Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists Of Plastic Review
Posted by Sammy Barker
Originally developed for the PC by Mark Healey, the co-founder of Media Molecule, Rag Doll Kung Fu is a parody of classic kung fu movies
The game is a simple arena based beat 'em up, akin to Nintendo's Super Smash Bros., where up to four players select an action-figure protagonist and battle it out on a purposely cliche stage.
Rag Doll Kung Fu has a competitive four-player multiplayer mode and a challenge section. Player's achievements are rewarded with body parts which can be used to create new characters (and yes, Sackboy is in there).
Rag Doll Kung Fu maintains a really fantastic look. The available action figure fighters have a suitably plastic look to them, which complements the toy-like arenas they fight in. The animation is also brilliant, with characters flailing arms around the screen, before the elastic snaps them back into their default position. It's a very charming kind of presentation, that not only parodies the kung fu genre, but also develops a unique look for itself. The music and sound effects are all also suitably relevant and equally hilarious. We'd actually pay for the theme tune so we hope that it ends up for download on the Playstation Store at some point.
The standard multiplayer mode can be played with up to four-friends locally or with AI, and offers a few different modes across a range of stages. The standard Deathmath mode has players competing to take out the other three opponents as many times as possible in a certain time limit. King Of The Hill requires you to control the uppermost platform of a specific stage, whereas Capture The Fish asks you to place fish in a bowl (the opponents trying to block you), and Dodgeball has you scoring points by hitting opponents with a large ball. The latter two modes offered most enjoyment for us, but we've no doubt they're all interesting after a shot of vodka or two. The simple pick-up and play button bashing mechanics only add to this.
Like LittleBigPlanet, Rag Doll Kung Fu has some really interesting physics to play with. Characters are suitably "floaty" and "bouncy", as they flop around the stage mimicking the "doll" element of the title. While the physics don't exactly present the sturdiest platform for a competitive brawler, they do make for an inviting time-waster.
The Challenge Mode is quite a fun introduction to Rag Doll Kung Fu's mechanics, providing the player with a "beat the score" type scenario where you must, for example, capture fish, swing from platform to platform or juggle a static opponent.
Before we get into Rag Doll Kung Fu's disappointing motion controls, we'd just quickly like to talk about the basic controls. Essentially, players can get by using the Square and Triangle buttons, which operate punch and kick respectively. Looking past its basic mechanics though, Rag Doll Kung Fu has much more depth, and the controls become clunky because of it. R1 allows you to pick up objects. Depending on the object you'll have to learn a wide variety of control mechanics (the right-stick operating batons, L2 and R2 nunchucks, etc) which is really overwhelming. You're also able to throw objects you've picked up by aiming with the left-stick and press Square; a mechanic which is impossible to get right due to your character moving in the direction you're aiming and subsequently putting your initial shot-placement out of line.
As if the controls couldn't get complicated enough, Rag Doll Kung Fu also introduces some Sixaxis motion attacks, which, to be honest, don't work very well. The Firefly attack attempts to mimic those massive flying kicks you see in Kung Fu movies. The mechanic itself is quite fun, but the execution is not so. In order to pull off a Firefly attack you'll have to point in a direction with the left-stick, hold the Square button and physically thrust the controller forward. It's awkward to use, unresponsive and just not worth the hassle. Likewise the Fireball attack requires you to shake the controller to create a charge, before you can direct with the left-stick and press Square to fire. Finally, the meditation mechanic, which recovers health, requires you to turn the controller upside down. Why? What's the point? It's just clunky and annoying.
Rag Doll Kung Fu is pretty good fun in local multiplayer, but that's only good for when you have a nearby friend. Without offering any kind of online multiplayer, Rag Doll Kung Fu seriously limits its appeal. We understand that a game of this type is super enjoyable while spending time with mates, and we agree, but a multiplayer mode could have really lifted the experience and made the asking price a little more reasonable.
As a parody of classic kung fu movies, Rag Doll Kung Fu nails the ridiculous nature of the timeless cinema genre. However as a video game, it's severely let down by iffy controls.