Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of PlasticESRB:
Developer: Tarsier Studios
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
4 player locally
PSN network - $9.99
Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic is out for the PlayStation Network and it certainly brings something different Sony’s downloadable service which is already packed with games that stand out from the crowd. Fists of Plastic is the brainchild of Little Big Planet’s Creative Director Mark Healy. With that being said anyone who had no idea of his influence in these two games will soon discover the similarities of the two once they pick up the controller. The character physics are very similar to those of Little Big Planet so anyone who loves the latter should feel right at home and those who haven’t played Little Big Planet may find a reason to play both.
Fists of Plastic is, in my opinion, one of the PS3’s better looking downloadable games as it has a very unique graphic style which includes a humorous physics engine that most gamers will enjoy. I immediately thought the game had a Super Smash Brothers feel to it. The games stages are similar to a 2D side scroller with the illusion of 3D which many people have coined the term 2.5D. The effect is well suited for the gameplay style. The characters are well defined and crisp, while the levels themselves are surprisingly high on artistic style and graphic quality. There is a lot of unlockable costume/character stuff to find throughout the game, and a pretty cool character creator that allows you to come up with some pretty random designs which spices up an already robust costume complement. Technically speaking I found no major issues of clipping or slowdown, and the games polish was quite refreshing to see. Overall I give pretty high marks for the games visuals.
A sense of enjoyment runs throughout Fists of Plastic and this includes the music and sound effects. Gamers won’t recognize any of the musical flavorings, but the games music definitely pays homage to the ever popular tongue in cheek Kung Fu movie soundtracks of past. The immortal Carl Douglas and his ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ tune would be very proud. While the songs are hummable at times they are so very similar and they may become a bit repetitive after some extended play time. Overall the music supplements the Asian aesthetic very well and adds to the games overall style and flavour.
The sound effects are also well done, with the standard smacks, cracks and howls from the characters. I really thought the effects were fun enough to grant a few smiles and chuckles. The game seemed to be using a 5.1 digital mix as all my speakers were quite active. One thing of note is the sound processing. My receiver decided to use a Pure Audio setting repeatedly on firing up the game. I tried using other sound fields, but it would go back to this high quality setting. This setting is usually used for either Dolby True HD, or DTS Master Audio. I’d be interested in knowing what codec the game actually utilizes.
To be quite honest there isn’t really a great deal of meat in Fists of Plastic. You will find yourself starting off by walking through a very effective and well laid out introduction and tutorial. I must admit I spent quite some time here getting used to the PS3 controller. At first I found the going quite tough, but the controls become fluid in nature after 30 minutes or so and they shouldn’t deter or hinder anyone’s gaming experience.
The game consists of eight stages, such as “King of the Hill”, where you have to stand on the top platform while keeping the enemy away, “Capture the Fish”, where you have to throw a fish into a bucket while fighting off the enemy, and “Sharpshooter”, which is exactly what it is named for. All of these stages try to bring something different to the table and to a certain extent they succeed. However, I can see where the game kind of runs out of gas. Once you finish the stages it can get a bit monotonous. Sure, after you have gone through and unlocked all the available stages they can be played with up to four players, but this option is only available locally and not online. This exclusion seems odd as the game lends to multiplayer gaming very well. Limiting it to a local experience is somewhat disappointing. Perhaps we will see an online multiplayer option in the near future.
The gameplay offered in the game is pretty fun though. There are a ton of virtual moves to learn such as allowing you to use your special chi powers to throw lightning bolts or slam your enemies with devastating effects. Fists of Plastic also makes use of the SixAxis features of the controller. You will be shaking your controller to pull off moves or turning it upside down to meditate and heal yourself. The button pushing is a bit tough to get used to as the multiple button requirements can occasionally be tricky. Gamers with good sense of timing will pick the controls quicker then others. Regardless the results are quite rewarding as you can chain attacks for some cool combos.
Fists of Plastic does have its moments that will make you smile, such as during “King of the Hill” when you pull poses using the L2 button to infuriate your opponents and to show off, this is great fun. Of course this will have to be done locally and not in an online environment. I think the most fun anyone will have in the game is when playing with your friends. It can be quite chaotic at times; however let’s face it, it is so much fun slapping your friends about when they least expect it, locally or not. My biggest gripe with the game is that when you are not playing with friends you will most likely get bored. The eight stages will keep you busy the first few times through, and unlocking various trophies will keep you busy for awhile, but with no online mode or leaderboards there is no real motivation for you to go back once you have exhausted these avenues.
Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic is a $10.00 downloadable game that gets most gamers a good looking eight stage beat-em-up that has some similarities to Little Big Planet. While the original stages are fun, the experience is over in less than an hour or so. It seems as though the development team hope that most players spend their time in a Super Smash Bros like local multiplayer game. The omission of online play is quite a missed opportunity and limits the overall appeal of the game as the lack of such is unforgiveable. The game has some depth with such things as unlockables and trophies, but the ride is still far too short which explains my lower gameplay score.