Kung Fu Rider Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Kung Fu Rider Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Somehow Weirder Than Kung Fu Panda

There have been a lot of really bizarre games released on consoles over the years. But even against such amazingly bizarre competition as the WiiWare title Muscle March, Kung Fu Rider could very well make a great case for weirdest game of 2010. The game is centered around a Japanese salary man and a borderline scantily clad young female coworker who, for mostly unexplained reasons, need to escape the Japanese mafia.

Kung Fu Rider screenshot

How does he do this? Why, by riding down hilly streets on his office chair while karate kicking his way through construction sites and Yakuza attacks…naturally. There’s nothing ordinary about Kung Fu Rider’s plot, but you may recognize some of the gameplay. It’s got the Japanese arcade feeling of Crazy Taxi mixed with the gameplay of something like Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam.

Every level begins with one of two heroes fleeing the Yakuza, before coming to a stop huffing and puffing. Exasperated they’ll notice an office chair, or a dolly of some kind, on top of a tall hill and exclaim, “perfect!” From there they hop on and it’s up to you to control the wild ride to the bottom.

In terms of depth of gameplay, Kung Fu Rider doesn’t even come close to stacking up to other modern games. The scenario I just described in the last paragraph is essentially as deep as the gameplay gets. Yet it’s has an undeniable charisma about it. It’s got a level of personality that most games never touch.

The graphics are colorful, and though they’re not as detailed as something made with Unreal Engine 3 might be, everything still pops with personality and clarity. Everything from the levels to the characters look good and are well animated. The wild facial expressions on the game’s two main characters for instance are often funny in a slapstick kind of way.

Kung Fu Rider screenshot

The sound design is…well, it’s a mixed bag of quality. When the game turns on, every time you move past a screen by pressing a button, a supremely loud and obnoxious karate yell rings out of the speakers. Yet, when you finally reach the main menu, you’re greeted by an awesome song that fuses hip hop with Chinese classical music. This theme is perpetuated throughout the game. Everything is just awful or really fun.

But unfortunately, that’s about where the good news stops for Kung Fu Rider. To me this game seems like a tech demo that was designed in a few days, programmed in a few months, and then (to the surprise of the developers) pushed onto the Move launch line up. It just doesn’t seem like it was ever intended to be a full game. As a simple driving/extreme sports game, Kung Fu Rider has some fun moments, but it’s when you try to play it for more than fifteen minutes that the game starts to fall apart.

Kung Fu Rider screenshot

That’s why I think it wasn’t intended to be a full game. It’s quite well designed for a tech demo. As a game though, most buyers will be left wanting more from their $40. Kung Fu Rider is destined to be the sort of game that you constantly pull out for a ten-minute spin around the streets of Tokyo. Shortly afterward though you’ll completely forget about it. This is in stark contrast to another high quality motion control game that launched with the PlayStation Move, Sports Champions. Whereas that game is compelling in long term, short term, and party settings, Kung Fu Rider is really only a competent game in short, single player sessions.

But the most damning factor about Kung Fu Rider is that you never really get any better than the first time you pick up the controller. That’s not to say that the controls are so intuitive that you will grasp them perfectly the first time you pick up the controller. Quite the opposite, actually. The controls are never intuitive. Even after a dozen or so races I was still struggling to remember how to do certain maneuvers.

Kung Fu Rider screenshot

It’s not just about control complexity though. The fact is, there’s just not a satisfying skill curve to Kung Fu Rider. The game doesn’t challenge you to get better in order to progress, one of the time-honored, signature satisfactions of playing a video game. The game doesn’t challenge you to get better, because there isn’t much room to get better. Each level is just about as difficult as the last. Sure, some of them will put more obstacles in your path or more Yakuza enemies to kung-fuicize, but all that tests is your ability to memorize the controls.

Kung Fu Rider has tons of moxy, and je ne sais quois, but it’s so tragically short on depth that you wont be able to enjoy any of it for very long. The game is clearly going for the feeling of classic arcade style games like Crazy Taxi and SSX, but it never even comes close to reaching that level of fun. That’s due mostly to the fact that the developer never takes the reins off. The game is always too slow to inspire the edge-of-your-seat, just-barely-out-of-control sensation for which those other games are famous.

Turning around a corner occurs at a snail’s pace, and even a so-called “drift” slows you down to a crawl. For a game about surfing down steep asphalt on an office chair, you never feel out of control. As a result, the entire game lacks the visceral intensity that it so desperately needed. It could have been a motion-controlled Burnout, but instead it simply bores.

Kung Fu Rider is a hard game to recommend. Those who are itching for unique experiences to try out with their new motion controls may want to give it a spin. The controls are responsive enough that it will give you a feel for how future games might take advantage of the technology. Other than that, there probably aren’t many people that will get much out of this game.

The slapstick sense of humor and heaping doses of personality make this pill a lot easier to swallow, but it won’t be very long at all before you realize that the experience isn’t going anywhere. The gameplay doesn’t evolve, and the game you play when you first turn on the system is the exact same as it is ten hours later (not that you’ll be playing that long anyway.)

Fairly standard levels, but the characters look good and are well animated. It’s just a shame there’s only two of them. 2.9 Control
Very spotty. The controls are too complex for what they’re depicting, but are at least responsive. 3.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
There aren’t enough unique songs, and there’s quite a bit of repetition, but the main theme song is really great. 2.9 Play Value
It’s fun in spots, but the gameplay is extremely repetitive, and there’s no incentive for you to get better. Feels like a tech demo haphazardly turned into a full game. 3.1 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Use the PlayStation Move motion controller to slingshot forward, smash through crowds of pedestrians, lock in air-defying combo chains and karate chop your way to safety.
  • Move your way through a city on a high-speed getaway! Catapult through the wild, untamed city streets of a megalopolis.
  • Experience the heart-pounding rush as you control a private detective on a crazy getaway from the mob. Ride your way to safety, grasping onto your PlayStation Move to stay in control at breakneck speeds.

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