It’s a truth seldom contested that a game based on a licensed property will be terrible. There are exceptions, but for every Batman: Arkham Asylum, you have something turgid like the Kinect version of Kung Fu Panda 2. This is a game that could be the very definition of “truncated development cycle”. The end result? A shallow and lightweight piece of blandness that never quite manages to be fun, whether you’re young or old.
I spent my time playing this game trying to see it through the eyes of a child, one who might have just seen the movie and is super keen to actually be Po the panda. I pictured this child getting through the menus, going excitedly to Story Mode, and getting very familiar with the loading screen. Then Po is there! He’s breaking the fourth wall to tell you how awesome you are at kung fu. A few aimless punches and kicks later, Po says the story will soon begin. There’s that loading screen again!
Some very confusing, stilted, and just downright shoddy cutscenes follow, with some kind of plot shoved in there in a barebones fashion. Maybe it’d make more sense if I had seen the movie, but I’m not so sure. In any case, three of these cutscenes played, each accompanied by the now-familiar loading screen. When you finally get to play, it’s back to a bunch of Simon-says punching and kicking, with the occasional jump or post-striking thrown in.
This is the meat of the game, and it plays out like an early tech demo for Kinect. I’ve said it time and time again, but third party developers seem to still be having trouble reaching the bar set by Microsoft’s own Kinect Sports and Kinect Adventures. I guess it doesn’t help if your publisher has — seemingly — given you a few days and a bottle of vodka to make an entire game.
Combat in Kung Fu Panda 2 never really gets any more interesting. Anything that might seem initially exciting, like yelling for Tigress or another of the Furious Five, quickly becomes irritating and repetitive. I can see a hypothetical child enjoying the novelty of such features, but quickly tiring and becoming confused by the disjointed narrative and oh-so-numerous loading screens.
A few other gameplay types slip in there, such as a rickshaw chase through some city streets that felt pulled from the PS1 era and overlaid with dull motion controls. There’s also a Freeplay mode that is basically remixed fights, chases and so on nicked from the Story Mode and stripped of context.
And that’s about it. Po looks okay, but the rest of the graphics are pretty bad. Jack Black (it is Jack Black, right? Either him or a decent sound-alike) tries to sound enthusiastic, but otherwise the audio is dull, where it wasn’t lifted from the film. Everything from the menu layout to various game design choices just scream “rushed”, with a healthy smattering of “ill-advised”.
It always sucks having to write a review like this. A game like this, made assuredly in awful conditions, was never going to do well. Instead, we’re left with something that will be eagerly demanded by the children of your household, only for that eagerness to be replaced by boredom and irritation. Parents: if your kids think they want this game, try and distract them with something of a higher quality. If that doesn’t work, then I’m afraid you’re on your own.
Kung Fu Panda 2
On PS3 | 360
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