Kung Fu Live (PSN) Review
While the tagline “Punching air never felt this good” is an indication that Kung Fu Live doesn’t take itself all that seriously, this game takes a unique approach to motion control on the PS3. Downloadable on the PlayStation Network, Kung Fu Live touts motion controls without having to use the Move controllers. All you need is the camera and, in Kinect-like fashion, you use your body for the controls. Kung Fu Live plays out like a b-movie kung fu flick. With a story told by cutscenes that look like pages of a comic book, the game uses the PlayStation Eye camera to literally put the player in the game. Every play session with the game starts with a somewhat calibration session to set up the PlayStation Eye camera to follow your moves.
The story is pretty basic. The focus is definitely on the motion gameplay mechanic. Without spoiling much, you play a comic book store employee. In attempting to defend the comic store you work at, you break a painting and all hell breaks loose when the broken painting frees a demon. It’s your job to fight, capture the demon and basically save the city.
You literally control yourself in the game. An image of you is placed into each level and your gestures are interpreted as punches, kicks, jumps and some pretty humorous power moves. Provided the calibration is done properly and your game room has the right conditions, this all works tremendously and shows really great out of the box thinking by the developers. More on this later though. It doesn’t always work as well as it sounds. You have your basic punches and kicks which are simple enough gestures. Fill up a power bar and you can do power moves. These are unlocked as you progress through the game and require more complex moves. Don’t worry though, these moves are pretty easy to pull off and the game interprets your movements reasonably well.
The icing on the cake is that, in between each story level, the game takes a few moments to snap some shots of you in certain positions. These pictures are saved and then used in cutscenes. Just posing for the pictures can be a source of laughs but I loved the fact your pictures are included right into the storytelling. Good stuff.
With your own likeness in the game, having to flail all about the room fighting off bad guys is a lot of things. It’s a bit gimmicky. I fear the novelty of that will wear off in time. At the same time, it’s a unique experience on Playstation that screams party game to me. The developers smartly are promoting a YouTube campaign where you can share videos of you playing the game via their website. You could even make a case for Kung Fu Live being a bit of a fitness game. You’re going to move around a lot playing this game. Throwing punches and kicks might just work up a sweat… or pull something. Your choice.
The game’s look is decidedly comic book style. As mentioned earlier, cutscenes look like pages from a comic book. This presentation is ever so slightly cheesy but its goofy enough to work. The actual gameplay levels themselves are comic-looking renditions of environments. The effect of seeing your real self in a video game world is sort of a reverse Roger Rabbit, provided you get the calibration right. And that’s what can make or break this game for you.
Since the game uses you as the controller, the initial calibration is key to the game not only playing right but looking good too. To its credit, Kung Fu Live makes it very clear what conditions (light, area, colours, objects, etc) are key to making things work correctly but the problem is that if you’re like me and your PS3 is integrated into your home entertainment system, you are stuck with the room conditions of that room. I have a relatively light room with a big bright window behind me (even with the blinds closed) and the game had issues picking me up, especially my legs. I was still able to play and enjoy the game, I just wasn’t able to get the full effect because of my room conditions and inability to move my PS3 to another room. Be warned.
Other than that criticism (and keep in mind it’s not questioning the game’s tech), the game looks good for a downloadable title.
Kung Fu Live pays homage to those b-movie kung fu flicks I mentioned earlier with its sounds. It has all the slap-happy sound effects that you heard in all those Bruce Lee movies. That in itself is awesome. The narration during cutscenes is well done and the voice acting is fittingly cheesy. I also really liked the catchy music. It’s not intrusive or repetitive and fits well within the context of the various levels.
A fighting game at its core, one might be able to make the argument Kung Fu Live bridges the gap between genres and ventures into fitness game category. This one will make you move around the room and might just build up a sweat. It’s a fun sweat though. The controller-free motion controls work well with surprisingly good hit detection. This game might not have a ton of legs but it screams party fun. You just need to have the right room conditions to get the full effect.