Like the average summer popcorn flick, movie-based games tend to make a lot more money than what they're worthy of. With bargain basement budgets and no time for polish, they're often as appetizing as the candy on a sticky theater floor, yet they're gobbled right up. Kids' movies receive some of the worst adaptations, but a property like Kung Fu Panda was ripe for a good one, and Luxoflux noticed. Proof lies in the downloadable demo available on Xbox Live.
Once they've started things up, a brief and light-hearted cinematic immediately brings the player up to speed. They've come to a peaceful, sun-dappled town in ancient China, searching for foes to fight and side quests to conquer. To say that they'll take in a lot of eye candy is an understatement, as Po the Panda's adventure mimics the movie's visual decadence.
Kung Fu Panda could be the overall picture of a movie-to-game title done respectably well.
A kung fu journey wouldn't be proper if the student didn't learn and grow along the way, so an unexpectedly robust in-game upgrade system affords that. At any time, players can upgrade everything from kicks to special maneuvers that elevate Kung Fu Panda above a Dynasty Warriors redux. At its heart, this is a hack 'n slash, but the aforementioned ability growth, environmental luster, and martial arts movie humor imbue it with life.
Another touch of atmosphere comes from the music. While not as epic as the movie's soundtrack will surely be, it fits the theme. Gongs and beating drums round out the aural complements, and a healthy variety of exclamations keeps Po's own comments from becoming too repetitive. It's a pity the enemies' banter isn't interesting, but they're just punching bags anyway.
By the time the demo is through, you'll like Kung Fu Panda's sense of style if you've ever tittered at a badly dubbed Hong Kong flick. Ironically, the game doesn't feature any of the voice actors from the movie, but the stand-ins do the job just fine (pulling off their lines better than most gaming actors). In fact, Kung Fu Panda could be the overall picture of a movie-to-game title done respectably well. From the charmingly simple, old school title screen (just a logo on black), anyone can tell that Luxoflux strove to do what most don't: provide a classic experience that's simple, yet substantial enough to stand out among the pack.