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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Kung Fu Rider (PS3)

While most of the launch titles we've seen to date for the Playstation Move controller have been a little bit derivative. The good news is that there is one bright spot, the weirdly engaging arcade-style racer Kung-Fu Rider. It's an odd mix of racing, combat and interesting physics-engine aspects that makes for an enjoyable, if overly short ride. Kung Fu Rider uses the Motion controller effectively, allowing you to steer the heroes around and perform attacks easily. Its simple visuals and instantly appealing concept make for an entertaining title, with the only drawback coming in its short length. Despite this, it's a fun game and probably worth the purchase if you have a Move.

Decidedly quirky and very Japanese in design, SCEA's Kung-Fu Rider is probably the most interesting title Sony has released for the Playstation Move controller's launch lineup. Set in the odd back streets of Tokyo, the game puts you in the role of an oddball Japanese salaryman named Toby and his assistant Karin. They're being pursued by mobsters for some unknown reason and have to race through the streets to escape them. There are loads of obstacles and other things to avoid while they glide down the streets that they have to avoid. The game begins with your selection of a transport device. One of the fun things about the game is that you don't have standard vehicles and instead traverse the world in odd devices such as office chairs and baby carriages. Once you've selected your vehicle, you begin the race. Thing aren't quite as simple or intuitive as you'd expect, and there's a bit of a learning curve, as seen in the game's first few levels. However, this isn't a dealbreaker and most players should have fun almost immediately.

Kung-Fu Riders's initial levels act as extended tutorials, and are a little plain and you can go through them without much effort but mastering the basics allows you to get ready for the more complex, longer levels later on. Once you get the hang of things, you can try and perform more advanced moves and make some combos by combing moves like kicking and jumping. Doing this increases your score even higher. There's a lot going on in each level and you'll have to pay attention, since obstacles and enemies can come without warning. Fortunately, the game gives you some leeway since it's clean visuals make oncoming obstacles easy to anticipate. While the controls are responsive and work well, some elements in Kung-Fu Rider's mechanics aren't immediately obvious. The placement can be a little counter-intuitive, such as using the face buttons to perform quick lurches left or right and the combos can be tricky to perform. It takes some getting used to the controls, and the game feels a little clunky throughout no matter how good you get. However, the game's relatively straightforward design makes these flaws a little less glaring.

You begin each level at the top of a hill and begin by moving the controller forward. This action propels your character and you are then racing downhill on the course. You'll see numerous obstacles in your path and you can steer to avoid them or jump by moving the controller downward quickly. You can also use the controller to pull back and duck underneath objects, which usually gives you extra points. Each course features numerous flashing gates that contain money or other extras. Passing through them successfully increases your score and also adds to your energy bar, which gives you a quick super-boost of speed when it's filled up completely. It isn't a completely friction-free ride down the courses, since you have to watch out along the way.

As you plow down these dangerous streets and alleys, you'll see a number of different obstacles such as barrels, cars and moving items that you need to avoid. The main ones you need to avoid are the mobsters, who will attack you and try and knock you off the chair or other objects. You can attack them in numerous ways and knock them out, or face the consequences. There are other things you need to worry about such as pedestrians which you can choose to avoid or use your kick moves to knock them out of the way. Sever collisions reduces your energy and if you hit too many objects, the game will end - which makes things a bit harder than you'd expect them to be. Adding to the pressure is the omnipotent clock which counts down, making you hurry through the levels. At the end of each stage, your character is ranked in terms of overall performance and these grades are used to unlock additional areas and unlock additional items.

Kung-Fu Rider's levels can be quite large and lengthy, taking several minutes to complete. While there are some minor branching sections scattered about, the gameplay is fairly linear. Adding a sense of repetitiveness, you'll encounter mirrored or slightly different levels early on, which makes the adventure exciting but a bit too short. To extend the game's replay value, Kung-Fu Riders lets you ride down different paths with separate rewards and can lead to higher scores. Devoted players might want to play through some of them to achieve a better ranking. However, you can progress through the game's earlier levels fairly quickly, it's the latter stages that can be a little bit hard to navigate through.

Adding to the strategy, there are numerous sections that allow you to slide on rails and over cars and jumps, which have accompanying power-ups. This can make the player's score go even higher, though it takes some skill and practice in some sections. It's earlier levels are fairly easy, but some of the later stages can be tricky. Enemies have a habit of popping-up out of nowhere in the later sections, ambushing the player mercilessly. This can become quite frustrating and cause you to lose levels that you had almost beaten. It makes for a frustrating experience at points, but most players will be able to beat these sections on a second try once they can anticipate what's coming. One of the drawbacks we encountered in the game was that despite featuring two different playable characters, the difference in how they control was marginal, which makes playing through it with both redundant.

Kung-Fu Rider is a fun, arcade-style game that's reminiscent of something like Crazy Taxi in terms of tone, and the game's silly use of physics lets you see objects and people flying around the levels in a humorous, exaggerated way. This approach should be familiar to those who played Pain on the PS3, and KFR does these effects nicely. A light-hearted J-pop soundtrack adds a more light-hearted tone to the action, and the voice-overs are fun. The game's short length and somewhat repetitive gameplay makes it something that offers more short-term thrills than long term appeal.

- Michael Palisano 

Grade: B

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