Tuesday, December 02, 2003

The movie-related reason Sombrero Grande bought an Xbox: Kung-Fu Chaos
Video game review by Sombrero Grande

You might be wondering why on Earth a review of an Xbox game is sitting on a movie review web site. Most likely, though, you don’t care. Well, nuts to you, buddy! You’re gonna sit there and read this and like it as I tell you about the movie-related reason why I, Sombrero Grande, bought me an Xbox: Kung Fu Chaos, one of the coolest video games I’ve played in a long time. For you gamers out there, imagine combining Street Fighter, Double Dragon, Tekken, Mario Party and just a dash of old-school Pac Man into one game. Mix in a generous helping of humor and more movie parodies than I care to try to count right now and you’ve got KFC, a Kentucky-Fried video game if I ever saw one.

The premise of the game is so ingenious that I’m shocked nobody has tried it before. Picture taking a semi-standard fighting game and placing it into the context of filming a movie; suddenly, the endless barrage of nameless ninja henchmen who all look the same and pop out of nowhere to attack you suddenly makes sense! The playable fighters are all kung-fu movie stereotypes competing to become the star of the film! There’s your standard ninja, the studied master, the lone samurai, the blaxploitation chick, the young woman out to avenge the deaths of everyone she ever cared for (including her goldfish), and even an unlockable Mexican wrestler-turned-movie star (sure to be a favorite pick among the Masked Move Snobs)!

The game starts out as a parody of ‘70s kung-fu movies, complete with film scratches running over the action and music like the theme from Enter the Dragon and Carl Douglas’ hit “Kung Fu Fighting.” Soon though, the parody spills over into Hollywood blockbusters with stages that spoof hits such as Jurassic Park, Independence Day and Titanic. If you can picture fighting off adversaries on the deck of a sinking ocean liner with blocks of ice falling all around you while the wooden cut-out extras and props slide all over the place, you’re starting to get the idea of how fun Kung Fu Chaos can be.

The filmmaking theme doesn’t just stop at the level design stage; it spills into every aspect of the game. Dependent on the number of ninja’s you whoop during the 1-player game mode, you earn from 1 to 5 stars. A rating of 5 stars brands the scene a “blockbuster” success, 4 stars is a “sleeper hit,” 3 stars and the film “breaks even,” 2 stars is a “turkey,” and 1 measly star means your movie is headed “straight to video.” Of course I can’t forget the director of the movie you’re filming: self-proclaimed filmmaking genius (though aren’t they all?) Shao Ting (say it out loud, kids). This very loud and cartoony Japanese man with a giant head and high-pitched voice has some hilarious dialogue in the game, and pops in all the time whist filming to shout reminders to you about big “special effects” to watch out for (like a giant, hungry T-Rex or invincible vampire zombies) or to let you know that he’s running out of film (an ingenious way to incorporate time limits into the game). If you take too long on one of menu screens picking a character or stage to fight in, he makes fun of you! It’s great!

But don’t expect only ninja fights throughout the game; the variety of gameplay in Kung Fu Chaos is reminiscent of Earthworm Jim in that hardly any two levels give you the same way to play. There are levels in KFC where you win by bumping your opponents off of the top of a slippery, crumbling iceberg, another where you stand beneath a two-story bar rumble and use a trampoline to bounce stuntmen to safety, and even stages where you have to toss an ugly, screaming princess to knock your foes off their high pedestals!

This game totally blew me away in every respect when I played it, causing this frugal cowboy to break down and buy an Xbox just so I could play it whenever I want. If this has sounded at all interesting to you, get your butt somewhere where you can rent and try this game out!


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