu is actually a Chinese term alluding “to any individual accomplishment or cultivated skill obtained by long and hard work.”[1] 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?

Console game meets the ancient art of the personal computer. Southwest California meets northwest California. Keyboard meets tender fingers! Can the PC offer the same balance and enjoyment the consoles have seemed to provide? Only time will tell.


Minimum System Requirements for Microsoft

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’s a bit of that new bloom effect in the game. That hazy sort of Liz Taylor trick that tries to make something haggard look pretty. It’s not super annoying, but I’m not sure what the point is.

There are a couple difficult parts when we go into the multi-player modes. 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.

I had a significant problem with the game locking up my computer and the graphics turning into a mosaic of junk. The only way out was to reboot the PC. There was no particular event that caused this, and it seemed to be a timing thing almost. The computer handles other games like Battlefield2, Age of Conan, and World of Warcraft just fine, so I’m not sure what gives, but a caveat emptor moment.

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. James Hong — perhaps best known for his role as Lo Pan in Big Trouble in Little China — does his own Mr. Ping, but that’s basically it from the movie. However, we do get Fred Tatasciore — widely known in the industry and most recently as Mass Effect’s Saren — as Shifu. 

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.

The PC version actually has a couple issues with background sounds becoming way too prevalent, and I had some issues with a tinny sound and slight echo. Very likely issues with my sound card and woeful speakers, but I tried several settings with no luck.

Here it is, I’m a keyboard man. If I can avoid using a mouse I will. I know the shortcuts and I know them well. The PC keyboard controls for this game are atrocious! The mouse controls for the camera are atrocious. The non-controller experience with the game is just down right terrible.

If you intend to play with a keyboard then you’d better be one dexteritous person with a family history of dexteritous persons! The WASD are used for movement. No huge deal. Jumping: spacebar. OK I’m with you. Oh, but camera controls are used by the arrow keys. Blah! Fighting is the numpad buttons 4 and 6, and everything else is the numpad 5. Special moves, conversion with the locals, picking things up, using things picked up all of it is the 5 key, and I have a bit of an issue with the numpad.

Oh sure you can go in and change the keys. That’s a bit of a process, but it can be done. You can invert mouse axes, but if you think you can map the keys and use them in an MMORPG fashion I think you’re in for a bit of a learning curve. You cannot program keys to mouse buttons, and the camera is not your friend in this game. You have got to use it and a lot.

Trickier still is that the controls are content based. If you hop onto a wall’s edge you can shimmy along that edge. If you’re looking at your back, it’s rather easy to figure out the left and right keys for moving side to side. However, if you have an angled perspective — like your left flank — then the forward key is used for moving away and down is used for moving towards you!  Kinda clever on some level I suppose, but hardly intuitive and annoying.

The gameplay is quite the challenge given the control system. Trying to jump and grab things is a trial in futility. You need to get real good with the camera in order to be able to judge your angle, position, and vector when hopping around. Take into account the perspective based movement requirement and you might just lose a few hairs.

The most beautiful thing about PC gameplay is that there is a free demo to try. Get it before you buy unless you know you just love the movie so much you have to have it. The game is fun as has been noted in the other reviews, but the controls have to be taken into account.

With enough USB controllers you can all crowd around the PC or TV hookup and have fun with the side games. The player vs player maps can be tricky with some of them having gaps that you may fall through. What’s really fun is that some of the bits are destructible and may make getting around a bit more challenging. There’s a 4-player shoot ’em up which is pretty much like an old Wild West simulator where you pick off targets before your competitors.

I was slightly startled by the hefty requirements of the game. Nearly 6GB of hard drive space required, and some heavy duty processing power for a game that doesn’t need a strong 3-D graphics presence or physics engine. It’s based off an animated movie, not The Matrix.

However, if your kids have a computer that’s powerful enough for Kung-fu Panda, then they can enjoy the game in their own version of privacy. Then again, a child old enough to want their privacy is probably not worried about this particular title. The requirements seem a bit steep for a beginner’s computer, but a family system with several controllers can make for some nice family fun. This is definitely for the kids, but they’ll need Daddy’s computer.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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