Tarsier Studios
It’s a well known tale. Game developer Mark Healey created Rag Doll Kung Fu in his spare time during his days at Lionhead Studios, and the quirky game became the first third party game to be distributed over Steam. Healy went on to co-found Media Molecule which became the PS3’s darling after they released LittleBigPlanet, and you can see the influence of his previous hit in it. The customizable characters, the 2.5 d look, the cutesy fighting – it contains a lot of similar features.

Tarsier Studios got the license for a PS3 adaptation of the game, and now Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic has emerged.

“They’re the cutest little Kung Fu fighters since Crippled Master!”

There’s no story or anything here. You control a puppet that looks like it’s being pulled by strings, and beat other puppets up.

The game has changed a bunch from its PC original, which you can grab a demo of via Steam here. Rather than a unique fighter that had you controlling the character entirely via the mouse, grabbing various limbs to perform moves, it’s now become a Smash Bros clone. True to the new title, the characters have become plastified and look much more cartoony.

CHUDTIP- Never get between two fighters. There’s no easier way to get killed.

Some controls will be familiar to LBP players. R1 is used for grabs, and using R2 and L2 controls your hands when combined with motions from the appropriated analog stick. Square punches, Triangle kicks, X jumps, and you block with Circle. It’s all fairly simple, but there are some special moves that use the motion controls- you can shake the remote to charge up a lightning ball to explode on your enemies, or even zip around the screen by holding a direction and the punch button and jolting the remote. You can even meditate and regain health by flipping the remote upside down. It’s gimmicky but it works better than expected.

The game is comprised of four-player matches where the object is simply to beat your opponents down. Like Smash Bros, on some of the levels you can knock them off the stage, but mostly you’ll be trying to whittle the other guy’s health bars down.
There are four different game types, all of which can be played every man for himself or in teams of two. The first is the standard Deathmatch, which has no surprises. There’s also King of the Hill, where you try to keep everyone off a specific area of the board to gain points, and can perform poses by moving around your arms for more points. Dodgeball is what it sounds like it is, except that there’s only one ball that everyone’s fighting to grab, and getting hit with it once will kill you. Capture the Fish is probably my favorite. In it you have to grab a fish and dunk it in a basket, and on each stage the basket’s in a different location (sometimes just laying on the ground, sometimes on the side of a structure, etc.)

CHUDTIP- You can grab lightning bolts that are thrown your way if you’re fast enough. Watch out for when you see your foes charging up and get ready for it.

And this is where we get to the downer part of this review. While the game is terrific fun when you first fire it up, it gets old very quick. There are eight different maps included but they show almost no variety at all. They’re incredibly small and usually have only two or three platforms that you can jump onto, and that’s about it. You’ll play through each one once and then forget it.
It’s simple, stupid fun, good in spurts and an excellent party game. But there’s just no meat to this game. There’s no online multiplayer mode so if you have no friends to play with, don’t pick it up. The computer does an adequate job but there’s something incredibly lame about playing this game solo.

Half the fun of this game is watching the way the character move about all floppy-like. The characters are fully customizable, but it’s only till you start unlocking new pieces (by getting medals)  that you can get the really fun characters.

One awesome feature in this game is the ability to record video of your matches and upload it straight to Youtube right after, or simply save it to your hard drive. More games should have this feature. Here’s a quickie I made of me getting the Let Me Down Trophy.

Also, one must mention the sound effects and music, because they’re both fantastic. Kung Fu fans know what to expect- lots of screeches and “Oooh!”‘s and taunts combined with loud, over the top punching and kicking sounds. It’s perfect in that regard, and the fun, catchy music only adds to the experience.

Besides the small smattering of eight Challenges that you can complete solo to acquire new parts for your character, this is a multiplayer-only game. But here’s the rub- it’s a multiplayer game with no online functionality. In this day and age, it just doesn’t cut it.  There’s also apparently no intention of patching it in later, which is a stupid move on Tarsier’s part.

CHUDTIP- One of the secret trophies is to pass the fish to a teammates and have him dunk it in the basket in less than a second.

What saved this from a lower score (and really, I’m being generous here) is how easy it is to pick up and play. When you first play it you’ll have a blast, doubly so when you have friends by your side. But after about a half hour of playing you’ll have gone through all of the levels and game modes and have moved on to something else.

Still, it’s the kind of game you can drag out when any of your friends come over, even the non-gamers.

7 out of 10