Kung Fu Panda


posted 6/27/2008 by Dave Gamble
other articles by Dave Gamble
Platforms: Multiple
I'm still in the stage of Wii controller infatuation that will allow me to do things like set aside my normal innate ennui for movie tie-in platformers and my seething distaste for all things even tangentially related to Jack Black, a distaste that runs so deep that I routinely skip the Tenacious D song on Guitar Hero. I've found that in some cases, the Wii controller adds just enough novelty to the interface to make a game that I would normally approach with my "Random-Button-Smash" attack more interesting to play. It doesn't always work, of course; you can only put so much lipstick on a pig. But I thought that maybe something as new and fresh looking as Activision's tie-in to Dreamworks Kung Fu Panda might be as least as much fun as collecting the Happy Meal toys affiliated with the movie, if not slightly more.

And, to cut to the chase, it was. The chopping/stabbling/slashing moves used to select from the various attacks and special moves are more intuitive to me than an arcane and arbitrary combination of button presses that I can never remember. And, as with button smashing, if I get too frazzled and overwhelmed, spastic shaking and flailing of the controller will usually get me out of trouble. Movement using the thumb controller on the nunchuk was also very natural and easy to do. The camera tended to get into unhelpful positions now and then, though, and the use of the D-pad to adjust it wasn't always easy, or successful for that matter. Some of the button mappings could have been better as well, evidence of which became apparent on the numerous occasions when I used a button that seemed normal for an action but the opposite action from what I wanted occurred. Sure, this could be more a case of the onset of aging dementia on my part, but, well, maybe not. It's not important - after enough times making the same mistake, even I get used to using the correct assigned button. The controller action I liked the best was the use of the nunchuk form maintaing balance when walking across beams/narrow paths. That was kind if slick.

With regards to the actual game play and dialogue, it is important to put yourself in the mindset of the intended audience. A six-hour session of watching Nickelodeon cartoons would help. The humor, such as it is, takes the form of redundant word usage (paraphrased: "The legendary legend wasn't a legend yet.") for the most part, and will not be particularly entertaining to those over the age of five. The game play is fairly straightforward. Again, this is not a game intended to provide you with a more challenging challenge after the challenge of (Argh! Now they've get me doing it!) Metroid Prime or Resident Evil 4. That said, I found parts of it to be fun. For example, giant crossbows used to shoot at targets are always going to be entertaining, at least for a few minutes. The actual fighting was, as is always the case with me, more of a St. Vitus Dance than any kind of Chuck Norris/Jackie Chan choreographed ballet of violence. Thankfully this is the kind of game that recognizes that the quantity of attacks is a quality too.

As with all games of this nature, it will have re-play value only for as long as it takes the kids to find a new movie fad. It is my considered opinion, based on years of experience as a Dad, that this kind of game makes a better rental than it does a purchase. You know, financially speaking. Once they've played through it a few times, it's going to hit the shelf and stay there. Sometimes the multiplayer mode is enough to keep them playing it for awhile after they've been through the single player, but the next game to come along is going to surely have multiplayer too.
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