Kung Fu Panda (Xbox 360) review
"As one of those older gamers, the main thing I enjoyed about this game was its level design. While the stages were all fairly short and very linear, there was a lot of variety. In one level, I was scaling a mountain while not only fighting off constant attacks by a gang of gorillas, but also dodging a non-stop barrage of rocks being flung towards me by their commander. A little bit later, I found myself having to prevent hordes of wolves from destroying all the relics in the abode of the Furious Five."
Usually games I review fall into two distinct categories. A tiny percentage of them are ones I received as an assignment, while the vast majority are ones I made the choice to own in some way, shape or form that I decided to type about for whatever reason. With Kung Fu Panda, a third category has been created -- one that shall be known as: "Well, it DID come with the system, damn it!"
The recent holiday bundles for the XBox 360 included this game and Lego Indiana Jones, so I figured I'd use Kung Fu Panda as a sort of diversion for when I didn't feel like diving into Oblivion. Based on the Disney animated film, it was essentially just what I figured it'd be: a simple and easy, yet still entertaining, platforming and brawling game. A "childish brawler", as opposed to manly ones like God of War.
The story revolves around Po, an obese glutton of a panda, and his gradual transformation from being some anonymous slob to becoming a legendary warrior. Over a dozen or so stages, he'll gain power while earning the respect of his idols, a group of martial arts experts known as the Furious Five; as well as defeat the villainous Tai Lung and a number of gangs under his control.
As might be expected for a game made for younger players, all the stages are fairly short and there's no way to actually die. Losing all your life or missing a jump and falling into deep water or a pit will just send you back to the most recently reached of each level's plentiful checkpoints. The game also is loaded with situations where you have to chain certain button combinations to get your character to dodge enemy blows and deliver counterattacks in slow-motion cinematic sequences. Fail in this and you'll only be sent back to the beginning of that scene to start tapping buttons again. With there essentially being no punishment for mistakes, it's hard to imagine too many things in Kung Fu Panda being frustrating for gamers, young or old.
As one of those older gamers, the main thing I enjoyed about this game was its level design. While the stages were all fairly short and very linear, there was a lot of variety. In one level, I was scaling a mountain while not only fighting off constant attacks by a gang of gorillas, but also dodging a non-stop barrage of rocks being flung towards me by their commander. A little bit later, I found myself having to prevent hordes of wolves from destroying all the relics in the abode of the Furious Five. There also were plenty of villagers to save from the various gangs and plenty of coins to collect in order to improve Po's health, attacks and abilities. None of the levels were so long as to become tiresome and it seemed like every time I thought I might get bored with the direction things were going, the game would shake things up and the control would shift to a supporting member of the Furious Five or their master, Shifu, for part or all of a level.
But while Kung Fu Panda was engaging, it never really was able to truly draw me into its world. Simply put, the game is just too short and easy to have much replay value for experienced gamers. Technically, the only real complaints I had involved a handful of times where I had to fight the camera. However, after I'd beaten the game, I had no desire to play it again. With the exception of the final fight with Tai Lung, virtually every battle can easily be beaten with the bare minimum of strategy. I went through nearly the entire game doing nothing but fast attacks with the very rare power attack or special move thrown in to spice things up. Humorously, that actually made the battle with Tai Lung tougher than it should have been, as I was so clueless about how to block or use certain attacks that I found myself having to constantly glance at the instruction booklet to do just about anything more complicated than the most basic of attacks.
Still, while this game might not have been my cup of tea, I can't deny that it'd be a great game for a younger gamer. It's well-designed and entertaining with a number of levels that if nothing else, are fun to experience. If I was 25 or so years younger, I'd be enthralled with this title. I still can appreciate its charm.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (January 14, 2009)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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