Kung Fu Live Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Kung Fu Live Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Virtual Canvas

To put it simply, Kung Fu Live is one of the best Kinect games yet released. But wait. This isn’t an Xbox 360 game! Kung Fu Live is a PS3 exclusive that uses the Move camera to simulate your actions in-game without the use of the Move controller. The game certainly has its fair share of problems, but for the price, it’s one of the most purely fun action games you’ll find using motion control systems.

Most of the fun comes from the pure novelty of the entire system. Whether they admit it or not, PS3 owners were probably at least a little bit jealous about the advanced technology Kinect players had to experiment with, but if Kung Fu Live is any indication, then they have nothing to be jealous about. I was already enjoying Move games quite a bit more than Kinect’s initial crop, but Kung Fu Live threatens to beat Kinect at its own game.

Kung Fu Live Screenshot

Kung Fu Live is essentially a pretty dumb fighting action game. With a twist. You use the Move camera to control the on-screen character. And I don’t mean “swing your arm to activate the character’s punch animation.” I mean, you are literally the character on-screen, and your attacks harm the enemies. If you throw a hook, that will hurt them. Jump kick. Roundhouse kick. Anything you do will be shown on screen and will do damage to enemies.

Kung Fu Live immediately stands out from the pack because you are the character in the game. Not in a figurative sense, either. Your camera image is the person in the game. The camera merely watches what you do, then displays your actions in real-time on the screen, calculating things like the velocity of your punch to count damage.

Kung Fu Live Screenshot

It’s almost too good to be true, and it sort of is. At the surface level though, all you need to know is that this game is really pretty neat. The technology is pretty much unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. There are some catches though. First, the camera technology isn’t very good, and you don’t have to look very far to find inadequacies. For instance, if your pants match the couch behind you, or the wall, or anything in the background, there’s a good chance the camera won’t pick you up if you’re standing near it. I have a dark-colored couch so I was pretty much unable to play with pants on during my review experience.

Oddly, that’s not such a bad thing. OK, so if you want to get technical, that is a huge (and I mean huge) knock against Kung Fu Live. You can’t play with clothes on? Absurd. But there are two reasons why I was able to accept this: 1) I was shedding clothing two minutes into the game anyway (exercise), and 2) being in your underwear only lends to the absurdity of the storyline.

Kung Fu Live Screenshot

Why does it lend to the zany storyline? Well, because before each chapter, Kung Fu Live asks you to pose in front of the screen while it takes your picture. You can either use their pose, or make one of your own. Your picture will then show up in the cutscenes as part of the action. You’re the slacker stock boy at the local Chinatown comic book shop.

The one thing that I really had a problem with – even while I was totally cool about having to de-pants myself – was the absolutely rampant stereotypes and borderline racism. “Hit enemy many time for combo!” the narrator says in a ridiculous stereotype of a Chinese accent. Is it wrong? Well, I personally found it distracting, but your own sensitivity to such matters will ultimately be what matters most. It’s not at the level where I’d consider it objectively wrong, but it’s still probably in bad taste.

I should say, the game portion of it is often a complete disaster, but I still couldn’t help myself. I was having a ton of fun, and the controls were responsive enough that I didn’t care about the occasional oddity. If the game was just about punching wildly at the screen, it probably wouldn’t have been too much fun. But luckily, there is a superpower system that allows you to use awesome high-powered moves. Quickly thrust your arms across the screen and your avatar will flash across the screen with a high-powered kick or punch that crosses long distances. Or you could raise both arms to the sky, which will call down the powers of lightning.

Kung Fu Live Screenshot

Much of this game seems to have been influenced by 16-bit Mortal Kombat games from the 90s. The graphical style vaguely resembles it, and it’s hard not to draw parallels between your on-screen representation and old Mortal Kombat characters. If you played those games back in the old days you’ll find it impossible not to act out old animations and stances.

There is so much wrong with Kung Fu Live. It’s a technical disaster, you often aren’t allowed to play with pants on, and to top it off, it may even be a little bit racist. However, there’s just so much fun to be had during the moments that it works that I’m still willing to offer a recommendation. Watching yourself flip around the screen and call down lightning strikes is just too much fun to pass up.

Fifteen dollars is a little steep for this game considering the many technical failings, but you’re still likely to have a lot of fun, especially if you’ve got young kinds to play with. Energetic young ones will have plenty of fun jumping around and beating up on virtual bad guys. Just make sure you do your stretches and have plenty of water nearby. Kung Fu Live will push you to the brink of exhaustion after a couple levels.

Kung Fu Live’s problems will try to trip you up, but if you go in with an open mind, you’ll have a lot of fun with this zany product. It’s worth trying simply for the fact that a game like this hasn’t really ever been made before. It’s an enticing example of where the beat-em-up genre could go in the future. Let’s just hope it’s on Kinect next time instead of the far less capable Move system. With some enhanced technology, this proof-of-concept could really take off.

Everything looks very dated, but I enjoyed the way the camera image almost seems to fit into the surroundings. 3.5 Control
The controls are pretty abysmal, but they’re so unique that you won’t be able to help having fun anyway. 2.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voice overs are most noticeable. Particularly the stereotype Asian accents. 3.0 Play Value
There’s a lot of fun to be had here, and younger players should get plenty of fun out of this product. For discerning adults, the allure may wear off pretty quickly, but not before a few hearty laughs. 3.1 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Fight enemies with your own motions. Create your own moves.
  • You’re in the movies! Create snapshots for use in the games actual cutscenes.
  • Call down lightning from the sky, back flip three times before landing tons of moves are possible.

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