Johnny Kung Fu
3DS Download | UFO Interactive | 1 Player | Out Now | $5.99
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24th July 2012; By KnucklesSonic8
Your goal in this game is to climb the floors of a tower to eventually reach the top where your girlfriend is being held. You need to act fast as you only have 60 minutes to rescue her, but not too fast that you end up making critical mistakes. Running out of lives will deduct five minutes from your time, so it behooves you to act with a sense of urgency and caution. Each floor presents a style of gameplay different from the last, and to reflect the changing focuses and what I can only assume to be an evolution of concepts, there is a repeated transitioning from the Touch Screen to the 3D Screen as far as where gameplay takes place. From the very first component, an air of familiarity quickly takes over and crowds at any sort of attempt -- as few as they are -- at originality. This is something that remains true for all the gameplay on the lower screen, so with that in mind, let's run through what these gameplay types are.
The first of these has you scaling three levels on the one floor: one with bombs being rolled down a ramp, the second with kitchen knives being chucked in your direction, and the last with lasers being shot out of overhead chandeliers. I bet Mario would be thrilled he only had barrels to worry about way back when. The second of the gameplay segments to take place on the lower screen is a knock-off of Game & Watch: Judge, where you press A to attack when your randomly-selected number is higher than your opponent, and move to the left when it's lower. Game & Watch: Ball serves as the inspiration for the third gameplay type, but here you have bombs to juggle instead of balls. The way they've set this one up with Johnny sometimes situated at lopsided angles may create a bit of confusion at first, causing you to think that maybe you're not actually in the correct position you need to be in. But other than that, it's about as straightforward as the others, presenting no technical barriers to the possibility of having fun.
One thing that nearly all components have in common, besides the aspect of retro inspiration, is the need for timing-based movements. This brings about a level of challenge that, for what it's worth, feels like an accurate reflection of old school games. As you explore the second set of gameplay components, you'll find this does waver slightly. In all sets of circumstances that transpire on the top screen, you'll be asked to defeat an enemy of some kind. One gameplay type has you defeating a host of agents, with the possibility of one main entity appearing at the end like a mini-boss. Even though you have the ability to jump into the background and play one or two tricks on your opponents, there's not much challenge to be had here when you can literally just stand in place and keep pressing the attack button. This is especially the case when you unlock a particular ability during your traversal of the different floors. Thus, instead of feeling like you're moving from one simple gameplay type to a more sophisticated or at least more developed one, you're essentially taking a step backwards and getting involved in an activity that doesn't contribute to a meaningful experience.
In another gameplay segment, you must continually score hits on an enemy who appears in place for a short time to bring back lost colours to the background. What this has to do with anything I'm not sure, but hey, if it works then why not? Honestly speaking, this particular aspect is quite weak conceptually. Plus, with the enemy throwing punches in intervals like a robot while he moves around, sometimes you end up running into it as you try to avoid the falling ceiling tiles. It's not a failure, mind you, but you'd be fooling yourself to think that this is any kind of fun.
The third and final segment is a boss fight against the kidnapper himself, Mr. Wang. Here, you must again use timing to deflect a series of rockets thrown your way. To inflict the few points of damage necessary to wipe him out, the enemy will at one point throw one flashing rocket in the middle of the regular sequence, and when the game actually recognizes your timed punch, this one can specifically be used to stun him for an attack. In another reference to Mario, winning against him on the levels leading up to the rescue of your girlfriend will reveal the hostage in the background to be a fake. At the very least, these boss encounters are more or less on the same level as the retro-themed components for the reason that it adheres to similar amounts of challenge. So while I still don't consider this to be greatly superior to the other fighting-style activities, I do feel they were on the right track with this one.
As Johnny Kung Fu is set up like an arcade game, players will be encountering all of the above segments on a repetitious basis. That may be fine for some people, but when you consider that not all of these are actually fun, it starts to weigh you down the further and further you climb. As a sort of celebration of both past and future progressions, Johnny Kung Fu merges old school and new school gameplay together to bring about an establishment of generational ideas. More than just tapping into it, there's a full-on excavation, metaphorically speaking, that has led to the gameplay outcomes we see here. But instead of treating this like a process for refinement, purification, and growth, Johnny Kung Fu uses it as an almost vain excuse to not do anything worthy of praise or extended consideration.
There's something to be said about a game that borrows so heavily from the past that it doesn't do much for itself. Its references are such that the word "inspired" should be taken out of the equation. In fact, it's so overt in what it does that I really started to question if there was a line being crossed. But what I find especially interesting is that the game isn't in your face about it. That may appear to be a contradiction, but when you look at how the gameplay is fashioned in the way that it is, the organization gradually allows the true nature of the atmosphere to come out. That is to say that Johnny Kung Fu, even with all the smoke and mirrors, is just a dull undertaking with a strong desire to mimic but with no sign of moving in a direction that would signify progression or principled movement. And being that there is almost no attempt on the game's part to push past its following spirit and present something of merit, I am not only unable to give it credit for doing something original, but I also have trouble seeing this as a great alternative to any of the games it uses as so-called "inspiration".
Despite everything to do with the game's design, it should be noted that there is still fun to be had, soft as it is. Looking back on the time I've spent with this game, I cannot say that the post-play impact is all that satisfying. But did I have a few ounces of fun? Sure. More importantly, I can see other individuals having more fun with the game than I did, but this is based on two conditions. The first being that you need to play the game in very small doses, and the second that you need to get past the fact that the game, whether you like it or not, has nothing to admire, and what it does try to do as original just isn't well done. Replay value isn't the game's strong suit either. High score tables are provided not only for the main game, but also for the unlockable bonus activities -- mini-games in an endless format. Considering the foregoing criticisms, though, it might be a struggle to find reasons to keep playing after the appeal has worn off.
As far as presentation goes, the story sequences give off a low budget feel, but the overall use of colour seen throughout is quite suitable. Related to that, the background effects and visuals specifically seen with the gameplay on the upper screen relate to an animated style that can be perceived as cheap in certain situations, never giving the game a sense of charm. Music and sound effects are about as average as they come, with everything being appropriate for the theme of the game, yet nothing sticks out in my mind as being worth mentioning. Aside from the sometimes blurry effect noticed on certain elements, I also found the 3D to be in a similar category, but unlike the former, it's something you can do without entirely. One final side-note: there were multiple replicable situations where I got a Game Over on the main game and the 'Continue' button disappeared, but it was only after going into and exiting a bonus game that it reappeared. So that's another minor technical issue to add to the small list.
Unimpressive as it is, I can still see a range of people Johnny Kung Fu to be somewhat enjoyable in very small doses, but even then it's only to a partial degree. Fans of retro-themed approaches will likely be quick to indulge, but the only way to truly enjoy this is by letting your guard down and pretending there isn't a bigger picture. Through shallow approaches that are anything but vague in revealing how they came about, the instances of unoriginal mimicry seen here have become synonymous with inexperience, novelty, and underdeveloped notions. Instead of outclassing or even putting itself on an equal plane as the teachers and mentors it has so clearly been influenced by, Johnny Kung Fu reveals itself to be a hotshot student with little attitude or evidence of learning behind its superficial atmosphere.
16/30 - Below Average
Gameplay 6/10 - Imitation to the point of being unoriginal, functional retro segments, weak fighting segments, superficial nature gradually becomes clear
Presentation 6/10 - Feels low budget in certain areas but other touches are appropriate, some good use of colour, can do without 3D, not much charm
Enjoyment 2/5 - Isn't very successful at putting its own stamp on what it copies, still a bit of fun to be had, somewhat challenging, not well put together
Extra Content 2/5 - High scores present for the main game and bonuses, unlock mini-games for endless play, some may struggle to find reason to return
Equivalent to a score of 53% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System