Five years after the launch of the Wii, we think it’s safe to say that motion-controlled gaming has been mostly a massive disappointment. After a strong initial showing and the occasional spike in interest, we’re left with overflowing bargain bins and more generic minigame collections than any sanely constructed universe should contain. Don’t get us wrong: there have been some bright spots (and we’re hoping for more) but the tradition of motion controls has mostly been one of forgettable shovelware. Into this airless void, enter Kung Fu: High Impact, a sad little beat-’em-up which perpetuates that legacy in spectacularly disappointing fashion.
So, let’s start from the top: the motion controls on offer here are absolute garbage. Kinect games aren’t known for exacting 1-to-1 precision, but Kung Fu is worse than most. Throughout the game you (as in your corporeal, human body, not some hyper-powered avatar or superhero) are shown roughly in the center of the screen against such inspiring backdrops as “the docks” or, “some place where there’s a field”. Enemies attack from either side of the screen, forcing you to awkwardly swing back and forth or kick wildly behind you. Perhaps if, like the chipper actors in Kinect commercials, you’re absurdly rich and have a vast, expansive space to prowl while you flail at your television, Kung Fu will be a less clumsy experience. For the rest of us, the combination of poor responsiveness and wild swinging makes playing this game anywhere indoors a harrowing experience.
The other most glaring flaw of Kung Fu: High Impact is the complete lack of anything even remotely resembling Kung Fu. Do not, under any circumstances, approach this game thinking you may learn, even by accident, literally anything about the grace and majesty of martial arts. You’ll instead learn how to fling your arms left or right until the Kinect realizes you’re doing so, after which your onscreen self will occasionally strike in that direction… or perhaps, as a helpful alternative, go flying/somersaulting halfway across the screen. Though your avatar almost always appears to be doing the things you’re doing, the results are an unpredictable gambit at best. No matter how many carefully or forcefully we punched our fists directly into or through an enemy, the game recognized maybe half of our strikes as hits.
The game features a story mode with a narrative that, while really bland and unimaginative isn’t “pound nails into your skull” awful. As you progress through the story you’ll unlock four special abilities, like power punching or lightning blasts, which make the game a touch more playable, but their usage is heavily throttled and the lack of variety is a downer. There’s also a sprinkling of local competitive multiplayer that has you and up to four of your least fortunate friends competing to thrash at ninja-things and rack up high scores. There are some other single-player modes, but despite a brave attempt to use a large number of interesting and varied words to describe them, they all feel almost completely identical.
This game should be, at most, a ten dollar download. It would feel even more appropriate at around the fifty cent mark, peddled by a trench-coated hobo in front of a sketchy movie theatre. At forty bucks, it’s difficult to imagine any human being, living or dead, getting an appropriate amount of value out of it. There might be some limited fun to be had batting some of the weird enemies around… if the motion controls were crisp and responsive. Since they’re not, it’s literally no fun at all, and ends up being at best a chore and at worst a painful, regrettable, shameful experience.