Fists of Fury
Based on the original 2005 indie PC title, Rag Doll Kung Fu, created by Mark Healey (co-founder of Media Molecule), Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic is a PS3 exclusive, party-fighting game that’s incredibly long on charm but a bit too short on content. As a party game, the download relies heavily upon consumers getting together with friends to make the most of the title. While local multiplayer in any game is always the most fun, it is often difficult to make it happen at a moment’s notice.
Unfortunately, online multiplayer via the PlayStation Network is not an option in Fists of Plastic. Moreover, the single-player offering is less than stellar, rendering this title a bit underwhelming. That being said, this is still one of my favorite titles available via the PSN. The awesome visual and aural presentations along with varied game modes and shriek-inducing local multiplayer matches make this a great option for get-togethers around the PS3.
The core gameplay of the original Rag Doll Kung Fu is still found in Fists of Plastic. Players take control of a pose-able, wushu-themed action figure. Fights take place against other opponents in a stage-like setting. Taking advantage of platforms and foreign objects, the gameplay has a striking similarity to that found in the Super Smash Bros. series. The fighters all have the same moves and the same abilities, however, so you won’t have to fight over certain characters. Moves include standard punching and kicking, grabs (accentuated by motion controls for pulling off slams), and throws. There are also objects that can be used as weapons by free-posing your character like a marionette. Additionally, you can charge a lightning attack by shaking the controller and throwing the electric ball at your opponents. You can also charge up Firefly attacks, consuming Chi energy, that pack a more serious wallop.
Also, blocking attacks with the Circle button is a very important skill to perfect, as is evading players and repositioning your character by platforming. Characters can all jump a long way and are able to grab a hold of the platforms they pass by. Doing so will allow you to swing your way to better positions or to bash a player directly with a swinging attack. All of these moves are easily performed through the common sense layout of the control mapping; it takes only about 10-20 minutes to fight competently, and mastering all of the varied attacks and skills is achieved in less than an hour.
Motion controls are typically a sore spot for me, especially when they’re employed by PS3 titles. Thankfully, the motion controls in Fists of Plastic are rather unobtrusive; they are used sparingly to heighten standard attacks with Chi, so they’re never over-used. Still, shaking the controller can get a bit annoying whilst conjuring up lightning balls and slamming opponents, and they may turn off players with a serious aversion to motion-controls.
Other mechanics include a health bar and Chi meter that indicate how much life your character has left and how much energy can be used to power-up attacks. Using Chi proves to be very important in dealing with opponents quickly (as it makes your attacks more powerful) and for accruing lots of points in the Challenges mode. Chi can also be converted to health by meditating (flipping the PS3 wireless controller upside down and entering a floating lotus position). Acquiring Chi is done by successfully pounding on your foes – the more plastic you kick, the more power you’ll accumulate. Health and Chi can also be augmented by “noodle” drops and Confucius statuettes, respectively.
Game modes include local multiplayer and a single-player Challenges option. Local multiplayer is the most engaging portion of the title. Up to four players can hop into a game. You can choose from one of eight stages and one of four game objectives. All of the stages are pretty to look at, but they are very simply laid out. In fact, the only stage that seems to shake things up is that of the Windmill, which has spinning arms that allow you to grab on and go for a ride. Otherwise, simply the look, height, and the amount of platforms is what varies.
The four game modes, Deathmatch, King of the Hill, Capture the Fish, and Dodgeball are nicely varied, however. Deathmatch has players simply duking it out with each other to garner points, and a “team” setting can be selected to modify play. King of the Hill has players jockeying for position upon a platform – the player that stays upon the platform alone the longest will win. Points are more quickly accumulated by taunting players while free-posing. Capture the Fish is kind of like basketball but with a fish. Players will fight each other for control of this fish and have to try to tally a score by tossing or slamming the scaly bugger into their opponent’s basket. Bashing players, blocking their shots, and scoring on them are great fun.
Finally, Dodgeball has players scoring points by nailing others with a rubber ball. If hit, players are instantly KO’ed but immediately respawn until the time/score limit is reached. The player with the most KO’s wins. All these modes are great when playing with friends on the couch. Though you can also play against A.I. participants if you’re alone, much of the magic is lost. Unfortunately, no online multiplayer is offered, which is somewhat perplexing. An add-on enabling this feature in the future would be greatly appreciated, but it should have been included with the initial release.
The Challenges mode tries give players an interesting single-player experience, but in the end it feels more like an advanced tutorial. That’s because there is no story holding it together, and there are only nine stages in all (one of which is bested simply by going through the meager tutorial). The Challenges included are Survival, Shapshooter, Capture the Fish, Acrobatics, King of the Hill, Way of the Firefly, Cleaning Up, and Kung Fu Juggling. Each of the Challenges’ stages become increasingly more difficult, effectively improving your skill set and broadening your understanding of the controls and game options. Also, players have the ability to log high scores on the PSN leaderboards, acquire ranking titles (bronze, silver, gold, and plastic), and open up rewards (outfits, accessories, faces, hairstyles, etc.) for customizing new fighters. While all of this does challenge players, it never seems to achieve the desired effect of supplying a truly engaging single-player experience. Actually, it feels more like an extended tutorial rather than a compelling campaign mode.
All in all, Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic is a solid entry for the PSN. It just doesn’t hold up in terms of single-player fun – this is a game made strictly for local multiplayer. While opening up rewards, accruing Trophies (there are 12 in all – most of which are repeats of the reward challenges), and honing your skills in the Challenges mode is fun, I would have liked to test my skills against players around the world, especially against high-ranking leaderboard opponents. Sadly, online multiplayer is not available, and the Challenges mode is only decent, relegating the experience to strictly that of local multiplayer. Even so, as a party game entry, this game is tough to beat. Virtually beating up buddies is a real treat that I’ll be taking advantage of frequently – you’ll likely want to too!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.2 Graphics
The wushu-inspired characters are a hoot and the rag-doll physics are great. I wish there was more variety in environments. 4.2 Control
Controls are accessible and easily mastered in under 20 minutes. Some may be dismayed by the inclusion of motion controls. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The tunes are very catchy and the character sounds are perfect. Things do get repetitive though. 3.5 Play Value
This game is a barrel of monkeys when you have friends over. Unfortunately, the single-player experience is wanting, and the lack of online multiplayer is a shame. 3.6 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.