Kung Fu Panda
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-06-18 Nintendo DS Action/Platform E10 (Everyone 10+) Activision / Vicarious Visions

Seeing as my last two DS games (High School Musical 2 and Cory in the House) left me reluctant to even pick up the system again, I wasn't feeling too positive about playing a movie-based game. But fortunately, Kung Fu Panda turned out to be much better than the last two combined, and this only a few minutes in.

In Kung Fu Panda you play as Po the cuddly Panda (brought to life by Jack Black in the movie), who works at a noodle shop. Po wants to learn martial arts and become a powerful Kung Fu warrior. With the help of his master Shifu, he begins learning a few moves, until his quest sends him to find other legendary masters to learn more from and special medallions that unlock new techniques.

The game is basically a 2D side-scrolling platformer with a 3D presentation, with the top screen showing you the map (each box is an area, some of them are actually quite large) and the bottom being the play area.

But for a simple platform game, you do more than just press buttons to run, jump and attack. You can control Po's movements by using either the D-pad or the buttons (convenient for either left or right-handed gamers). Left and right or Y and A to move, up or X to jump, down or B to crouch and turn into a ball (eventually you get to roll around like Metroid). The rest comes down to the stylus and the touch controls.

Po's Kung Fu moves are done by a series of tap and dragging motions. Quickly sliding the stylus to either side executes a fast attack. Sliding up and then down performs the Panda Quake. Sliding the stylus upwards can make Po jump or throw whatever object he may be carrying. A particular move lets you pick up enemies or things in mid-air, and another has you double-tap enemies to squeeze them out of their armor. But these special moves can only be obtained once you have rescued the respective master.

Most of the obstacles in the game are your basic platforming challenges: jumps, double jumps, move some items, avoid traps, press some switches. For example, to keep certain switches pressed, you need to pick up a barrel and place it on the switch. If the switch is in a platform, you must aim and throw it so it stays there, allowing you to progress. Some stages also have timed goals, like keeping up with a spear in order to reach the exit.

Kung Fu Panda is a very colorful and bright game. The backgrounds are always pleasant to look at, the characters animate well and I especially like the overall Oriental feel throughout. The sound effects are fun and the music is excellent and sets the theme, but I was particularly happy and impressed with the entirely voiced humorous dialogs.

In sum, if you were expecting another movie-turned-game disaster (and a way top profit from the movie title), rest assured that what you'll be getting in Kung Fu Panda for DS is a surprisingly entertaining action/platformer.

Special thanks to Neil Wood and Activision for providing a copy of this game.