The Best Exercise Games for the Xbox Kinect

Review of Kung Fu Panda 2 for Kinect

Posted by steve on June - 21 - 2011 with 0 Comment

Kung Fu Panda 2 for Kinect

Provides some decent exercise, but at the expense of a game that is tedious and not very entertaining.

Kung Fu Panda 2 for Kinect does a decent job of using Kinect to detect motion, but a poor storyline, stilted combat, and grating repetitiveness make it a game really suited mainly for very young kids who would rather kick and punch than follow a storyline anyway.

Rating by steve: 2.5 stars

I was a big fan of the movie Kung Fu Panda 2. The storyline was great, the characters were endearing, the animation was stunning, and the action was nonstop fun.

I am generally not a fan of movie tie-in video games. Often, they feel rushed to market just to coincide with the movie release date and to cash in on the name recognition. Sadly, Kung Fu Panda 2 for Kinect is not an exception. While the characters we know and love are all here–and Jack Black even returns to be the voice of Po–the game is not astrong one. The game is supposed to augment the movie experience, but it does the opposite.

The storyline starts out promising–it begins where the movie left off and describes how some of (the villain’s) followers are still in the city and need to be eradicated. But that’s pretty much where the story ends. The rest of the game, you’re just going from area to area fighting enemies, with really no additional plot. You pass your way through familiar environments in the movie: Gongmen City, the Undercity, the Bamboo Forest, The Desert, and Shantu Palace, but it’s really the same routine in each area–fight what seem to be the same enemies over and over again, and maybe play a mini-game or two here and there.

Here’s a typical piece of dialog after what seems like the umpteeth time you have to fight a pack of wolves:

Po: I thought we already defeated all these guys
Crane: Po, Po, do you have any idea how many wolves there are in the world?
Po: More?
Crane: Way more!

The graphics and animation are disappointing as well. Of course, I didn’t expect the detail of the movie, but the characters as rendered in the game seem a very, very poor shadow of their movie counterparts. The Po in the videogame feels like a poor distant cousin of the real Po, with much poorer shading and detail. This is especially disappointing knowing that the Kinect is more than capable of much better.

Where the game does shine–mostly–is in its use of the Kinect for motion detection. There’s just something about actually punching and kicking that beats mashing buttons on a controller. The game is smart enough to detect when you punch with your left and right hands, when you kick with your left and right feet, when you block with your left and right arms, and when you duck and dodge. The moves are pretty simple; this is, after all, a kid’s game. But yes, as I played through the game I worked up a sweat and an elevated heartrate.

Unfortunately, combat is a bit stilted. With each villain you encounter, instead of a realistic fight, you fight a few seconds of “offense” (kicking and punching), and then you fight a few seconds of “defense” (blocking to the left, right, and with both arms). Eventually you recognize patterns that allow you to choose the right moves which is nice at first but eventually gets really repetitive.

Worse still, later in the game you’re introduced to “advanced” moves such as dodging attacks (you dodge left or right when the enemy glows red, and you duck if the enemy turns yellow). At that point the system does a worse and worse job of accurately picking up your motions. As a result, you may find yourself making the right moves but still getting penalized for them, and then being forced to replay entire levels. Adding insult to injury, you have to sit through laborious cut scenes each time, with no way of skipping them.

After you play through Story Mode (which takes only a few hours), you can play a number of different parts of the story again as mini-games. You can get some fitness value from these games, but overall they just seem too repetitive and predictable to be very much fun.

As I mentioned, there are mini-games, such as racing a rickshaw (which requires you to tilt left and right, duck, and block objects thrown in your way) and making noodles (which require you to flail your arms as if you’re stirring noodles, and then throwing the noodle bowl to the customer). These games for the most part follow the same pattern as the combat game–decent use of Kinect, but pretty poor in terms of how satisfying they are to play.

Those of you who read my game reviews know that one of my pet peeves is that every game designer seems to come up with their own mechanism for selecting things from a menu. Kung Fu Panda 2 is no exception. To start the game, you “bow” or “high five” to the screen. This seems cute at first, but eventually becomes annoying. Even worse, if you wait too long and the system times out, the Kinect won’t recognize you until you turn on your controller and use the Xbox controller to select the Kinect Tuner again. It makes you wonder why they didn’t at least give you the option of just pressing the “Start” button in the first place.

Also annoying–you don’t have the option to use the Xbox controller at all the select from menus, and there are times when the system just won’t recognize you if you try to select different options on the screen. To select from a menu, you select with your right hand and punch a gong with your left. Again, cute, but once again the lack of consistency in user interface is a big black eye for the Kinect. The place to be cute is in the game itself, not the UI. UI design gets a solid “F” in this game.

Overall, I’d say the use of Kinect in the game is very good, and even though it’s a kid’s game, there is some good workout value in it. If you have a young child who loved the movie and would get a thrill out of beating up a few wolves as Po, this is a great game for you to get–and to play yourself from time to time to get a little exercise. But otherwise the repetitiveness and tedium of the game is hard to overcome.