Soapbox: I Can't Stop Thinking About Kung Fu Rider on PS3 1
Image: Push Square

While casually browsing the Nintendo Switch’s painfully slow digital storefront this week, one game in particular caught my eye: it’s called, amusingly, Gekisou! Benza Race -Toilet Shooting Star- and the typo-laden description explains that you’ll be riding a bog in various racing scenarios. The provided screenshots look scrappy, and the artwork borders on bizarre – but it got me thinking about a largely forgotten PS3 game, Kung Fu Rider.

By comparison, this Japan Studio (RIP) effort was relatively tame: you controlled a private investigator on an office chair, riding through surprisingly detailed Hong Kong districts. There were various obstacles you had to avoid, like people carrying ladders or trucks parked along the side of the road, and you had to duck underneath them or jump over them. Later, members of the mafia (Triads?) would try to impede your progress, but you could dash into them or kick them like a martial arts master. You’d later unlock a second character, in full traditional Chinese dress, named Karin.

It was, effectively, an endless runner – albeit an incredibly high budget one, with a surprisingly strong sense of style. Despite the fact you’d blitz past them at up to 50km/h, all of the environments were richly detailed, bursting with scenic detail, like vending machines, air conditioning fans, and convenience stores. The game was really amusing, too: the top left of the user interface included a close-up of your character’s face, gurning as the chaos unfolded around them.

Later in the game, you’d unlock different “vehicles”, all based on household appliances like vacuum cleaners and piano stalls. In addition, the levels would grow in complexity, allowing you to grind power lines onto the roofs of apartment buildings and through in-door malls. The stages were actually quite entertaining, although the release seriously lacked variety, and there’s no doubt this was a 10-minute tech demo stretched across a full game.

Unfortunately, the foray was let-down by Sony’s desperation for PS Move content at the time. Despite clearly originally being designed with a DualShock 3 in mind, the Japanese giant added it exclusively to the launch lineup of its motion controller, and it felt worse than some of the most offensive waggle-‘em-ups on the Nintendo Wii. While the peripheral was plenty accurate enough, the developer clearly didn’t have enough time to adapt the title’s mechanics, and it was borderline unplayable as a result.

But thinking about it does take me back to a time I sense a lot of PlayStation fans miss. This was 2010, of course, the early days of the PS Store – and the very beginning of the indie boom. I think over time, Sony has ceded these more outlandish projects to emerging teams, focusing its own efforts on the multi-million dollar AAA titans it feels only it can create. I’m a little torn over it: Kung Fu Rider was not a good game, but I guarantee it’ll live longer in my memory than the next open world fancy.

Did you play Kung Fu Rider? Do you remember this era of outlandish PlayStation published games? Speed through the streets on your seat in the comments section below.