Review / Kung-Fu Live (PS3)

Kung-Fu Live comes at a bit of an odd time. While Sony are pushing their PlayStation Move controller and Microsoft do the same for Kinect, here’s a PSN exclusive that uses only the PlayStation Eye to play; you’d think it would either throw in support for the PS3’s motion controller or have come to the 360.

The idea of Kung-Fu Live is putting you in the game, projecting your image onto the screen and letting you lay into ninjas and thugs through a range of levels. It’s a neat idea that kids will get a kick out of, but setting up the game properly is like being repeatedly kicked in the face before you’ve even started to play.

When it works, Kung-Fu Live puts you onto a 2D path and lets you wildly kick and punch at any foes that come near you. The game will pick up pretty much any arm/leg spasm you let out, making it easy (and crazy) enough to enjoy smacking people around. Levels take you across city streets and ancient temples, throwing an army of bad guys at you that you have to put down with your fists.

Obviously this could get old fast so the game throws a few extra features your way. First off you’ll want to master dodging which can be done by ducking under high attacks and jumping over low attacks with an indicator giving you clear warning of what’s coming. On top of that there are special moves you can perform like a power punch. This is done by throwing your arms sideways, one above the other. The game picks this up and then launches you into the enemy. It should be said this works pretty well, often getting you out of tight spots and it’s easy to use.

Somersaults don’t fair as well. Throwing your arms up behind you is meant to flip you into the air and out of harm’s way but it won’t work when you want it to and then in the middle of battle you’ll suddenly find yourself springing into the air due to throwing your arms around t0o much.

There’s also story sequences where the Eye will take different pictures of you and then slot you into a comic book, trying to make you a part of the story. Again, it’s something that will work for kids but if you’re any older than 15 it’s not going to click with you.

The real problem with the game is the calibration, which kills the fun before you’ve even started. Kung-Fu Live requires incredibly specific lighting and spacing to work. To review the game properly I had to wait a few days until I got home from my student house; I simply didn’t have enough room to play. Even when I found the space (which still took a fair bit of furniture moving and TV tipping) it really struggled with lighting. In fact not once did I get a complete picture while playing, the best I managed still had a chunk of my head missing from the final image.

The game provides options to manually tweak the image but unless you want to spend an hour trying millions of different combinations of sliding meters back and forth it’s not very helpful.

It’s a real shame because with a simple, quick calibration Kung-Fu Live could have been a fun no brainer of a game to share with friends and family. Instead the calibration dishonors the developers who have had a simple idea that can bring a smile to your face at the best of times.

+ A good idea that’s fun to share with friends
+ Eye picks up most of the movements with ease

– Weak calibration simply kills the game before you’ve even begun
– Requires too much out of your living space to play