Kung Fu is a way of life! A simple two word phrase that instantly conjures up images, films and lifestyles all but forgotten in modern martial arts cinema. The bad dubbing, the loose plot lines you could swing over canyons with, and action that was always brutal yet beautiful.
Roughly translated I am told Kung Fu basically means “achievement through great effort”. What this means is that for so long I could have been a Kung Fu master! I don’t need to grow the facial hair and deal with the impracticalities of catching flies with chop sticks, all I had to do was wait for an opportunity to apply my effort into achieving something.
Sony Online Entertainment’s Revenge of the Wounded Dragon for the PSN, is immediate in awakening all that nostalgia of Kung Fu from within me, from the pulsing 70’s funk guitar soundtrack, through the simple arcade fighting style, to the colourful art design. Revenge of the Wounded Dragon does a lot to try and capture the artistry of the past but also “rice sacks” a few elements you probably will not be expecting.
With single player, local co-op, and a bunch of mini-games, even though a play through may be short, ROTWD seems to have a lot to offer for its price tag. Though you might be immediately disappointed as soon as you start it up afresh.
ROTWD really walks light when it comes to story, and how it is all delivered is of no pleasure at all. Static cartoon images with quivering bottom lips looks all very old school, and retro in design, but it disregards all the finer detail and indeed all relative meaning that, if done correctly, even the simplest of art can offer.
The main characters are defined by only the clothes that they wear (one in blue and other in red). You join them relaxing one day, until a fat, lecherous, toad-like man with an absurd penchant for sticking his tongue into the ear of girls, pops up! He quickly kills off the Grandad of said protagonists, who we’ll call Blue and Red. Well… I say Grandad… the cut scenes are so non-descript he could be anything from Grandad, Sensei, or even a door-to-door salesmen! So the old guy dies, the fat guy licks a girls’ ear then takes her away in a blue van! That’s it! Whatever just happened must of made Blue and Red mad because what follows on from the kidnapping is a five hour destructive rampage as you try and catch up with “wotsit” and “whositsface”!
A side scrolling beat ‘em up by design, the developers at Artificial Mind & Movement have brought a fresh perspective into the genre. Lush backgrounds show real depth and destructible environments are just another part to enhancing the overall experience. Cars crash from the back ground into the fore bringing more goons to fight, levels descend vertically down several trapdoors, and parts of the environment, like sacks, fish and vases are available to you for use as weapons.
Each of the four stages is made up of six different areas. All of which, of course, come fully equipped with the regular cast of angry goons, monks, fishermen, women of the night, big blue beastly monsters and moustached men wearing tight leather chaps! Don’t let all this fighting and leather distract you though, as you’ll also have to work your way through mazes, flip switches, jump passed slicing silver swords, and navigate across tumbling platforms. It’s all done truthfully and presented as an honest and refreshing element that never seems out of place, and must be highly commended.
There is an instant charm to ROTWD. Whether you are traditional and just use your hands and feet or you pick up the variety of weapons on offer, be it a Kendo stick or shotgun, there is something instantly likeable about this game. Even though it is thoroughly peppered with enough ammunition and weapons to cause a small uprising, fighting is of course what ROTWD does successfully, unfortunately only if you venture about it the right way.
Simply put, you can punch, and kick, and that’s about it. Of course the weapons give you something to swing, shoot or throw but the true satisfaction comes from taking down enemies with the weapons god gave you! Several finisher combos really give some glory and guilty satisfaction when finishing off your enemies, all animated with graphic and brutal delectation thrown in. If I say “Iron Head” and “Bamboo Breaker” you can probably guess which body parts get snapped, twisted and pummelled!
Glorious and exciting though it may sound, there is an early complacency that spreads within the first few hours which ROTWD finds difficult to shrug off. The basic skill set at first is not the most enabling and free to control, and is certainly hampered in part by some stiff animation. It becomes easy to rely on just basic punching and jumping to get you through each stage, repetitive enemy A.I. also becomes more apparent as you venture on, so after the first few stages there is little surprise or new things to enjoy.
The real joy, delight and charm of ROTWD heralds from the effort you put in, but only if you stick around that long. Taking time to perfect the moves offers up a small titbit of enjoyment, especially when you find yourself reading the enemy to know when they are pulling back for a punch and then seamlessly executing sweeping low kicks so you can expose the body. A small pleasure indeed but one you can manufacture often enough. Whether you’ll stick around long though to learn and engage all of these elements is down to personal preference, but for me it was certainly the most joy I experienced from the title.
What really cripples ROTWD are the repetitive elements, occurring so frequently in parts that they overcome some classy and interesting level design, and keep you from wanting to play on. Trophies are there to collect and mini-games are abundant but none of them offer the true variety needed to stop most people from putting the game to rest after half an hour. Long slogs through the game for the less willing will be tiresome and certainly frustrating, and even when you do master the artistry sometimes it’s still easier to simply jump kick your way through the whole game.
MLG Rating: 6/10
Platform: PSN Release Date: 10/12/2009
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Revenge of the Wounded Dragons for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of five days on a PS3. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.