Adding to the slew of mobile-developed indie games that are finding their way onto Sony’s portable console, Kung Fu Rabbit brings basic yet addictive platforming to the table. It’s a title that won’t win any awards for originality, but its neat presentation and simple charm ensure that it’s a difficult game to put down.
As you may expect, there’s no real plot to be found. You’re the rabbit master of a martial arts school on a quest to rescue your kidnapped students, and the game consists of little more than platforming action in its purest form, boasting an absolutely huge amount of bite-sized levels which see you running and jumping across rooftops and through caverns.
By the time that you’re done with Kung Fu Rabbit, the X button on your PlayStation Vita will have had the workout of its life, as it’s the only input that you’ll ever use. Jumping has a LittleBigPlanet feel to it, with the master rabbit sporting a floaty hop. Holding down X allows for higher jumps, and it’s initially quite surprising how far your tiny mammal can travel through the air. The controls feel silky smooth and accurate, aided by the fact that movement is dictated by a very responsive analogue stick input.
It’s worth mentioning that you can also leap your way to victory by either tapping the touch screen or the rear touch pad – but the buttons are the most responsive option. Still, it’s a thoughtful alternative to offer, given that some users may be used to the touch input of the mobile version.
There are a variety of obstacles to overcome, from enemies to moving platforms, although one particular hazard permeates throughout every level – a black sludge that coats the ground, walls, and ceilings of the otherwise serene scenery. Merely touching this gloop leads to instant death, which means that timing and positioning your jumps perfectly is paramount to success. However, because the slime is so prevalent, it becomes relatively easy to miss later on – especially if you’ve been playing for an extended amount of time, which can result in some unforeseen restarts.
When it comes to enemies, each foe has a weak point, and simply walking into this Achilles’ heel will cause your adversary to disappear in a puff of smoke. This sounds easier than it actually is, though, since most enemies move at a brisk pace, meaning that careful planning and timing is a necessity.
All of these threats make Kung Fu Rabbit a difficult title, and its learning curve is amplified by the fact that dying sends you right back to the start of a stage. And unfortunately, this is where the release’s biggest flaw sits. Despite its cutesy visuals, this is a platformer that’s bound to frustrate even the most seasoned fans of the genre, as proceedings devolve into a game of trial and error, particularly when it’s impossible to see the hazards that await you at the bottom of a ledge due to the camera's constant fixation with the player. It also doesn’t help that the title’s audio really starts to grate if you’re stuck in a problematic area, with short tunes set to loop repeatedly.
As previously mentioned, levels are generally very short in length, taking about two minutes on average to complete. However, while this design choice is perfectly suited to quick stints of portable play, later levels tend to shirk this style in favour of adding a few superfluous obstacles in an attempt to make things more challenging. As a result, this creates a jarring contrast, where you’ll breeze through one level, only to die repeatedly on the next.
Thankfully, some of the inevitable frustration can be alleviated by purchasing power-ups using in-game currency gained from collecting the carrots scattered throughout each stage. There are a lot of items up for grabs, and the system provides a great reason to explore each environment. You can find both one-use items and attachable gear here, from artifacts that revive you at the place of your demise, to feathers that alter the speed at which you fall. Most are costly, but picking and using the right bits and pieces can often mean the difference between casually blasting through a level and losing your sanity.
A simplistic, colourful, and initially accessible platformer, Kung Fu Rabbit has all of the makings of an addictive portable title. Sadly, the game fails to build upon the basics it gets so right, and at times it devolves into a frustrating act of trial and error. But like the carrot at the end of a stick, it’s hard to stop chasing that promised taste of victory.