Kung Fu Panda

Welcome to the mystical legend of the decent licensed movie.

Every time a new animated movie is released, we brace ourselves for the inevitable sub-standard cash-in that some poor sod has to give up GTA IV to play.

Having drawn the shortest straw in human history, muggins here was given both Kung Fu Panda and WALLE to review. Luckily for me, Kung Fu Panda proved to be rather good.

Developer Luxoflux (True Crime: NYC, Shrek 2) has produced a very polished action-platformer based on the characters and storyline in Kung Fu Panda, which features a black-eyed bear called Po (voiced by the excellent Jack Black) who discovers he's a martial arts legend.

Right from the off, you'll be surprised by the visuals - lush oriental worlds with gently-swaying trees, Chinese lanterns, distant mountains, gorgeous rippling water and quality-animated characters with fur that looks so real you'll be hoovering up your television screen.

You start with the usual item-collecting, such as finding lost vases for distressed rabbits. You also grab coins that are used to buy RPG-lite upgrades at the end of levels for Po's basic stats (such as Chi energy) and Panda Techniques, which include a range of powerful special moves one of which is the Panda Quake - a comedy belly flop that sends enemies scattering.

Controlling Po is a breeze, and with simple (and constant) interruptions to describe how to perform certain moves, you're soon performing devastating punches and kung-fu combos, a particular favourite being the Panda Stumble - a rolling Super Monkey Ball-style attack that easily flattens foes and smashes through the destructible environments.

Probably Kung Fu Panda's greatest achievement is its gameplay variety, obviously created for kids with the attention span of a Hollyoaks viewer.

You can also take brief control of the other "Furious Five" characters (such as Tigress), enjoy firing arrows at targets via a ballista, jump on trampolines, rapidly hit a sequence of buttons in a love-'em-or-hate-'em action sequence and defeat waves upon waves of enemies who are trying to steal treasure from a sacred temple.

There are problems - the platform jumping is annoying on occasion, the multiplayer mini-games are offline only, and it's way too easy.

However, if you don't mind the embarrassment of being spotted with this in your Xbox 360, rather than Murder Gibs Explosion III, you'll be rewarded with a charming piece of entertainment... and a stash of easy Achievements!

The verdict

That rare thing: a film tie-in that's not bad

  • Great use of the Dreamworks license
  • Likeable characters... and Jack Black
  • Very polished graphics and animation
  • Not challenging for hardcore gamers
  • No Xbox LIVE multiplayer
Beat 'em Up