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.