Kung Fu Panda Updated Hands-On

If you're a panda voiced by Jack Black, of course you're not going to hang out and eat bamboo. You're going to learn martial arts and save your village from ruin.

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We first brought you impressions of Kung Fu Panda back in February after playing the demo Nintendo set up at its Game Developers Conference booth. Nintendo was back in town last week for its Media Summit, bringing along an updated version of this Vicarious Visions-developed DS tie-in. While our original preview focused on the game's surprisingly solid combat mechanics, now we can share some details about the game's platforming elements.

One wrong move and your panda will become extinct.
One wrong move and your panda will become extinct.

This demo begins with wolf ninjas attacking the home village of Po, the game's panda protagonist. After some rather lengthy cutscenes and dialogue, the game begins by commanding you to make your way up to the jade palace. Along the way you encounter various puzzles and platforming obstacles that require the stylus to solve. The first such platforming section has you jumping up to a high ledge to activate a switch that opens the door beneath it. This can be accomplished in one of two ways: either by pressing up to jump, or by swiping upward on the touch screen to initiate a vertical strike that achieves the same results.

At other times you'll encounter switches that prove a bit more complicated. These are the familiar bane of platformers: switches that must remain pressed down for a door to stay open. At these points in the game, Po's super panda strength comes into play. You can use the stylus to lift up a barrel, then use it again to hurl the barrel up to the ledge housing this finicky switch. Both motions are done with the touch screen, lending a nice fluidity to these segments. Indicators on the screen also help notify the action about to take place, either with a big paw to indicate you'll be picking an object up or an arrow to tell you you'll be chucking it.

Eventually you'll make your way up to the jade palace, where your master will tell you about the kung fu medallions spread across the village. These are the key to unlocking new martial arts techniques. The first technique we unlocked was the flying squirrel technique, or as we call it, the "double-jumping panda technique." This action lets you reach even higher ledges by tapping up on the D pad twice for two successive jumps. We imagine you'll be able to unlock a good deal of techniques as the game continues, but our demo ended before we had the chance to unlock much more than that. One interesting technique that we had from the beginning, however, was the ability to roll into a ball a la Metroid Prime. Although this technique isn't required at any point the demo, it does help you travel along at a much faster clip.

Kung Fu Panda looks like it should at least amount to a better-than-average portable tie-in. Although the portion we got to play adhered rigidly to platforming standards, the stylus controls feel intuitive and the frequent animated cutscenes make for a nice, cinematic experience. Kung Fu Panda is due to arrive alongside the movie on June 3.

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