Saturday, April 11, 2009

Kung Fu & Physics = A Deadly Combination... The Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic Review

Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic has been one of the highly anticipated downloadable titles for the Playstation Network. It is made by Tarsier Studios, which consists of former Media Molecule guys that brought us LittleBigPlanet. For those who never played the PC original, Rag Doll Kung Fu is a four player free-for-all fighting game in the vein of Super Smash Bros. and Kung Fu Chaos. It has the charm that LittleBigPlanet along with a physics system that similar to that game in terms of platforming. While a simple free-for-all fighting game seems fun on paper, Fists of Plastic does not really offer enough value to keep players coming back even though it is ten bucks. Instead, this game is somewhat of a disappointment despite some neat ideas to the combat and the special charm.

The main modes in Fists of Plastic are a standard free-for-all mode and a challenge mode testing your skills in the game earning medals and unlock more stuff like characters and extra outfits for a customized character. Even though the combat seems simple at first with punch, kick, jump, and block buttons, the advanced tactics, especially the ones that require Sixaxis motions, have a steep learning curve and will take players some time to master them effectively, but at least the challenges are there for players to practice those skills. Other than the punching and kicking, there are items and weapons to use, which are similarly used in Super Smash Bros. to throw at opponents and cause more damage. I appreciate the effort that the developers took with the Sixaxis controls such as tilting upside down to recover health while losing magic, shaking the controller to use a lightning ball, and tilting it towards a certain direction for a lunging attack, but since they are motion controlled, at times they do not feel precise and could be frustrating when things get chaotic. The challenges range from a basic survival mission, target practice that you have to keep a combo alive for higher scores and medals, and so on. The standard free-for-all mode is just a quick match offering that consists of a normal deathmatch, king of the hill, capture the fish, and dodgeball. The non-deathmatch modes do offer the game a little more variety, but it is just a small twist to the core fighting. The character creator also does not do anything special other than dress characters up in different clothes with no effect to the action. Even though Fists of Plastic can be played with up to four players locally, there is no online multiplayer at all present and it is indeed a bummer since games like this demand something like that. The only online support in this game are just leaderboards for the challenges.

The game itself looks fantastic running at a smooth 60 frames per second with no sense of slowdown. The characters actually do feel like rag dolls and this game heavily relies on physics for the game to function effectively. Even though these characters feel somewhat generic to the theme, their charm does set them apart from other games like this. The sound is also remarkable stuff especially the soundtrack having that similar style LittleBigPlanet had. Fists of Plastic is arguably one of the most polished games on the Playstation Network representing a certain graphical style and great sound.

Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic is still an enjoyable time if you like free-for-all brawlers and have local friends to play this with. There is enough simplicity there to go pick up and play, but the advanced skills do in fact have a steep learning curve to master. I like the fact that some games like this are taking an effort to have effective Sixaxis controls as there are neat ideas how they are implemented in the combat, but they can be imprecise at times when you need them the most especially in the challenges. While the game looks stunning and charming, it is unfortunate that it has no online multiplayer at all, which hurts its replay value, but hopefully it can be added in a future patch if the developers are able to add it in effectively. For ten dollars, Fists of Plastic is still a good game and worth checking out, but it could have been so much better with more content than the initial package.

Score = 6.5/10

  • Great graphical style running at 60 FPS with no slowdown
  • Filled with charm from the characters to the soundtrack like LittleBigPlanet
  • Neat ideas with Sixaxis controls
  • Still a fun game to have around to play with local friends (if you have more than two controllers).
  • Not enough replay value - Lack of modes
  • Advanced tactics require a steep learning curve to master them effectively
  • Sixaxis controls can be frustrating when you need them most
  • No online multiplayer

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