Posted on July 11, 2012 AT 07:22pm
Over the years, handheld games have evolved almost as rapidly as their more stationery cousins. As the quality of these games has gotten better, our expectations have gotten higher. Seeing Donkey Kong Land on the Game Boy used to be a remarkable feat; now we expect our portable experiences to at least be on the level of the latest Metal Gear or Mario. We’ve gotten used to carrying around home consoles in our pockets, but is there still room for a return to the simpler days? If you have fond memories of when gaming on the road meant packing a few extra AA batteries, then Johnny Kung Fu has the moves you’ve been looking for.
Johnny Kung Fu comes to us from developer UFO Interactive. Based on trailers and screenshots, you might expect a 2D beat em’ up, similar to Double Dragon or Final Fight, but Johnny Kung Fu shares more DNA with Nintendo’s WarioWare series than it does with those early brawlers. It still retains some elements of old-school beat-‘em-ups, though, that keep it from being a simple copy-paste effort of the Wario formula.
Johnny’s girl, Paula, has been kidnapped by agents of the nefarious UFO Corporation, short for Unethical Financial Operations, and it’s up to Johnny to save her from the Mr. Wang Gang. He finds the nearest phone booth, sheds his office attire in favor of something more suitable for battling his way through the UFO tower using little more than martial arts. The catch is that he only has an hour to save Paula. When you first boot up Johnny Kung Fu, you are greeted with a Game & Watch-style level on the bottom screen that has you dodging, ducking, and punching your way through traps and enemies. It sets the tone and feel of the game very well, and looks and feels authentic without being dated. Once you pass this preliminary test, it’s time to brawl waves of enemies on the top screen in 3D. Then you may juggle some bombs, restore color, or take on one of the many bosses. There’s plenty of variety, and that keeps Johnny Kung Fu fresh, at least for a while.
Some of the stages are brutally tough, and some aren’t as polished as the rest of the game. The bomb juggling, for instance, is a minigame where you have to keep several bombs in the air, or else they explode. It’s very similar to the secret soccer game in the 3DS Sound app. The problem is that it can be very hard to judge where the bombs are falling, and one mistake means starting the stage over, as with the rest of the Game & Watch sections. Another felt reminiscent of navigating traffic. If you lose all of your lives at a particular section, the game allows you to sacrifice five minutes of your timer in exchange for a continue. This keeps some of the frustration down, but watching 20 minutes disappear because you were trying to learn a level is always irritating.
Taking place in between the Game & Watch levels are short fighting segments, where you may fight away a wave of enemies, take out a boss, or restore color to the world. These were the most fun and exciting parts of Johnny Kung Fu, as they were fast, frantic, and well animated. Don’t get me wrong, a faithful return to the early days of gaming is fine, but it’s much more rewarding to punch-kick-punch guys in the chin, or try out some of the new moves Johnny learns along the way.
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Johnny Kung Fu is an innocent, fun little adventure. It’s not a flawless game, but you’ll be hard pressed to find something this cool on the 3DS eShop. If you’re looking for a short pick-up-and-play title with an old-school sensibility, try Johnny Kung Fu. Just leave the AAs behind.
[box_dark]We received a complimentary copy for the purposes of this review, which was conducted on the Nintendo 3DS system.[/box_dark]
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