The Xbox’s Kinect motion control system has so far mainly been used for sports, exercise and dance games, although it has flirted with other genres. The sensor has previously tried its hand at a beat-’em-up with Ubisoft’s Fighters Uncaged – but that was a thoroughly unsatisfactory experience plagued by motion detection problems. So will it fare any better with Po, the Kung Fu Panda whose second outing also uses the Kinect to deliver punches and kicks.
Kinecting with punches
Compared to Fighters Uncaged, THQ has plumped for a simpler system that’s very much ‘on rails’. You take it in turns to attack and defend, with the latter simply involving reacting to your opponent’s move by blocking or dodging as the game’s ‘heads-up’ display indicates. When attacking, the player is free to choose from a small selection of punches and kicks, but upon landing a successful hit, the game generally requires a specific follow-up move as part of a combo. Try to do something else, and it’ll just ignore you.
There’s also a big pause to let you pull off the correct move, and those gaps mean the fighting feels sluggish, which isn’t a very kung fu vibe. Combat strategy is very limited, and sometimes requires you to avoid triggering special moves in order to use a finisher to replenish health. However, this slows down the fighting action even more.
Combine this with slow loading times and battles against streams of identical adversaries, and you have a recipe for boredom. At least the Kinect part of the game is reasonably well implemented, with most moves registering accurately. That said, the detection of ducking can be erratic – which can be annoyingly punishing in boss fights.
In an attempt to include some variety, the developer has injected mini-games between the bouts of fisticuffs. Aiming and throwing rocks at gun-toting wolves works surprisingly well, but other mini-games border on the shambolic. In rickshaw racing, the steering is pretty unresponsive, and the noodle cooking interlude is worse still – a painful experience that had us sounding distinctly like Gordon Ramsay. On a bad day.
- Kinect controls work fairly well in combat, if not in some mini-games.
- Sluggish combat; repetitive and dull game design.
Kung Fu Panda 2 isn't just motion-controlled, it's slow-motion controlled, and the sluggish combat doesn't suit the kung fu theme. The game is way too repetitive and, in general terms a bit like a pugilistic version of Dragon's Lair. Much as we always wanted to punch Dirk the Daring's smug chops, we couldn't eke any real enjoyment out of this beat-'em-up. Although it might be fun for the kids for a little while, at a push...