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Kung Fu Panda 2 Wii is a martial arts adventure based on the hit movie in which players control Po with the uDraw tablet peripheral. It's an odd combination of gameplay and interface, but one which makes a straightforward movie tie-in more interesting.
At its core, Kung Fu Panda 2 on Wii is a typical game tie-in to a CG animated kids movie, of the kind that your humble Storygamer gets to review at least once a month. Controlling Po, the KFP of the title, the player will explore some simple environments, beat up some bad guys in straightforward arcade combat, and collect some collectibles.
Even on this level this is one of the better cracks at the genre I've seen. Character animations and environments are smoothly done, although cut-scenes look a bit fuzzy and badly transferred from a different platform (and I could do with never exploring a cartoon version of feudal Japan ever again, but that's my issue rather than anything wrong with the game). The soundalike voice acting is OK, even if the underlying script isn't that much cop and lines (especially hints) repeat far too often.
Not spectacular, then, but solidly done and likely to please young fans of the film. What makes Kung Fu Panda 2 more interesting is the control system, and some of the neat little touches that round out the game as a whole.
Kung Fu Panda 2 uses publisher THQ's uDraw device as a peripheral. If you haven't encountered uDraw yet, it's essentially a simplified version of the kind of tablet and stylus used by digital artists. In Nintendo game terms, it's like using a chunky stylus on a blank touchscreen while watching the action on your TV.
As a controller for a third person game, it's a mixed bag. Moving Po feels a bit of a sloppy compromise: you hold the stylus to the surface of the tablet and drag the tip to move Po. Po does tend to go in some odd directions as you run out of screen and start a new stroke of the stylus, but luckily this isn't the kind of game where you can walk off a ledge to your death.
Combat is probably also a bit sloppy, but you're unlikely to know or care as you slash the stylus up and down the tablet quickly to attack, unleashing a flurry of blows on the enemy. It's hectic and fun, and as I frantically whipped the stylus back and forth across the uDraw I felt a bit more of a physical connection to the on-screen action than I do in a lot of more serious fighting games.
The soundalike voice acting is OK, even if the underlying script isn't.
Special moves are performed by holding down a button on the side of the stylus and drawing specific shapes, then releasing. This can all get a bit chaotic and muddy during the bigger fights, as Po doesn't stop moving just because you're doing something else with the stylus - so he'll run around in a circle as you draw one, or sometimes run in the wrong direction as you're performing a slash attack.
In the early parts of the game the combat is so easy this won't be a problem, but it gets trickier later and could easily lead to frustration. However, in spite of this being such an odd control system, in terms of controlling an on-screen character it's not noticeably more unwieldy than using the Wii-mote and Nun-chuck.
To further justify the use of the uDraw, there's some colouring in to do, both as a separate option on the menu, and within the main game. It's perhaps not the greatest sign of confidence in the uDraw's accuracy that THQ have gone for purely fill-based colouring in rather than actually letting you draw, but it at least makes the - optional - colouring in quick work.
The neatest implementation of this is that you can colour in in-game objects, and your colouring scheme will then persist thoughout the rest of the game. Some of these are just posters of Po, but there's something genuinely pleasing about colouring in the design on the side of the barrels, then seeing 'your' barrels throughout the game. If anything, I would have liked more of this to fit within the uDraw's artistic remit: perhaps the chance to make greater customisations, and to be rewarded in-game for my efforts. As it stands it's a neat little feature.
In spite of this being such an odd control system it's not unwieldy.
The main system of rewards for hitting milestones within the game (collecting a certain number of objects, defeating enemies with specific attacks) is that they open mini-games for Baby Po. Baby Po is a separate sub-game where you play with the infant Panda in his creche, and its essentially Ninten-Panda. It's a very cutely executed feature, and adds real value to the otherwise abstract counts of collectibles that appear in the main game.
If you like the Kung Fu Panda series, own a uDraw already, or are looking for something a little different from your family-friendly Wii games, Kung Fu Panda 2 is certainly worth a look. It isn't a ground-breaking game by any means, but as tie-ins go it's a cut above the rest.
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