by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
A Punch and a Whiff
Do you remember the movie Role Models? There was a line in it that I’ve always thought was funny. While eating dinner, Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s character says about Coca Cola “I like the idea of it more than I actually like it.” That line serves as a perfect description of my thoughts towards Kings of Kung Fu. On paper it’s great. I’m always down to support small, low budget passion projects, especially when they have as awesome of a concept as this. Unfortunately the indie fighter, which pits famous martial arts movie stars against each other, is never nearly as much fun as its description might lead you to believe.
Take Me to the Movies
Fighters are based on famous martial arts movie stars like Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, and a dozen more, which is cool. They’re competing in a tournament to get a spot in an upcoming Kung Fu movie. I don’t need a bunch of story in my fighting games, and Kings of Kung Fu hopes you feel the same way, as it probably took longer for you to read those last two sentences than it does to tell the story – which is done via three still frames with text. It’s cool to see the different fighters facing off, and the game does a nice job making each one resemble their on-screen personas.
Continuing this, I appreciate the fact that the developers tried to go all in with the presentation to make it look like an old movie, but it ends up being a train wreck that detracts from the game. There are an absolutely unbelievable amount of visual issues that don’t make any sense from a design perspective. For instance, the very first game I played was on the dock level. First, it’s at night, and everything, including the fighters are darkened. This is unfortunate as there’s already a massive black vignette placed around the border of every match. It’s also raining, which falls both in front of and behind the fighters, and for some inexplicable reason there’s a fairly heavy blur on everything. Add the fact that the animations and graphics look a decade old to begin with and things become laughable. Like I said, I appreciate trying to recreate the look of your source material, but it doesn’t make it look like an old kung fu movie. Even if it did, as a developer you need to understand that visual style can’t detract from the core gameplay to actively make the experience worse.
Not Much of a Fight
Even if the presentation was better, the gameplay of Kings of Kung Fu just isn’t good. The game attempts a Tekken-esque approach with more arcade-y physics mixed with grounded special moves. Nobody’s going to be firing off hadokens or teleporting around. It doesn’t much matter what the system is though, as I had an extremely difficult time just getting the controls to work well for me. There was noticeable input lag a good percent of the time, and button presses feel extremely gummy. It’s a crap shoot whether or not the game will register your inputs or not, which becomes incredibly frustrating when you are trying to input a combination and are presented with something completely different. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure there are also some specials mislabeled, as no matter how many times I pressed the combinations either nothing or something completely separate would happen. In my fights I actually had a much better win percentage just randomly mashing buttons than actually attempting anything specific, which surprised me since the combo and special move inputs are very, very similar to Mortal Kombat X, a game I play frequently.
I’m keeping this review on the short end because Kings of Kung Fu is a simple game. There aren’t any extras to unlock. There isn’t a story campaign to work through. There aren’t a bunch of fight modes or anything like that. You can practice against a stagnant opponent, you can play arcade mode (fighting each of the other fighters in a row), or you can play someone else in local one on one. It’s a simple offering, and that would be completely fine if the game is, you know, fun to play, but it isn’t. Between the ugly presentation and the poor gameplay, there just isn’t anything here to make it worth a recommendation, even for fighting game and kung fu movie aficionados.
Cool cast of fighters with moves that match their real life counterparts.
Terrible visual style decisions and atrocious controls.