reviews\ Jun 4, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Kung Fu Panda - WII - Review

Here we are again it’s the summer season with all the new Hollywood blockbusters being released while the kids are out of school.  This means that along with the movie we get the official videogame release at the same time.  Kung Fu Panda has me intrigued due to the involvement of funny man Jack Black (Tenacious D rocks) and the computer generated kung fu possibilities.  At the time of this writing the movie hasn’t been officially released yet but I was able to play the Wii version of the videogame.  While Kung Fu Panda is an average game I just hope the movie is much better.


The game centers upon the cuddly Panda named Po and his dreams of becoming a kung fu master.  Po’s admiration of the legendary Furious Five group embarks him on his unexpected adventure.  With the help of his master Shifu, Po must master all of Shifu’s teachings to fulfill his destiny of becoming the Dragon Warrior.  Why they had to use the name Dragon Warrior I don’t know since old school gamers will surely think back to the old NES RPG made by Enix (now finally called Dragon Quest in America). 


The single player mode is an action platforming game that will keep you entertained at times.  The emphasis on Kung Fu is apparent since you can have Po perform an assortment of punches, kicks and special moves.  The action/Kung Fu parts of the game are rather simple with goals such as take out the bad guys to move to the next area. The Wii controls do an admirable job of keeping up with the action since you don’t have to use motion sensing to perform all of the moves.  The B button performs a standard attack which you can use to take out most of the bad guys in the game.  Special moves must be performed with certain motion sensing maneuvers.  While these special moves do help in certain battles they felt unnecessary to me most of the time.  The standard attack (called the Fast Attack) worked against almost everything in the game while the hard attack (Strong Attack) is performed by shaking the Wiimote.  My four year old son was able to play the game well enough just by shaking the Wiimote all the time.


Yet the game does make you use motion attacks during certain battles in the game, most of them being the boss battles.  These motion attacks, similar to Quick Time Events in other games, have you waving the Wiimote in a particular direction in succession fashion to defeat the boss.  This sounds easy enough and it should be but as anyone with a Wii knows that the controller is only accurate with the motions 99% of the time.  Maybe 99% is too high but just that 1% percent margin of error can result in you having to repeat these battles more than once.  Or in my case numerous times since the game makes you start at the very beginning of the battle each time.  All it takes is one missed move and its time to start the battle over again.  Make sure the kids have the wrist straps on or the TV might get cracked out of frustration. 


The platforming portions of the game usually involve you jumping around the stage on top of boxes, rocks or even lily pads in a swamp.  The platforming elements focus on finding certain items or characters in the game or simply making your way through a level within a certain timeframe.  Some sections have you performing a balancing act by walking on small ledges or wires while you balance Po using the nunchuk controller.  Each level will also have a secondary objective that you can follow such as finding a certain number of items scattered around the stage.  Yet the game rewards you for only finishing a portion of the goal.  You usually never have to get all of the items to complete the secondary objectives.  


I found that the jumping part of the game to be way too airy for my taste.  I understand this is probably a kid’s game but I never imagined a Panda bear to almost float in the air when they miss a jump.  I found that jumping from platform to platform was too inconsistent because sometimes Po would just miss a jump and float through the air.  Thankfully the game has a double jump feature which saved me from dying most of the time.  But having this issue come up over and over again became a point of frustration after just a few minutes of playing.  You get use to it but it still is a problem at key moments of the game. 


The game even includes short Sonic the Hedgehog segments where Po will roll up into a ball and roll around the stage.  You can even use the move as a special attack in the game but the move was a little difficult to pull off in the heat of combat.  As you progress in the game you will collect money that you can spend on upgrades for Po.  These upgrades increase the attack power of the Fast Attack and Strong Attacks in the game.  Money was never an issue so you will probably max out all of the attacks after several stages.  One element of the game that I was impressed with were the bonus items you collected to unlock states for the Multiplayer mode. 


The Multiplayer Mode allows up to four players to compete against each other in an assortment of mini games.  The mini games range from Super Smash Brother style battles to board games.  You can select from other characters to use in Multiplayer besides just Po but many of the characters are locked until you find them in Single-player.  Most of the mini games are based on games you’ve already played but it was a nice diversion from the regular game.  I just wish a larger portion of the Multiplayer mode was unlocked at the beginning of the game. 


Kung Fu Panda for the Wii should be a solid title that gets bogged down by a few problems.  Younger players might be willing to overlook these problems but some gamers will spot them right away and probably quit playing.  Yet if you stick it out the amusing storyline, excellent voice acting and decent gameplay will keep you entertained through most of the game.  If you ever get frustrated feel free to take out your frustrations in the Multiplayer modes with some friends.  No one is perfect, not even a Kung Fu Panda.

Kung Fu Panda Review Scoring Details


Gameplay 6.2 

The motion controls can get in the way at times and the jumping is a sore point.  Yet the relentless action and unique moves do create a fun experience during parts of the game.


Graphics 5.7

I was disappointed that the Wii version did not have a slick CG look to the characters that I thought it would.  Instead we get PS2 level graphics that look blurry and out of focus compared to other Wii games out today.  The graphics also show lots of pop up in the background and an unsteady camera angle that liked to move in the wrong direction at the wrong time.


Sound 7.2

The voice acting in the game was excellent.  The actors they hired knew how to mimic the original actors almost perfectly.  I was convinced that it really was Jack Black voicing the Panda.  The music in the game was a nice selection of oriental music that fit the game perfectly.  Unfortunately some of the multiplayer modes had zero music playing at all.


Difficulty Easy/Medium 

Even with the control issues the game is still easy enough almost anyone to plow through without too much of a challenge.  Just be prepared to perform some of the boss battles repeatedly.


Concept 6.5 

Really nothing we haven’t seen before in either a movie license game or any other action platform game.


Multiplayer 7.5 

The multiplayer mode was an excellent surprise just with the variety of the mini games.  Some additional levels and online multiplayer would have been a huge bonus.


Overall 6.6 

Kung Fu Panda might have some swanky Panda style moves but the wonky controls get in the way of the action.  Yet the multiplayer was a pleasant surprise that could keep gamers playing for hours.





Above Average

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