Review: Kung Fu Live (Sony Playstation 3)

Kung Fu Live
Developer: Virtual Air Guitar Company
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Genre: Fighter
Released: 12/07/10

The invention of console accessories like the Playstation Eye and Microsoft Kinect, with their motion sensing abilities has witnessed the arrival of a great many innovations in games. For instance we are now seeing games which attempt to take advantage of the motion detection built into these peripherals. One such game is Kung Fu Live, from Virtual Air Guitar. Released online via the Playstation Network, the game requires the Playstation Eye.

Story:

The story for the game appears to be ripped directly from a Jackie Chan movie. A lowly schlub, you start your first day on the job at a comic book store and are immediately left alone while the owner attends to business. You are told that you must not touch a painting you see hanging on the wall. Shortly after the owner leaves the store is attacked by thugs and you manage to accidentally break the painting, allowing the demon within to escape and plunge the city into terror. You feel it is now your job to save the city and retrap this demon. You feel you can do this because you now have gained the ability to fight. You know Kung Fu. Woah.

As I said, the plot feels like it could be any number of Jackie Chan movies. Not what I’d call a nominee for Plot of the year.

Graphics:

Kung Fu Live does a good job of making the stages feel like you are in a comic book, as the story is told in comic book panels between levels. You play in front of the Playstation Eye and your image is keyed into the game. For this to work properly you must have a well lit room and be distinctive enough to stand out from the background. I myself have a white wall as my background, and even when I wore all black the game still had difficulty on occasion distinguishing me from the background.

The best way I can describe the levels you fight on is to imagine a Mortal Kombat game, as they feel quite similar in my mind.

Sound:

The voice acting is pretty good, not excellent but its not offensive. You are given hints by a lady with a Chinese accent and the main character voice is not what I would call robust, but that would have gone against the story they were telling, so good on them I suppose for doing what the director asked.

There isn’t a whole lot of music. Honestly I am sitting here after just playing it and I can’t recall any at all. Perhaps its a case of getting what you can into the download.

Sound effects are minimalist as well. You hear what you would expect when punching people, things similar to what you’d see in any episode of the old Batman television show, but nothing stands out and grabs me here.

Gameplay/Controls:

This game, she’s a workout. To put it mildly the game subscribes to the Microsoft viewpoint that you are the controller. Anything you do will be considered a punch or kick. You are in the game and your actions determine how the game reacts to you. So if you throw a punch in real life you throw one in the game. It’s kind of neat. Where it runs into problems is in the details. The game is basically a 2D brawler like Double Dragon. You load into a level and then you a set number of opponents before you can move on. Fine right? No problem. Except you are going to be attacked from the left or right, while you are looking at the screen. In order to fight you must be facing left or right, and in order to see what you are attacking you must look at the game. Imagine that, a videogame that forces you to look at the screen.

Kung Fu Live requires a set amount of free unhindered space, much in the way Kinect does. You can fight at an angle – in fact the game recommends you do this in order to turn around and face opponents who are attacking you from behind more quickly – but this reduces your attack range.

As you go through the game you learn a number of different moves which the game is supposed to recognize and implement when you perform the motions. You can jump and dodge, perform power punches and various other special attacks, and fly in the proper circumstances. And then as you progress through the game you will learn that the game does not always recognize when you are attempting to perform these manuevers. This can be quite the hassle when you are looking to power punch an opponent, or perhaps go all Raiden on someone by zapping him to death. Or maybe you are just trying to get across the screen to fight an opponent who is teleporting all over the map but can’t because there is no jump button.

There are plenty of ways to attack but strangely no way to block. You can evade, and on the lesser difficulty levels the game will warn you about where the next attack is going to strike, allowing you to evade if you can move quickly enough. You can also counter attack following a successful evasion, but I can’t imagine why there is no block ability. It would have proved immensely useful.

Replayability:

I don’t think there is a single thing in this game that I want to experience again. The game does have a multiplayer functionality where up to 4 friends can beat on each other. Of course you’ll need a hangar to play in so that you aren’t actually kicking each others heads in. You can also play in quick play, where you can choose the stage and how many opponents.

Balance:

The fighting doesn’t exactly get harder. It’s difficult to get harder when it’s impossible to fight correctly in the first place. Against lowly foot soldiers things are actually pretty fun. You can back them into corners and it starts to feel a bit like a street fighter game, juggling them until they are eventually knocked out. That feeling goes away in the later stages though. Enemies get larger (though not always more difficult.) and their attacks more powerful, but the real enemy on these levels is in fact the stage itself. One level, for example, has you fighting above a lava pit on a series of girders. You can use your flying skills to move around this level pretty well, but because you cannot block enemies can very easily knock you off the girder into the lava below. I got pretty good at flying in this stage, but momentum doesn’t just go away here, it can take a little while for the upward force of your flying ability to take over from gravity’s pull.

Originality:

Well I’ve already told you that the plot is Jackie Chan-esque. In terms of gameplay this is the first game I’ve played where I can see myself in all of my glory on the screen. I can see myself squashed by giant trolls, sinking into a lava pit, and thrown all over the screen like there was no tomorrow.

It’s also the first game I’ve seen that told me up front that the developers weren’t responsible for my death, should it occur. Thanks for the vote of confidence there Virtual Air Guitar. Appreciate it.

Addictiveness:

I’ve seen Uwe Boll movies that were more addicting. Were I not reviewing this game it would have been deleted from my hard drive within minutes.

Appeal Factor:

It’s possible that fans of B-list action movies the likes that Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee starred in could see something here, but that will quickly dissipate once they see the massive issues with this game. This is a budget title using a gimmick to get by, and it shows.

Miscellaneous:

The user interface isn’t bad. At the beginning of every game you calibrate your gameplay area, going to the edges of the screen. You are told to hold your hand over a button that appears on screen, and this tells the game that yes, you have a full range of motion. All of this can be done without a controller.

Once you get into the game though, you are often forced to pick up a controller to press a button to start the game. You can choose to wait the 10 seconds and listen to the announcer, but this is aggravating. I should be able to start the game by pressing a button on screen in a way similar to the calibration screen, and not being able to just makes me wonder why I can not.

The Scores:
Story: Bad
Graphics: Mediocre
Sound: Mediocre
Control and Gameplay: Dreadful
Replayability: Worthless
Balance: Bad
Originality: Dreadful
Addictiveness: Worthless
Appeal Factor: Worthless
Miscellaneous: Poor

FINAL SCORE: Very Bad Game

Short Attention Span Summary:

Any promise this game had was thrown away by poor game design, poor implementation of the Move controller, and overall laziness to the whole thing that permeates the entire experience. Kung Fu Live is the kind of shovelware that you would find in a bargain bin at a games retailer if it had a physical release, and that approach is indicative in the poor quality of this game.

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