With the inspired, and potentially deadly, Kung-Fu Live you have never faced a greater threat. Neither, for that matter, has the contents of your living room. And only your mastery of the front kick, spinning back fist and that weird jumping splits thing Jean-Claude Van Damme used to do, can save you.
New from the PlayStation Network, and costing $26.95, comes the completely insane Kung-Fu Live. Developed and published by Virtual Air Guitar, the game uses the eye camera to place you inside an old-fashioned side-scrolling beat ‘em up where your real-time image kicks, punches and back-flips its way through an hysterical tale of alternate dimensions and comic books.
Unfortunately, getting into that world has some rather significant obstacles. The first is probably your living room. The tutorial recommends almost three square metres of clear space. Then you go through the process of positioning yourself within various outlines on the screen as the game checks your lighting and figures out what’s you and what’s in the background. After fifteen minutes of this you’ll probably end up with an on screen ‘you’ cut off just below the knees. But, I don’t suppose it’s anything that moving to a new house with a bigger living room and fluorescent lighting won’t fix.
Once the setup’s all sorted out (or you get fed up with trying to sort it out and decide to just start playing), the fun really starts. And if there is one thing that Kung-Fu Live is, it is roll on the floor, wipe the tears from your eyes, gotta go to the bathroom because all this laughing is starting to hurt, funny.
While you’re focused on the ‘little you’ on screen fighting a pack of slimy black other-dimensional goblin things, ‘real you’ is jumping around your living giving it absolute death. Jumping in the air, throwing your hands over your head and arching you back will send ‘little you’ back flipping across the screen to outflank your opponent. There you can throw a quick combination of punches to finish the evil creature. But, it’s instantly replaced by two more. Jumping in the air and slamming your fist into the ground causes an earthquake that stuns them. After that a few low kicks easily send all the little creeps back to their own stinking dimension.
That battle’s won, all that’s left is to face your mates howling with laughter on the sofa and the slight worry that you might have pulled your hamstring. If Kung-Fu Live is anything, it is one solid workout.
Between each level of the four hour story mode, cut scenes establish the narrative in the form of comic books. So after each level you go to a screen that gets you to pose for a series of photos. You need to be quick though because you get just seconds to get into position. One second you’re at the back of the room balancing on one foot, giving it the old ‘flying knee to the jaw’ pose. The next you’ll be rushing towards the camera to get into position for a full screen head-shot. The game then records your images and puts them into the cut scenes. Again, it’s pretty funny seeing yourself being chucked into the ocean or just being punched in the face. The game also allows for multiple pictures to be saved so everyone not only gets their chance to unleash their inner Ip Man, but also gets a chance to star in their own comic.
Also adding to the multiplayer mayhem is the chance for your friends to take control of up to four enemies for you to fight. In quick fight mode you stand up and fight as normal, while your friends use the controllers to control your opponents. If you think you might be at a disadvantage, don’t worry. After time jumping around the room, using the controllers feels awkward, so kicking your friend’s butts is pretty straight forward.
So Kung-Fu Live is a possible party classic. Except you don’t want to indulge in refreshments before playing. This isn’t your friendly sit-down football tournament or raucous sing-a-long. This is full contact gaming. People - don’t drink and Kung-Fu Live. Best case scenario is you will be on your back with your foot stuck in a crotch-high hole in the wall. At worst you might end up with your head through the television after running forward on tired wobbly legs, trying to get in position for your comic book close-up before your four seconds run out.
In the end Kung-Fu Live is a pretty tricky game to recommend. If you look at it as just another game, it’s short, glitchy, feels a bit dated, relies on endurance rather then skill to win the fights, and there are some reports that it won’t work with older eye cameras. We’ve got a fairly normal sized living room and I’ve never been able to set the camera right. You can never see my feet (unfortunately, not because they’re moving too freaking fast), and even the photos in the comics tend to be missing big chunks. When I play I’m always running off screen and usually end up just flailing around uncontrollably. But, that’s often enough to get you through a level.
Still, the game is kind of brilliant. More importantly, and I can’t emphasize this enough, when you first play it, or see someone you know play it, it is the funniest thing you will see in your life.
Whether there is any longevity to the laughter, or the game as a whole, is still to be seen. I’ve already felt a twinge in my hammy, so it may have to be put aside for a while. And really, what the hell kind of game is it that you can’t play from the couch?