This review is entirely factual and any resemblances to any reviews or work done by other persons, living or dead are intentional. Sam Turner is not responsible for any injury caused whilst reading this review or the resulting anger or joy that may follow. Although every care is taken to limit spelling and grammatical errors some may still occur and by reading this review you understand that Sam Turner is only human are you are responsible for your own health and well-being.
Disclaimers are strange things though. They range from simply warning that Coffee is hot or that a bag of Peanuts contain Nuts, to the sensible ones you see when approaching a Gun Range or jumping off a diving board. It is all legal guff of course but it has to be there for people who want to protect themselves from the stupidity of others and lack of common sense. Luckily for most of us it is usually guff we can ignore but is has succeeded in highlighting the dangerous world around us.
Kung Fu LIVE from the Virtual Air Guitar Company is laden with so many disclaimers that you might as well just walk into a police interrogation room before playing and be forced to sign the Miranda Rights, just to be on the safe side. There are, of course, the obligatory jovial ones mentioning that playing the game might result in accidental fitness. However all they are there for is in the vain hope that your chuckling of a newly formed six pack will offset the more serious disclaimers that mention death.
I am sorry, what? Death? I don’t think I am happy about this at all, not one bit. I am OK with a sore shoulder or injured toe but death, real-life death in a video game? This is just something that just didn’t sit right with me at all, and I think it is meant in all seriousness. Indeed when you play Kung Fu LIVE you wonder if one of the developers from Virtual Air Guitar Company actually did pop their clogs whilst playing the game and that is why they had to include the disclaimer. It is only when you first start fighting the fight that you realise that maybe RL death could be a possibility.
It is with regret that I have to say the words ‘You are the controller’, but the fact of the matter is is that in KFL you are. Other than navigating much of the finally presented front end, everything else you do in the game is controlled by whatever it is you get up to in your own home. Oddly though KFL is a PlayStation 3 exclusive and for the time being is not being planned for release on the more adapt rival 360. It feels like a strange tactical move from Sony, but it is a move that is perfectly timed to gather up any negative fallout that there might have been from the release of Kinect.
By only using the PlayStation Eye KFL puts you into this side-scrolling beat ‘em up. Now, when I say puts you, I don’t mean figuratively, you don’t appear on screen as some avatar with hair a little bit like yours. What actually happens is the real life you, as you stand in your living room takes its place on screen. Cue now my giggling delight as I see me, wearing what I am wearing walking inside a computer game beating up bad guys. My Lord it is like Tron without all the neon but still with the realistic possibility of actually dying (apparently).
It is a dream concept and one that works well, kind of. What KFL essentially does is to cut out your body from the background behind you, and just like Kinect, transpose that what you do on the carpet to that which is seen on screen. For this you need space, about 7X2ft to really get the most from the game. I would have been just about fine if my partner hadn’t of just put up a new set of shelves, but that is really just nit-picking as the space issue is easily solved as it is more of a safety thing than actually practical to the game. Having to shift around your whole living room though to just play a title lasting between 2 – 5 hours in length does seem like a bit of a hassle.
Other than space, make sure you have a lot of light as well, and for this I assume near gargantuan quantities of the stuff. I had six lights on in my flat whilst playing this and it still wasn’t enough for it to properly map out my body from the background. I guess it just wasn’t the right kind of light.
Though complicated and utterly fussy, it is a back end that seems to work really well. You’ll spend a lot of time faffing and trying to get things just right, and I never seemed to get anything near what was shown in the tutorials. Whether this had an effect on the gameplay though I am not sure as even though parts of my body would happily disappear and reappear at will, I was still able to pleasantly take down a bad guy or two.
With sweat hanging from my brow KFL doesn’t rely on pre-planned gestures to work. What you do to fight is how you fight. Other than a few special moves and flipping, which require some token gestures to be performed, how you fight is completely up to you. This is the joy of KFL and also the reason that whilst writing this I cannot move anything above my belly button.
The first fight is nothing but a pleasure as you try and emulate any Kung-Fu movie you have ever seen. I was trying out all sorts from the one inch punch to a full round house kick to the chops, and all of it mapping quite accurately to the screen. Punch near an enemy and he gets hit, kick him near the feet and he goes down. It is simple fighting law and how you fight is all your own making. The game is so endearing to be played that due to exhaustion all your style rapidly falls out of the window leaving most of the later enemies to be take down by wind-milling across the screen. Moving a whole body around is certainly a lot more work than pressing a few buttons.
It is a fun premise and the fact of the matter is that the simple pleasure of seeing yourself on screen is likely to offset most of the fidgety back end and the fact that the technology whilst nicely presented isn’t quite up to scratch. Kung Fu LIVE knows its audience better than most by quite literally placing you directly into a sharply presented comic book world. All its faults are mechanical but it is the face that they are faults it’ll never own up to. It is your fault you haven’t enough light or enough space to enjoy the game properly. It is just a lot of effort to try and please a game that requires so much wants and needs, however just like a real comic book I just wanted to pick up and play.
MLG Rating: 7/10
Platform: PSN Release Date: 08/12/2010
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Kung Fu LIVE for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of four days on a PS3.