Way back in the day, when I was young and apparently most people were even younger, a game called Incredible Crisis captured my imagination. Your goal was to keep the main character out of trouble on what was the worst day of his life, by playing a range of minigames. It was fun, quirky, made little sense and above all, was incredibly Japanese. Not only was it all those things, but it was also quite brilliant.
The first screenshots and trailers for Kung Fu Rider put me in mind of Incredible Crisis. It looked equally as quirky, equally as ridiculous and equally as fun. The fact that it was a launch title for PlayStation Move was nothing but a bonus.
Let me break down the concept for you. You play as one of two characters (Tobin or Karin) who are being chased by gangsters. You have to escape them on anything with wheels, essentially, whether it be an office chair, a serving table, or a children’s ride-on toy deer. Your goal is your mobile office, which is a van that seems to always be at the bottom of a long and winding route through a Japanese city. Along the way, gangsters will try to stop you by aiming kung fu moves at you, and you’ll need to dodge countless obstacles whilst picking up cash, grinding rails and collecting boost power to use in the event of an emergency. You lose if you get knocked off your “vehicle” five times or run out of time.
Got it? Good.
It’s a fun concept that could provide high-action thrills, but there are so many problems standing in the way that you’ll be hard-pressed to find any sort of longevity here, and that’s a real shame since in short bursts, Kung Fu Rider can be quite fun.
There are – unfortunately – control issues that frequently rear their head, and a lot of the times that you get thrown to the ground will be because something hasn’t responded properly. You’re told that you can drift around corners by swinging the Motion Controller out to the side for example, but this rarely works when you really need it to and you lose so much speed by doing it, that you’ll not want to bother. Jumping and grinding on rails is another biggie. You can leap into the air and hit the Move button to grind a seemingly magnetic rail whilst you’re still a good 20ft above it sometimes, but the next time you try it, you’ll find the game refusing to recognise your command and predictably, this leads to you grinding to a halt and facing a wall. Even basic acceleration has its faults, although this is more of a design issue than anything else. To speed up, you have to waggle the controller up and down and to jump, you thrust the controller into the air. Once you realise that you only need to shake the controller incredibly subtly in order to push yourself along, you’ll stop jumping every time you try to accelerate, but that doesn’t stop the game throwing in a completely unrequested leap at least once per round, and that leads to a heck of a lot of frustration.
There’s also a problem with repetition. Every single course is set in the same Japanese city, with only varying street names being used. Each course is practically indistinguishable from the next, and I was soon bored.
But, Kung Fu Rider does have the occasional glimmer of quality. When you lean backwards at speed and limbo under a couple of street signs, before flying up a ramp and leaping from a raised platform to enable you to land perfectly on that rail, you’ll be smiling like a Cheshire cat. Generally, the controls will prevent that from happening and you’ll end up falling off the side of the ramp, or being rammed by a car that appears from nowhere – which is something else that happens a lot.
To top it all off, in the European edition of the game, the very Japanese characters who are booming around a very Japanese city have had their voices replaced with the stock standard Sony Mockney accents. Tobin starts EVERY SINGLE LEVEL with “I ‘ope Karin is oh kay. Whereva she ees!” before approaching your vehicle of choice and saying “Cam on moy sahn!” – which translates to “Come on, my son!” for those who don’t speak the lingo. And in one fell swoop, another lump of charm falls from the product as if it’s actually trying to throw the stuff away.
Put simply, Kung Fu Rider could have been one of those classic titles that we remember for years to come. As it turns out, you’ll probably remember the premise, but the gameplay is pretty much instantly forgettable. You’re essentially being asked to do the same thing over and over again with very little in the way of reward, whilst not having a great deal of fun.
Review contributed by: Ken Barnes