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Kung Fu Master (Game Boy) artwork

Kung Fu Master (Game Boy) review


"Kung Fu Master.... a title that conjures up several images in the mind of the humble gamer. Will this game be a fighter like Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat? A sequel to the NES classic Kung Fu? A Double Dragon-esque beat-em-up? And it only cost £10 when it came out! I mean, with a name that exciting, and at an affordable price, it was almost too good to be true! That pretty much sums up my thoughts as I was eagerly shuffling towards the checkout with a fresh new copy of Kung Fu Master for th..."



Kung Fu Master.... a title that conjures up several images in the mind of the humble gamer. Will this game be a fighter like Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat? A sequel to the NES classic Kung Fu? A Double Dragon-esque beat-em-up? And it only cost £10 when it came out! I mean, with a name that exciting, and at an affordable price, it was almost too good to be true! That pretty much sums up my thoughts as I was eagerly shuffling towards the checkout with a fresh new copy of Kung Fu Master for the Game Boy in my hands. Well, it probably wasn't what I was thinking - it was a very long time ago, back when my age was in single figures, but play along with me here, I'm trying to tell a tragic story about how a young boy's hopes were cruelly dashed by the purchase of a bad game. You see, all that potential that was brought to mind by what was, to a young and impressionable little tyke like myself back then, a really cool game title, all that excitement about getting a new game with my own money (a big deal for me back then), all the excitement as I clumsily wrestled with the cellophane that the box was shrouded in..... only to find out that the game sucked. It still haunts me to this day.

Poetic ramblings aside, this game really is bad. And I don't mean bad in the early-nineties way, where bad meant good. I mean this game is bad as in, well, bad. Which is a pity, as it did have potential. The game was a beat-'em-up in the same vein as Kung Fu for the NES, whereby your character wanders from one end of the screen to another, laying waste to anyone who gets in his way. The NES showed that this style game works quite admirably, thank you, and early signs were that this game was going to continue that trend. The plot is suitably hackneyed and predictable - a big villain is up to no good, and has hidden himself away in a distant fortress where he plans to stand around looking threatening (or something to that effect) - it's all very cheesy, but it suits the genre perfectly. The first level sees your character scuttling through a ruined street beating up the various minions that wander towards you like lambs to the curry house. Towards the end of the level some of the bad guys have whips - variety is a good thing. Then comes the boss - a big bloke with a chainsaw, which can only be a good thing.... although it takes less than five minutes, the first level gives a false sense of enjoyment to the gamer. Experience with other games dictates that the first level must be easy in order to allow you time to get the hang of the controls while the game progresses gently. However, after the first level thing fall apart for Kung Fu Master, in that it doesn't get any harder - it just stays at the same, mind-numbingly easy level, and that's on the 'hard' setting. 'Easy' mode actually seems to give the game a difficulty curve that slopes down - the final level in this setting is actually easier than the first level, as far as I can see. This lack of challenge is really a shame, as there are some passable ideas here - the bosses are initially fairly varied (the first four are very distinct, but it blurs a bit after that), and each level is initially different in design to the last (again, it all starts to get very indistinct as the game draws to a close). It's just that, with no challenge, it becomes repetitive all too easily. It takes far too long for different flavours of enemy to show up, and there's no disguising the fact that there's only three moves at your disposal, or that you only need one to beat the game.

The other problem with the ease of the game is that inevitably it doesn't last very long. The game only has six levels, and while they get marginally longer towards the end, even then they don't last more than ten minutes. Even the weaker gamers out there will polish this game off forty-five minutes after slotting it into the Game Boy, although this may make the game a suitable purchase for the very, very, young.

The presentation of the game varies from the good to the not so good, but never manages to be great or downright awful. The graphics were slightly above average at the time, and still manage to avoid being too embarrassing today. The levels, although simplistic (usually involving occasional 'close-up' backgrounds, such as piles of barrels, and far off backgrounds in the top quater of the screen, such as distant cityscapes) are passable, and the animation is surprisingly smooth. Your character is pleasingly large on screen, and I think that the designers were trying to create an impression of depth by making one trouser leg a darker shade than the other (either that or they'd been taking fashion tips from David Beckham). The sound, however, is slightly below average - although the music is hummable while you play, it's instantly forgettable, and is obviously nothing special. Still, while the overall presentation is average at best, it is clear that the people at Irem did put some effort into it at least.

However, the dull monotony of the game means that little details that could be forgiven in better games really grate here. Little glitches such as the boss in level one blatantly sticking his chainsaw halfway into your skull without hurting you, for example, really detract from the overall enjoyment (and the fact that your wishing that the bosses were inflicting damage shows how bad the game is).

There has been some effort put into Kung Fu Master - it looks reasonably pretty, and the first level and a half hold your interest well enough, it just gets so... boring. You do actually have five continues in the game (not that you strictly need them), but anyone who actually uses one is a braver person than I am. This game could have been a decent brawler had it been given a bit more time in the development room, but as it is it's a wasted opportunity, and a waste of time. Avoid this one.

Rating: 2/10

tomclark's avatar
Community review by tomclark (March 07, 2004)

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