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Genre: Action
Min OS X: 10.4    CPU: Intel    RAM: 999 MB    Hard Disk: 4000 MB

Kung Fu Panda: The Game
October 16, 2009 | Michael Wuerthele

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Whether or not the reputation is deserved, thereís a few classes of games that are generally reviled. Kung Fu Panda by Luxoflux, Activision, with porting duties handled by Transgaming, Inc is saddled with two of the labels- a licensed movie game, and for Macintosh gamers, a port. Plainly, the game isnít intended for the same audience as World of Warcraft or Halo, but can a humble panda with a destiny overcome a greater threat than Tai Lung? Can Po beat the movie game curse?

Kung Fu Panda at itís heart is a brawler with limited jumping and environment puzzles, similar in vein to Streets of Rage for the Sega Genesis and a less gory X-Men Origins: Wolverine for various consoles. With a loose adherence to the plot of the movie that spawned it, 13 (short) stages await the discerning gamer. As is the case with most games these days, artificial gameplay length is added by coin and collectible gathering. Rewarding you for your hard work, the coins are used to unlock additional skills and kung fu moves. Each level has a primary and a secondary objective to complete, and even the objectives listed seem less important than just level completion.

Where Kung Fu Panda stands out from normally weak movie tie-in games are the environments. The environments are rich with proper interactivity that doesnít feel bolted on for the sake of movie tie-in. Levels arenít repetitive, and have different themes and combat styles required for each level, rather than just being a straightforward button masher. The Rock-Paper-Scissors game balancing is appropriate with no one combo or move in Poís arsenal overwhelming all others and being the go-to move for every instance of every enemy, which is a pleasant change of pace. Other members of the Furious Five are playable and featured on occasion, which is good as I periodically tired of the Jack Black sound-alike. There is a multiplayer of sorts, but sadly, it remains offline only, and the standard multiple players on one computer caveats apply- good luck having everybody crowd around the computer.

Iíve taken some heat for over-emphasizing technical issues in game reviews- this wonít be the case here. I initially had some trouble launching the game, but it turned out to be my fault- an install of Parallels had recently gone awry, and caused some problems. Eradicating all traces of Parallels from the bogus install and reinstalling cleared up the problem. I still have no idea what the problem was there. My hardware is starting to age a bit, but it still pulls itís own weight- Kung Fu Panda ran smoothly on both test platforms on the Mac, a Core 2 Duo 2nd Generation 2.16 ghz iMac and a slightly upgraded first Generation 2.66 ghz Mac Pro, with no hiccups or stutters in video or audio. The game was also tested in Windows under Bootcamp and on the xBox 360 with no noticeable difference in graphics or gameplay. Perhaps the frame rate was slightly lower on the Mac version, probably a result of the Transgaming libraries, but not nearly as bad as in previous ports.

So, is the game any good? Overall, yes, with caveats. Kung Fu Panda is a good game that displays console roots at every turn. Keyboard and mouse controls are functional, but plainly some sort of gamepad is whatís intended for the controls of the game. Credit goes to whomever set the price for the game, as it was released a year after the movie and the tie-in games for just about every other platform in the world were shipped. As Mac users, weíre accustomed to delayed releases, but it still isnít optimal. Kung Fu Panda defeats all expectations of ports and movie games with a body splash attack, but Iím afraid that even with the aggressive pricing for a new release game, the release is too little too late.

• Affordably priced
• Kid friendly cartoon violence
• Non-repetitive gameplay

• Movie tie in from a year ago
• Multiplayer only local
• Short

Kung Fu Panda: The Game
Mac Version: TransGaming
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