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Kung Fu Rabbit - Wii U Download Review

Game Info
Kung Fu Rabbit

Wii U Download | Neko Entertainment / BulkyPix / cTools Studio / Cazap | 1 Player | Out Now | $4.99 / £4.49
Controller Compatibility: Wii U GamePad
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29th April 2013; By KnucklesSonic8

For many longtime gamers, platforming concepts have been ingrained from an early age, so it's an easy thing to assign meaning or provide a description when asked to do so. But not all have had that luxury; some are not well-acquainted with the facets of platformers and are just coming to understand their general make-up. That's where Kung Fu Rabbit can find some ground to stand on, even if only for a short while. Designed for mobile devices but now ported to the console space for the first time, its compactness makes it an oddity among other digital offerings on the Wii U. But seeing as there are few competing iterations period, Kung Fu Rabbit lucks out on that front. That does not mean, however, that its level of tenacity and endurance can't still be underestimated.

    Borderline minimalist in its design focus, little introduction is really needed as to the game's nature and objectives. Relaying only a handful of comic panels without supporting background music, story and other preliminary details are kept to a relative minimum. An enigmatic entity from another planet has abducted your furry companions, and it's up to you, as an agile rabbit endowed with knowledge of kung fu, to free them. Painted using bright watercolours, the world players find themselves in is sleek and homely, with healthy jungle landscapes and Eastern-style living quarters set against a violet sky. With backgrounds that don't command much attention or present anything out of the ordinary to praise, there exists three or four basic environments serve as adequate, theme-driven templates for the game's palatable level structure.

The invasion has left your once-peaceful land infested with dark creatures that have taken up dwelling in places that make navigation a challenge. Most are round and take on bird- and pig-like forms (with appropriate snorts and squawks) that move back and forth within a set space. Others are confined to a set location and either spit out projectiles in your direction, or pop in and out of the ground as a sort of spike trap. Your attention will gravitate to tar pits the most, not because of their appearance or even their frequency -- though they are known to dominate in places. When you get close, they make a bubbling sound, and this quickly becomes a sore to hear repeatedly. It's surprising no one caught on to this given how grating it becomes, but the developers might've reasoned the sound effect disabler would suffice. Not doing much to aid this are the muted tones entertained in the few tunes found in the game, which don't carry much force or have much bearing in the scheme of things.

    Much of your time is spent climbing with the use of your main (and only) wall-jump ability, and the overall design is such that the importance of precision is lessened in comparison to quick recovery, making platforming arrangements balanced and not crossing the territory of being persnickety in the required actions. Good thing, too, because the controls do lock-up in mid-air enough times for it to spoil the player's consistency and instant need for definitive movements. About halfway into the standard progression, unsteady blocks are used both as platforms and walls, breaking apart upon contact. But aside from the odd time when blocks break because you were standing too close, these never unsettle in how they are laid out and the role they serve in a particular level.

To reference, once more, the minor threats specifically posed by enemy placement, layouts attempt to evoke reactions of a stealth mindset where players must wait for enemies to have their backs turned prior to advancing, or time their leaps carefully when a trap is temporarily disabled. Unfortunately, its means of doing so doesn't always prompt these desired thinking patterns, and the provisions made through the currency system don't help in this regard.

    Each stage features four carrots -- three being standard, the other having a gold shine and being of the highest value -- and it is by collecting these that you can arm yourself with single-use items and upgrades at the shop. Only two items can be equipped at a given time -- one temporary, one permanent -- but the selection includes those that make it possible to block attacks or slice enemies with ease, and these can be purchased very early on. This doesn't reduce the level design to meagre status or anything, but it does shape -- perhaps negatively -- your views on the game.

    Generally speaking, it isn't until the third world that you start to witness more demanding level designs, with everything up until this point being merely functionally adequate and the occasional layout being in a different format than others. One of the best levels in the game, I found, was near the end. Set up in a vertical fashion, a series of projectile-launching traps are fixed in place at the very bottom of a shaft, with a series of fragile blocks preventing you from being hit. Since these are to be used as platforms, you have to work out a way to climb to the top by destroying as few of these as possible. Otherwise, you won't have anywhere to run to once the projectiles penetrate through the last of these defenses. The short succession of stages that follow this one don't have you manipulating the environment to survive, but they do place added emphasis on planning and timing more than preceding layouts.

In many ways, Kung Fu Rabbit appears to be aimed at younger players yet to be initiated into the ways of devious platforming seen in other contenders. The game does have its share of more challenging arrangements, but the physical troubles found therein can be dulled or entirely averted through items. Light on wonder, its designs follow a style that is geared well to beginners with run-of-the-mill mechanics and organization. Through it, younger players will seek out simple-natured discovery (with help from golden carrots), learn the importance of timing jumps, and understand other techniques that serve as the backbone for more ambitious platformers.

    Of course, you could look to other, better-designed games to accomplish this, so there's that to consider. But having this disposition does help you frame your viewpoint on Kung Fu Rabbit in the proper light. That said, this small-scale allure of discovery dissipates at the end of World 2, as it is at this point that a power-up is given that reveals secret passages. Though there is one case where this decision is appropriate -- an invisible set of platforms that you wouldn't guess even existed -- it's odd that this helpful thread would be taken away from the experience. 

    Learning that the game includes 60 stages will lead you to believe there's good value here; not so when they're completed in under two or three minutes. How does 160 sound, though? A more welcoming evaluation, wouldn't you say? To that end, hardcore levels become available upon completion of World 3 -- tougher versions of pre-existing levels that double the original set of 60 stages. The other 40 are found in the Bonus Cavern, carrot-free stages where it is strictly about reaching the finish point. Admittedly, even with this fair measure of content, Kung Fu Rabbit is really more of a one-day or weekend affair, with very scanty promise existing for motivated exploration beyond that.

    As a friendly platforming experience made for casual players first and longtime fans second, Kung Fu Rabbit isn't one to change conventions; rather, it establishes and introduces to a measure of success. Most outside the target range will find the fun factor to be staggered and the designs to be lacking a certain je ne sais quoi. Similarly, those to whom the game is best-suited won't get riled up over the easy-to-understand mechanics. On the other hand, they will appreciate that the game gradually teaches without ever boring. The short-term strengths (which don't compete with those of its big siblings) will fade from memory quickly, leaving you unaffected by the whole ordeal. But even still, Kung Fu Rabbit remains a well-tuned offering that orients itself respectfully.

21/30 - Good

Gameplay 7/10 - Simple mechanics that are functional, minor control issues, encourages processes to mixed success, sporadic effectiveness in level design
Presentation 7/10 - Sleek art style, select cases of pleasant scenery, cycles through a set of repeating templates, weaker performance with audio
Enjoyment 4/5 - Geared towards casual players and younger audiences first, educational as an entry-level platformer, not too exciting for others
Extra Content 3/5 - Good collection of stages on offer for only $5, hardcore and bonus levels for expert players, still lacking over the long-term

Equivalent to a score of 70% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Kung Fu Rabbit
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