Ever wanted to star in your own comic book? No? Liar. If you consider yourself a geek, chances are you've spent some more than just a brief hour or two daydreaming and wondering what it was like to be the hero. Or if you're me, watching Drunken Master and taking swigs of Jim Beam, saying "Pfffft I could shhh-ooo do thaaat!" while knocking over an ashtray.
If you've ever wanted a taste of how effective you'd be in a back alley showdown between you and the forces of evil, this may be the game for you.
Kung Fu High Impact (Xbox 360 Kinect)
Yes, this ambitious little game debuted back in November, making the review a tad late, but to be fair: it's hard to assess a game you can only play in 20 minute bursts. I'm in fairly decent shape and exercise regularly; I can run three miles in 34 minutes, 32 if you don't count my refreshing post-workout pukefest in the bushes. All the same, Kung Fu High Impact takes a lot out of me. A lot of puke.
Kung Fu High Impact is the Kinect follow up to the Playstation Eye's Kung Fu Live of 2010. Both games take your live image and insert you into the game as the lead character, taking snapshots before each chapter to add your photos to the story's virtual comic book. The original came out just before the Kinect, and thus, my standards on some of the visuals and menu aspects have changed since first reviewing the series. How would High Impact hold up when incorporating new motion controls standards established by the Kinect?
My first knee-jerk response when firing up the game: "This is what Kung Fu Live should have been." Whereas once your in-game image was marred by a crude black outline, now the transfer is seamless. The menu is easy to navigate, with an art style that delightfully highlights the game's comic book theme. The several minutes of lighting, environment, and even wardrobe adjustments necessary in Live are now gone. With High Impact, you get started almost instantly.
As with Live, the most fun is to be had with weapons and costumes. There's something to be said for beating down baddies while you're in a bathrobe and wielding a pair of hedge clippers, or in a Power Ranger costume swingin' a sack full of batteries. The combinations are endless. The tracking seems to have improved, as I was able to use a dowel that was much too thin to register onscreen while playing Live. You'll still have to choose your "weapon" wisely, though. I've ruined a darling rainbow polka dotted umbrella already. "Wind proof", my ass.
Both games make use of magic-based special moves: Ground Shaker, Lightning, Time Stop, and Power Punch. The special moves are your chance to save some energy, and they work well. Unfortunately, you have to get through the story mode to learn them, and that means time invested. Time invested means constant physical exertion, and as such, you may lose interest before ever learning them. It's a shame, but inevitable. Punching a giant in the junk is fun but only in that brief window of time before rushing to the sink to vomit. (Luckily, if you know the moves already from having played Live/don't want to wait, the charge meter in the upper right hand corner provides four diagrams serving as a reminder on how to perform them). Other moves like somersaults and back flips can be strung together in combo attacks for bonus point, while tactics like blocking and dodging are also effective.
When you tire of the 10 chapter Story Mode, additional ways to play can be found in the Mayhem Designer, which allows you to customize and tweak difficulty settings and other features, while Multiplayer hysterically allows you to battle enemies controlled by up to three friends. There are also a number of survival modes to keep you entertained should either of those not do it for you.
As much as I emphasize the physical exertion, I must stress how little it actually bothers me. If I weren't fully entertained by High Impact, I wouldn't bother with the effort. In that sense, this game could provide a valuable workout tool, as boredom and motivation are two of the biggest obstacles to regular exercise. While I joke about having post workout pukes in the bushes, the fact is, that only happens when I actively push myself. With High Impact, I don't have to push myself, the motivation is already there. Instead of pep talking myself up a hill, I'm looking at the clock with a sweaty face wondering where the time went. Finding pockets of time to rest in between attacks will have to be a necessary part of your strategy, as it's not going to come naturally.
Now onto the flaws. Sadly, the game has a few. The level design could use some work. The colors are bright and engaging, but the art is merely adequate. While some backgrounds, like Wild Forest, appeal to me a lot, at the same time, they lack a distinctive personality of their own. It's such a stark contrast to what they've done with the menu design, which for all its simplicity manages to capture the comic book spirit perfectly. The enemy design is also lacking, not particularly imaginative in aesthetic or function. I'd really like to see this series develop a cohesive in-game style that leaves a lasting impression, like Borderlands or even Street Fighter IV. A wider range of combos, additional special moves, and a more compelling story line would also be welcome additions to any future sequels.
Space will also be an issue. I've already optimized my living room set up to easily accommodate Kinect games, yet for High Impact it just wasn't enough. A lack of space can be adjusted for somewhat by using more special moves, but as mentioned previously, you may end up karate chopping through a glass table before you can get to that point.
Overall, I'd give this game an 8.0. In terms of addressing and incorporating the new standards established by Kinect, Kung Fu High Impact has done well. It's fun played alone or with a group, and is even a great workout. I advise would-be fans to shop around and get a better price, as the amount of game content may be disappointing if you pay much more than $20. All the same I think it's a must-have for the Kinect collection.
THE VERDICT - Kung Fu High Impact
Reviewed by Holly Green