In the games industry, there are a small handful of designers and executives you can rely on to speak their minds. Epic Games’ vice president Mark Rein is one of them. As the world prepared for the launch of the Wii, he warned that motion control would be a magnet for, “gimmicky, crappy, cheap, ‘I wish I hadn’t bought it’ gimmick games.” The observation won him few friends, but with the benefit of hindsight it’s difficult to refute the point, and so while we’re open to the potential of Kinect and Move to deliver one-of-a-kind gameplay experiences, we’re just as sensitive to the inevitable barrage of flimsy ideas. Kung Fu Rider is a prime example of this trend.
You play as either a man or a woman on the run from gangsters in Hong Kong, seeking to escape the city by sitting on objects with wheels on the bottom – an office chair, a baby stroller, a shopping trolley, and so on – and surviving a series of downhill races. Each course is strewn with obstacles, pick-ups, ramps, and gangsters attempting to knock you down, with the only real objective being to reach a van waiting at the finish line before a timer runs out. It’s the sort of diverting nonsense that plays reasonably well as a £10 download, but despite being a near-full-priced retail game Kung Fu Rider struggles to match even the questionable achievements of PAIN.
The fundamental problem lies in the controls. We have no problem with Move itself – as our review of Sports Champions attests – but Sony’s implementation of it here is dispiritingly wide of the mark. Like the worst Wii games, Kung Fu Rider weighs down its supposedly simple and intuitive input device with a plethora of outputs that make it extremely difficult to stay out of your own way. For example, gesturing left is a left turn, gesturing sharply left is a sharp left turn, and gesturing sharply left while pushing a button performs a kung-fu kick; in the heat of the moment, it’s difficult to monitor the incremental differences that separate these three commands, resulting in far too many instances of attempting a kick but performing a drift turn and getting smacked in the face instead.
Any game in the launch line-up for a new technology should be built to demonstrate its potential, but this plays like a game designed for a control pad. That wouldn’t be such a decisive factor if there was a measure of variety to the gameplay, but Kung Fu Rider remains virtually the same from the first moment until the last, and singularly fails to justify its frankly baffling price tag. On this evidence, those second-generation Move games can’t come quickly enough.