Skip navigation

Kung Fu Panda


Based on the animated Dreamworks movie of the same name, Kung Fu Panda is the video game version of Jack Blackís persona come to life in the form of an eternally hungry, butt-kicking panda. The game is tied extremely close to the film and follows the same basic plot line. Po the panda dreams of becoming a Kung Fu master, like his idols the Furious Five, but seems set to take over his fatherís noodle restaurant. After sneaking into a martial arts tournament, Po is mistakenly chosen to be the Great Dragon warrior; a martial arts master destined to defeat the evil Tai Lung. Po begins his journey to understand the path of the Dragon Warrior.

Gameplay

Kung Fu Panda is a half adventure / half fighting game. There are plenty of quests to keep Po the panda occupied throughout the various levels. The player will often receive optional quests, like saving 10 baby turtles or protecting valuable artifacts, as well as tons of enemies to dispatch with the style and grace of a big, fat panda. The game is split over 13 levels and itís paced fairly well. There are a couple portions that become more tedious than fun, but they soon pass and the adventure continues.

The boss fights, among other events, use timed button presses to complete the missions. Similar to the God of War series, these controller tapping combos become tough toward the latter stages of the game; some even too elaborate for their own good. But to reach this point in the fight, Po needs to exhaust his library of attacks. My favorite, and certainly the most effective, was the Panda Stomp. Po leaps into the air and performs a nasty belly flop essentially taking out everything in a 10 foot radius.

I was surprised to find a fairly robust RPG aspect of Poís progression as a Kung Fu master. Players have the choice of upgrading health, mana and a bevy of Poís attacking skills including basic punches, punch / kick combos, and his various special attacks. Each level of progression requires the gold coins found from level to level. Abilities can also continue to be upgraded during follow-up playthroughs on tougher levels of difficulty.

The multiplayer is a collection of local, family oriented mini-games for up to four players. The developer took a page from Nintendo and tried to offer up a Super Smash Brothers feel to some of the games. Many features of the games (or the games themselves) have to be unlocked in the single player campaign. Po will need to pick up hidden green coins on the various levels to unlock all the goodies. The multiplayer may keep the kids occupied for a couple hours, but thatís about it.

The achievements are surprisingly tough for a game designed with the younger demographic in mind. Many of the hidden achievements are awarded for completing the toughest difficulty level, Dragon Master. Unfortunately, the developer also forces replay value as the achievements donít stack as they should. Another difficult aspect to certain achievements is completing 100% of the level objectives. Often times, the protection levels will drive players insane for 100% and make those specific achievements unattainable. Casual players will be happy with about 300 gamerscore points from a single run-through while the achievement junkies will run it 2 - 3 times for 800 to 900 points.

Graphics & Audio

The game isnít going to win any awards for advanced design, but the engine does an admirable job for a movie themed title. The fighting animations are extremely polished and offer a fluid martial arts experience. While the levels are ultimately linear, the backdrops to the game environment pay a nice artistic service to the source material. Unfortunately the camera angles are quite a problem in various portions of the game. They are often positioned too close to Po and the game occasionally forces out the rotational camera movement of the right thumb stick.

The voice overs in the game are not from the principle actors, but they are excellent fakes. I completed the entire game under the impression that Po was actually voiced by Jack Black. Then again I havenít been to the theater to see the movie yet, so I donít have slightest idea who the Furious Five are voiced by. The musical score does an admirable job of setting the mood in the ancient Oriental setting. The sound effects are typical to any Kung Fu movie that Iíve ever watched.

Conclusion

Kung Fu Panda isnít a title designed for adults, but rather the young fans of the movie. To that point, the narrative is extremely entertaining for children and may even cause a few chuckles from the older crowd. Poís rousing storyline, the light RPG elements and the challenging achievements are definitely worth the price of admission (which is $10 cheaper than most 360 titles). Pick this title up for any young fan of the movie as they wonít be disappointed.