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Review: Shaq Fu - A Legend Reborn

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Shaq is back, but kinda wack

1994's Shaq Fu isn't the Worst Game Ever, as hyperbolists like to trot out, but it was pretty damn bad. Sure, it was a bizarre one-on-one fighter which featured then-Orlando Magic NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal and a bunch of aliens and monsters, but still, it had nice animation, a catgirl, and a crew member was called "Chris Moyne" which is a bit like my name, so there's that.

But now, in an era of Night Trap re-releases and ironic, but still shit sequels, The Shaq Attack has returned, nearly 25 years later, with Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn. Developed by Big Deez Productions and crowdfunded via Indiegogo, this tongue-in-cheek title sees the big man taping his fists for some side-scrolling beat-'em-up action.

The question is, who is the audience? More importantly, who is the joke on here? Is Shaq Fu a silly-but-fun satire of its own ridiculousness, or is the punchline on the well-meaning folks who put down their cash to see it get made? Strap on your size 22s and let's find out.



Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn
(PS4 [reviewed], Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch)

Developer: Big Deez Productions
Publisher: Wired Productions

Released: June 5, 2018
MSRP: $19.99

The plot of Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is, as Shaq says himself, "convoluted and full of holes." A poor Chinese orphan, Shaq Fei Hung, is forced to face up to his destiny when it becomes apparent that some of the world's biggest celebrities are actually demons plotting to keep the people in a state of moronic subservience. As dictated by The Prophecy, Shaq must use the skills taught to him by his kung-fu master, Ye-Ye, to travel the globe, take down the celebrities and save the universe.

The game itself is a simplistic scrolling brawler. As Shaq, players take on wave after wave of drone-like enemies. Mashing attack builds up a combo, before ending it with Bayonetta-style giant boot finisher, Shaq also has a shoulder charge, a ground pound, and a fairly useless jump-kick. Various weapons can be gathered from the streets or dropped by opponents. Once you reach the end of a stage, you face a celebrity boss, who must be defeated to progress.

The problem is, the game is just so numbingly repetitive. Despite the fact it is a mere six stages long, and can be completed in about three hours, it becomes so drawn out, due to the endless waves of villains -- none of whom put up a decent fight -- and tiresome sequences designed for variety, but are just tedious. For example, one stage has you push boulders down a hill onto enemies for what seems like an eternity, before you move to another hill and do the exact same thing again. Occasionally a stage will lock you into an area, power you up (such as with the "Big D" Mech suit) then force you to defeat, literally, 200 baddies before you can move on. Even though you can mow through them with ease, it's just really boring to do so.

Players could be convinced to stick with the tedium if the writing was sharp, but Shaq Fu basically thinks it's South Park, without being close to the same level of wit. The game takes a dubiously proud "non-politically correct" stance, but doesn't seem to understand that even offensive satire still has to be satirical. The China level is filled with washing machines, because there are a lot of Chinese laundries. That's the joke. If you think South Park's "Shitty Wok" guy is side-splitting comedy, brother, you'll think this is the funniest game ever.

The this level of trope comedy permeates Shaq Fu. The writers think they're pushing the envelope with a "everyone's fair game for ridicule" stance, ala Trey Parker and Matt Stone, but it's just schoolyard idiocy. You fight Jersey Shore-types and lederhosen-wearing Nazis. Shaq meets a camp, leather-clad gay biker, a knock-off Benny Hill Theme plays, one guy shouts "LEEROY JENKINS!" Jesus wept.

The bosses are satires of celebrity figures, but the battles are awkward on a technical level, while being painfully dated conceptually. We get Donald Trump (of course), but we also get Paris Hilton (who I haven't heard mention of in forever), a drunken Aussie racist in a kilt, who I guess is supposed to be Mel Gibson, and a teeny-bopper popstar, who's Justin Beiber, I suppose. There's also a sexy instagram-loving woman who turns into a giant ass that eats tacos, who's that? Kim Kardashian? J-Lo? Probably fucking both. Even pseudo-Lindsay Lohan puts in an appearance. Hell, let's make a Keyboard Cat reference while we're hitting these jokes at the height of the zeitgeist.



There is some talent on display here, fortunately. The game's lighting and effects are very good, especially during explosions and special attacks. The cutscene art is also neat, particularly the boss portraits. There's even some cool attention to detail, such as how the banshee souls leave their bodies when defeated, satisfying sound effects as you land big strikes and weapon shots, even the way you can smash enemies into the fourth wall, Turtles in Time style. Occasionally, a couple of the one-liners genuinely hit their mark, raising a legitimate smile, but the bad stuff slam dunks so hard on the good.

Six stages of bland, repetitive brawling later, you're done. There are no extra modes and the game is sorely, sorely missing a co-op option (which the game actually notes itself in one of many self-referential jokes). The enemies only vary for the about four of the six stages, with the other two just being crammed with enemies from all the stages. You can 100% the game in less than three hours, and there is zero reason to replay it, no alternate paths, modes, characters, nothing. Twenty bucks.

Well, I say twenty bucks, but I don't know the price it cost Shaq Fu's backers on Indiegogo, who raised almost half a million dollars for their bland, swift gameplay experience. The original crowdfunding page even lists a ton of features that make no appearance in the finished product. That's the problem with pushing ironic humour hard, it can be pretty funny on paper but, ultimately, the joke may be on you.

Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn, like Bubsy: The Woolies Strike Back, is a nostalgic joke taken too far. Though there are postivies in the presentation, the gameplay is laborious, even draining. Shaq Fu outstays its welcome, despite its meagre run-time, which is far more offensive than its juvenile attempts at "edgy" comedy. Shaq should've known better than to put his name to this, and everyone should've known better than to put money into its creation.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn reviewed by Chris Moyse

3

POOR

Went wrong somewhere along the line. The original idea might have promise, but in practice it has failed. Threatens to be interesting sometimes, but rarely.
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Chris Moyse
Chris MoyseWeekend Editor   gamer profile

Chris (Orochileona) has been playing video games since video games began... still terrible at them. Former Saturday Night Slam Master, rambles nostalgically like Abe Simpson. I ain't here to figh... more + disclosures


 


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