Anything you can do, I can do better, huh? It seems like that’s Sony’s mantra lately. The company is taking on its competitors’ advances head-on, with the Move mirroring the Wii Remote’s functionality. Well they hadn’t addressed Microsoft’s controller-free Kinect, and it’s obvious that Kung-Fu Live is an attempt to give PlayStation gamers a taste of that experience.
You know, without the requisite technology.
But let’s start with the positives. Kung-Fu Live is a very stylish game, with a pulp-comic feel that’s entertaining (if at times a bit too stereotypical). In it, you stand in front of a PlayStation Eye and do martial arts moves to hit enemies. It isn’t a standard gesture-based system, as it just reads your arm and leg movements and deals damage when you hit. (There are, however, special moves you can do by sticking both arms out at once or crouching.) Want to jump to avoid a kick? Jump. The concept is solid. Between levels, the game takes shots of you in various poses and integrates them into a motion comic that tells the game’s story. It clearly isn’t a feat of clever writing, but it’s all about having fun. As a bonus, you can export the comics as images and share them.
But let’s get back to the gaping hole in this game’s planning. And sometimes that gaping hole is quite literal. See, the game uses a standard camera for motion detection, and sometimes it detects shadows as movement, doesn’t read a punch or kick at all or for some reason thinks you have a big hole in your chest or head. There was a considerable effort to counter this. Not only does the game warn you to wear clothing that contrasts with the background, it has many settings for detection and even an advanced mode to get granular about it. Well I don’t know who plays games in front of a blank wall, and I don’t know how I could change my skin to better stand out from the background. The settings helped a bit, but there are times when you’re jumping and kicking away and your on-screen counterpart isn’t registering anything.
The experience of trying to play Kung-Fu Live is a fun one. After all, you’re kicking and punching and jumping, and that’s fun to do any time ever. It’s in a fun world, and I’d really want to play it. On Kinect. But as we all know that’s not happening, it just doesn’t have the functionality on Sony’s platform.