by Jason Clement
reviewed on NDS
So...What Type of Game Is This Again?
The original Kung Fu Panda for Nintendo DS was a fun, solid platformer which retold the tale of the first movie quite well. Much of the gameplay was quite reminiscent of the Metroidvania style of games in which exploration and revisiting areas play a key part in the progression of the game, which is a good thing considering the Metroid and Castlevania games are some of the best out there. So it came as quite a shock to me when I discovered that Kung Fu Panda 2 completely ditched that gameplay style and went for something a little...well, different. To be completely honest, I'm not quite sure what genre you'd place the game in, but if I had to describe it to someone, it is almost a pseudo point-and-click adventure with RPG elements added to it. Part of the reason for this transition to a new type of gameplay is the switch in developers from Vicarious Visions to Griptonite Games, and the insistence on building the game to each platform's strength (in this case, touch-control).
At the outset of the game, Po (the titular Kung Fu Panda) and the Furious Five are sent by the Kung Fu Council to investigate recent troubles caused by gorillas, wolves, and komodo dragons (which look more like alligators). Frankly, the story is largely uninteresting and lost through the static cutscenes that make up a good part of the game, not to mention the fact that there is way too much written dialogue for a game aimed at kids.
A Different Kind of RPG
Like I mentioned before, the gameplay is a bit strange. It basically consists of two different modes: a world map and battle mode. The world map is laid out almost like a board game, with different spots you can travel to. At most locations, you will have the opportunity to "search" the area for items, or in some cases, start a side quest. Main story quests will be marked with a yellow exclamation point. Upon reaching the different spots where the exclamation points are, the story will progress through a brief static cutscene showing dialog between the different characters, and then usually a battle. If there is no battle, you'll head back to the world map to follow the next exclamation point to continue the story.
That's it. You don't have direct control over Po at all; you can only tell him where to go by simply tapping on another location on the map, which will then lead to a cutscene and a battle. Wash, rinse, repeat. There is no real gameplay outside of the battle mode (save for a minigame; more on that in a moment), which is disappointing to say the least. Even the battles are a mediocre take on standard battles that you would find in any given RPG. The only commands you are given are "Kung Fu" (which is your 'Attack' command), Items, and Run. Fortunately, there are a variety of different attacks you can choose from when you use the Kung Fu command, many of which you'll acquire with experience won in battles.
Five Card Fu minigame is marginally fun. Game is a decent length for a movie tie-in
Battles are mediocre and enemy designs are generic, Music is irritating, Story is uninteresting