Kung Fu Panda Review

This shallow and repetitive beat-'em-up is fun for a while, but doesn't last much longer than the movie that it's based on.

Kung Fu Panda on the Xbox 360 brilliantly captures the look and feel of the movie that it's based on; the problem is that it's shallow, repetitive, and only slightly longer than the source material. The game is intended primarily for those who have seen the film and want to live out Po's adventure as both the bumbling fool and unlikely Dragon Warrior saviour. For this reason, those who pick up Kung Fu Panda on a whim may find the character introductions are a little thin and that their experience suffers as a result.

While not impossible to follow, the story can certainly be a little confusing, especially in regards to intercharacter relationships. If you haven't seen the movie the game comes across as slightly disjointed, and while it can be played as you would any off-the-shelf beat-'em-up, don't be surprised if you find yourself struggling to make connections at times.

Even Po the Dragon Warrior needs to learn the basics. Hit the training room to brush up on your awesome skills.
Even Po the Dragon Warrior needs to learn the basics. Hit the training room to brush up on your awesome skills.

In the game you'll take on the croc, boar, and ninja cat gangs of Peace Valley as they vie to capitalise on bad guy Tai Lung's return. It's no real surprise that you'll play Kung Fu Panda mostly as main character Po, but during the game's 13 short chapters you'll also assume the role of his sensei Master Shifu as well as Furious Five members Tigress, Monkey, Mantis, Crane, and Viper. Each has a unique skill set, with Shifu capable of skull-hopping between groups of foes, and Monkey lashing out and striking foes with his tail. You should be able to rip through the single-player campaign in around four hours, even less if you complete only the minimum requirement objectives rather than taking the time to do advanced tasks, explore, and find rare items. For the most part, collectibles take the form of jade coins that unlock the game's multiplayer modes and selectable characters. Finding hidden figurines of the Furious Five and Po scattered throughout levels rewards you with short video montages of them in action taken directly from the film. Some of these are only a few seconds long, so they hardly justify replaying stages if you missed finding them the first time around.

Like other games in the brawler genre, you'll use the left analog stick to move your character around. There are two attack buttons, and holding one of them down will charge a more powerful attack and use Po's Chi, the game's form of energy for special attacks. Defeated foes drop orbs that when collected restore Chi, while smashing and consuming the contents of dumpling baskets restores health. Gold coins can be collected and used in the game's store to upgrade Po's health, Chi bars, melee damage dealt, and the power of his special attacks. Unfortunately, the relatively small amount of Chi used for specials at the easier difficulty levels and plentiful refills mean the best approach is to pump all your coins into maxing out your Panda Quake ability, luring and corralling groups of targets and body-slamming them into oblivion. It's an effective but incredibly repetitious way to finish the game, and it's usable all the way to the end with the exception of the boss battles, which require quick-action button-press events. These battles become more and more frequent as you progress, with the number of button combos you'll need to press getting higher toward the end of the game. In line with the title's gentle learning curve, failure to perform them simply starts over at the beginning until you get it right without penalty.

All the major characters from the film make an appearance in the console version of Kung Fu Panda.
All the major characters from the film make an appearance in the console version of Kung Fu Panda.

Kung Fu Panda's multiplayer mode only supports offline play, and while it's available straightaway, you'll only have around half of the minigames available out of the box, with the remainder requiring you to find items in the single-player mode to unlock them. Depending on the minigame you're playing, you'll be able to battle alongside up to three friends across games such as a shameless Super Smash Bros. Brawl clone; cooperative team survival mode against hordes of enemies and a timer; tile-flipping picture matching; and Hong Kong, a competitive, Bejewelled-esque icon-matching column game complete with levelling system.

Outdoor environments appear lush and verdant, while indoor zones feature great details, such as the Dragon Scroll dojo's polished floors and towering ornate pillars. The game captures the look and feel of the film very well, all the way down to the furry-looking tufts on Po's character model. Audio in Kung Fu Panda is one of its strong points, and helps deliver the title's snappy quips with great success. While the game doesn't have the same all-star cast as the film, the Jack Black impersonator who narrates the game's story is believable enough. However, the same can't be said for Jackie Chan's character, Monkey, who comes across as wooden.

Kung Fu Panda is an admirable attempt to bring the fun, humour, and look of the film to the Xbox 360, and in these areas it succeeds. Unfortunately, a measly four hours of repetitive gameplay and inconsistent voice acting makes it a hard sell at full price for all but the most hardcore fans of endangered-species martial arts.

The Good

  • Great dialogue
  • Visuals really capture the look and feel of the movie

The Bad

  • Short single-player campaign
  • Inconsistent voice acting
  • Limited character development
  • Repetitive gameplay