It is common knowledge that quintessentially Japanese games have a reputation for truly terrifying me in copious amounts. SCE Japan Studio has long been responsible for inflicting such terror thanks to a long list of uncomfortably bizarre titles including Ape Escape, LocoRoco and Patapon. And now, in the rise of Sony’s new motion controller PlayStation Move, it’s Kung Fu Rider’s turn to petrify my soul.
You play as either bumbling private detective Tobin or his scantily-clad secretary Karin who, for reasons that are left unexplained throughout the duration of the game, are fleeing from the Mafia (wait, shouldn’t it be the Triad if it’s set in Hong Kong?). Their chosen means of escape? Why, riding down the streets of Hong Kong on an unstable office chair, of course. Oh dear.
Truth be told, nothing makes much sense in the inept world of Kung Fu Rider. In a game that wasn’t already warped enough, Tobin (a cretin who is clearly meant to be Chinese) has been dubbed with a hilariously out-of-place cockney accent in the UK version of the game. Meanwhile, you roam around Hong Kong collecting currency in the form of American dollars. Come again?
Kung Fu Rider essentially plays as a botched downhill racer, and the goal is to simply reach your van located at the end of each level by manoeuvring the preposterous contraption carrying your character (be it an office chair, vacuum cleaner, buggy, etc.) around the environment against the clock whilst avoiding all manner of obstacles, including traffic cars, barrels and Mafia henchmen who wish to foil your escape.
Games that embrace the advent of motion technology usually have simplified controls, but not so with Kung Fu Rider, which completely fails as an advertisement for the PlayStation Move’s fluidity. To increase your speed, you have to constantly wriggle the controller up and down, but the immediate problem here is that you can also jump by flicking the controller upwards, so it is therefore infuriatingly common for the game to complete misinterpret your actions.
Turning left or right with the controller is a similar ordeal: it’s so sluggishly unresponsive you will more often than not miss the turn and slam into a wall. And then you become even more enraged when you suddenly realise you only have a few lives for each level, which makes the later levels incredibly frustrating when they are littered with unavoidable obstacles.
As if this wasn’t convoluted enough to coordinate, thrusting the controller forwards activates a turbo boost, which rarely gets detected. To make matters worse, the game also utilises the remaining buttons of the controller for ducking under barriers (which looks plain wrong) or performing Kung Fu moves on the fly to dispatch the various foes you encounter. The result is a control scheme that is an absolute disaster in practice – it feels so needlessly cluttered and completely unintuitive. The incessant need to increase your speed by repetitiously shaking the controller up and down can even cramp your wrist after a while, too.
Each level contains various collectibles to find and markers to pass through before the game grades you on your performance. Unfortunately, any possible replay value from this is largely diminished by Kung Fu Rider’s insistence of repeating the same city environments throughout, which leads to the already shallow premise becoming repetitive very quickly indeed. Every level even starts and finishes with the same inane cut scene and woeful dialogue.
I can safely say the only satisfaction I got from the game was from inflicting physical suffering to the lead characters by deliberately lunging them into solid objects and watching their bloodied (in my mind at least) bodies tumble across the street – their deliciously pained expressions are even highlighted for you in slow motion. The rag-doll physics remind me of the sort of thing you see in Pain – perhaps Tobin and Karin should be made available as new downloadable characters for Pain as a punishment. It’s not like they don’t deserve it.
At £25.00, Kung Fu Rider is hardly the epitome of value for money, either. It would have been much more suited as a budget PSN title, but it still wouldn’t have been any more enticing, although its crimes may have at least been marginally more forgivable. I criticised Start the Party! for being poor value for money, but Kung Fu Rider is in a different league altogether for the few samey levels they salvaged.
What I love most is how the game takes random snapshots of you during play only to show you a photo of your unequivocally bored face. To demonstrate, here is a choice photograph of me “enjoying” Kung Fu Rider:
I don’t know about you, but I think that articulates my feelings towards Kung Fu Rider more effectively than the entirety of this review.
Out of all the PlayStation Move Launch games available, Kung Fu Rider is the one to avoid without a shadow of doubt. I’m sorry SCE Japan, but this is the sort of mindless drivel that shouldn’t have been released as a full-priced retail game in the first place.
Stay tuned for more PlayStation Move coverage this week on Gamer Limit!
The cartoony visuals are passable but by no means spectacular.
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Repetitive level design, broken controls and a baffling premise render Kung Fu Rider thoroughly unenjoyable.
There are only so many times you can put up with hearing the same forced lines at the start of the game time and time again.
Additional medals offers some incentive to repeat levels, but the samey design and horrendous controls will dissuade the most hardened of gamers.
Kung Fu Rider is a lot of things, but entertaining certainly isn't one of them - weird, boring, repetitive, frustrating and ultimately pointless would be much closer to the mark.