Kung-Fu Live on PS3 might just get some gamers back in shape...
- May get some gamers back in shape, extremely enjoyable aesthetic and vibe, innovative approach to beat-em-up gaming
- Learning curve with the controls, requires a tonne of space to move around, multiplayer isn't very robust, may cause some gamers to experience cardiac arrest
Even though the actual kung-fu and motion-controlled movement mechanics are a bit wonky, it's tough to deny this oddball PlayStation Eye-based brawler's sense of tongue-in-cheek fun.
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Some games are unintentionally goofy, and some, like Kung-Fu Live, intentionally cultivate the goof. There's more in the way of geek-ified, off-the-wall humour in this game than you'd see in five years of going to PAX. From its 1970's chop-socky comic-book theme to its hilarious way of putting you, boxer shorts and all, directly into the game world, Kung-Fu Live is not for the serious of temperament.
Nor is it for the out of shape, or the small of living room. The game, which does not require any controllers and solely uses the PlayStation Eye (part of the PlayStation Move motion-controller kit) to track your movements, mandates a ton of space to move around in. It asks for players to stand at least seven to nine feet back from the TV to get good tracking, but that's nothing compared to the lateral space you'll need — make sure you clear out furniture anywhere near the vicinity of your TV.
Gameplay consists primarily of one-against-many fights on a 2D plane a la Final Fight, with just about any motion you make counting as a "strike." Problem is, while the PS Eye is fine at tracking your striking motions, it's not so fine at tracking where you are in relation to the enemies. Closing the distance with a foe is often a matter of sidling two yards or more in one direction, even though the enemy is just a couple of pixels away on the screen. The designers built in a "power punch" move that allows you to quickly slide across the screen at enemies, but it's inelegant and hard to control. And, while it's not super strenuous, keep in mind that this game will get your blood pumping, as you jump, run from side to side, and flail your arms and legs wildly in an attempt to land shots on bad guys. Special moves can be very frustrating to pull off as well, as they require quick and accurate switching of poses on the fly — by the time you finish, bad guys may no longer be where you were aiming.
The game is premised on a tongue-in-cheek, throwback story: you've been sucked into a world of evil ninjas, and you're now forced to fight your way through an enemy fortress... and stuff. Not gonna win the Pulitzer here, but the story serves the theme well, especially in that the game guides you through a series of poses so it can properly insert pictures of you into its cutscenes. More interesting, though, is the available multiplayer, which allows you to face off against buddies who use the regular DualShock 3 or Sixaxis controller (playing as bad guys), while you fight them with the motion controls. Beware, though — this can be very frustrating, as it is extremely easy for people with controllers to cheese you into submission.
But really, the core of this game isn't the gameplay itself, but the goofy, B-movie presentation and experience. Theoretically, the game will allow you to use real-world weapons and props to fight with, but unless your living room's size rivals that of Louis XIV, good luck trying that out and not losing your security deposit. But what actually does rule is the game's ability to photograph you in whatever you're wearing and put that into the fight in real time — if you have any kung-fu type outfits (or, you know, a Borat speedo) that you thought you'd never get any use out of, now's the time.
Sure, it has some control foibles, and it can tire out your gamer's cardiovascular system in a New York minute, but Kung Fu Live is a surprisingly successful motion-controlled beat-em-up that will entertain you (and anyone who happens to be watching you) for quite a few hours. Just make sure you have some ibuprofen and very little in the way of inhibitions, and you'll go far, grasshoppa.
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