With “Kung Fu Panda 2” in theaters this week, THQ releases a new game loosely based on this sequel. The XBOX 360 release is specially designed for the Kinect and allows players to battle some of the toughest warriors in ancient China. You are in control. So stretch out, tighten your laces and get ready to rumble.
The Valley of Peace is being threatened again. Tai Lung is defeated but now a group of evil crocodile mercenaries are threatening the furry little inhabitants of the valley. Kinect puts you in control of Po, the Dragon Warrior. To make Po attack or block, simply punch, kick or dodge. The controls are simple. Throwing left or right punches will make Po do the same as well as left and right kicks. Double punches or a jump will cause a powerful punch or kick. Block an attack by just raising your arms.
Kinect will magically transfer your movements to Po. Or does it?
In free play or early battles, enemies are not as difficult and your movements can be slower which allows for a better match of your movements. But as you progress through the game, your attacks and dodges become more intense and that’s when a lag between your movements and Po’s comes into play. Transitions between different blocks and dodges or attacks must be done quickly. The lag that happens can bring your progression to a standstill. It can be frustrating, especially for younger gamers (the game’s target audience). I found myself having to do an attack a few times before Po reacts. Slowing your attacks helps with the lag but will hurt your battle and is the total opposite of what this game should be.
Kung Fu warriors are suppose to be fast, powerful and exact. Right?
“Kung Fu Panda 2” is a fighting game trying to be something more. You fight through a series of battles separated by long cinematics. More time is spent on the story then battles. In the early stages of the game, you are even taken out of the story to learn new moves. This was annoying and really hurt the tempo of the game. I’m battling ninjas and thieves. My heart is pumping, adrenaline is flowing. Don’t stop me to show me a new move which is so basic. Show me all these simple moves in the beginning and let’s get playing.
I also found the battles to be shallow and repetitive. Each battle consists of a few enemies. You attack one, then he attacks, then you do a finishing move. A friend can be called in to kill an enemy with one shot. Then an enemy does a sneak attack which you counter and kill. Rinse and repeat. It’s fine for a young casual gamer but can even get a little old for them.
Finally, “Kung Fu Panda 2” is a single player game. There is no multiplayer feature. One huge plus about a Kinect game is that it is enjoyed by the whole family. Games like “Kinect Adventures” are successful because multiple players can compete with each other in an interactive way. It would be great to be able to fight along side my son or battle my wife. Adding a multiplayer feature would definitely improve this game.
One saving factor to not having a multiplayer feature is that you can very seamlessly switch between players during the game. My son can get tired and jump out and have my wife jump in and continue playing. I’ve had terrible experiences with other Kinect games with this function. Usually the height difference between an adult and child will cause glitches and errors while playing. As an example, while playing “Kinect Adventures” if I switch with my son, the character falls to its knees and plays like that until an adult jumps in. Fortunately, we have not experienced that with “Kung Fu Panda 2.”
There were some parts of the game that I actually enjoyed. My son and I had a lot of fun making noodles in some of the mini game sections. You must pick up a bowl, stir the noodles, then throw it at your customer. It was fun to see who could get a better score at serving up the noodles. My son usually was the noodle king. I also thought that the rickshaw chase was a nice way to break up the monotony of the shallow battles. You need to maneuver down a “roadway” littered with carts and debris while trying to block objects thrown by enemies. These two types were completely different from battles and added depth to the game.
Now this is a game geared towards younger players. The subject matter of the game, graphics and sounds are ideal for them. My son doesn’t really notice the lag or care about the long cut scenes. He just thinks it’s awesome to play as Po and fight the bad guys. I’d like there to be some actual karate moves. Just swinging my arms seems a little lame for a fighting game but the target audience won’t care. The simple controls are ideal for younger gamers.