Kung Fu Chaos Review
Kung Fu Chaos probably won't keep you occupied for long, especially if you're not playing it with a rowdy group of friends.
If you're lucky and up late enough, you might catch an English-dubbed kung fu movie from the '70s while surfing through the channels on TV. While a few of Hong Kong action cinema's greatest performers have burst into worldwide superstardom--guys like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li--there's an untold number of chop-socky kung fu flicks starring no one in particular, featuring cheesy English dialogue, having no real pretense of a storyline, and shot on film stock that looks as if it were developed in muddy water. These movies are really just an excuse to present two hours of martial arts brawling for your viewing pleasure. Microsoft and developer Just Add Monsters' new party game, Kung Fu Chaos, draws on '70s kung fu movies as its source material, poking fun at while still trying to pay homage to this unique material. It also has low aspirations similar to those of the sorts of movies it's mocking. The core gameplay of Kung Fu Chaos is a simple but visually impressive beat-'em-up for up to four players, reminiscent of Capcom's Power Stone series or Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. games, though with a less distinguishable cast of characters and with a few minigames thrown in. Kung Fu Chaos probably won't keep you occupied for long, especially if you're not playing it with a rowdy group of friends. But it can make for some good, silly fun in short spurts.
There's an old, politically incorrect joke about how some Hong Kong kung fu movies are so cheap, their directors can't afford any special effects whatsoever. So you know all those guys you're seeing get beat up, or stabbed, or what have you, all for your viewing pleasure? They're actually getting beat up, or stabbed, or what have you. That's the premise of Kung Fu Chaos, in which you play as one of several different wannabe kung fu heroes and will have to take on droves of ninjas bent on killing you--all while the cameras are rolling. Much of the game should actually be pretty funny for kung fu movie fans, though the movie director who narrates the game's main mode of play is really awful, a hyperactive fountain of stereotypes with a shrill, irritating voice and bad dialogue.
The playable characters aren't particularly satisfying, either. The better ones include your gratuitous kung-fu-fighting old man and a samurai styled after the hero of the famous Japanese comic Lone Wolf and Cub. But the other characters include a Mexican wrestler, a blonde on roller-skates, and a sassy shotgun-toting Pam Grier knockoff--characters with no business being in this game. Meanwhile, kung fu movie archetypes like the kung-fu-fighting chef, the kung-fu-fighting monk, and the kung-fu-fighting cop are all glaringly absent from the character roster.
Most of Kung Fu Chaos' features are initially locked but can be made available if you perform well in the "ninja challenge," the game's main single-player mode that puts you in numerous brawls and minigames in six different movie sets. You can finish a level in the ninja challenge without much trouble, but getting a full five-star rating in some of them can take some practice. The other gameplay options include battle, which is a single-session brawl that can be played by one to four players; championship, which is a series of battles; miniseries, which are single-player character-specific scenarios based on the ninja challenge; freestyle, which is one continuous fight; and rehearsal, which is a training mode. There's also a special-features section in which you can view replays of your battles, convincingly done up with a grainy filter to make them look like old kung fu flicks. This may sound like a lot of stuff, but you could easily unlock a majority of it in a sitting or two. Then again, that's probably a good thing, since Kung Fu Chaos is better suited as a multiplayer game anyway.