The world has seen its fair share of endless runners in the last few years. The genre has grown in popularity and moved from phones to home consoles and dedicated gaming devices almost overnight. Run, jump, dodge, slide, attack - Kung Fu FIGHT! follows the formula of the many endless runners that came before it. One doesn't have to be black belt to get far in this newest title from Nostatic Software, but it doesn't hurt.
From the beginning it's very obvious that the retro-inspired Kung Fu FIGHT! has been styled after games of a simpler time. Pixels and 2D gaming are still alive and well in the indie scene, but there's not much to look at here. While most games that utilize the retro pixel look do a great job of playing off the blocky but detailed look of the NES era, Kung Fu FIGHT looks more akin to the original Atari. It's a very simple style and at times the angle of buildings and structures can look a tad wonkey. It doesn't take away from the gameplay in any way, but it's not going to win any beauty contests, that's for sure.
From an audio standpoint Kung Fu FIGHT! isn't anything special, either. It has obviously been tailored to incorporate all the beeps and boops of an older game, but not much stands out. The music is upbeat and has a bit of asian flair, but it's easily forgettable once players have powered down their Wii U. It's too bad the developer didn't throw in some nice ninja screams or sumo bellows to keep with the martial arts theme.
The main menu gives players five choices after they boot up the game. The most important option is simply titled "FIGHT!" and leads to a submenu with two options, Story Mode or Infinite Fortress. Story Mode has, you guessed it, a story thrown on top of the normal endless runner fanfare. It features checkpoints that players can respawn back to if they find themselves on the wrong end of a throwing star or smashed beneath a sumo. The checkpoints aren't too far away and the game does a good job of mixing things up as you go. There are new enemies, obstacles and even boss battles as players advance further and further towards their end goal. Players can start from their last checkpoint even after they shut down the game, which is a nice touch; no one likes losing progress, right?
Infinite Fortress, while it sounds exciting and new, is simply the normal endless runner game players have come to love or hate. Just like Story Mode, it also gives players a steady flow of new adversaries and hurdles to overcome as they sprint towards a new high score. While not as thrilling and in depth as Story Mode, it does what it sets out to do very well.
It's a good thing Kung Fu FIGHT! has tight controls, because the various combatants who block your path are greatly varied and the learning curve on defeating them can be a bit harsh, at times. Players have to be able to make quick gut reactions depending on not only the enemy, but their position and choice of weapon. Some ninjas just stand in the road, waiting to have their faces punched in, while other wield throwing stars, swords and more. But will the ninja with the throwing star throw it high or low? Will the sword swinger thrust forward or go for an overhead chop? These are all key observations players have to judge in an instant, lest they get cut down where they stand. It can truly being hard to decide if a sumo is going to jump on or in front of the main character as he speeds along, but players have to think on their feet if they don't want to become a Kung Fu pancake.
It's not easy to write funny video games, and many times dialogue or narrative that make gamers laugh out loud as they work towards beating a title is ignored or skipped. This is especially difficult in a runner such as Kung Fu FIGHT!. Luckily, the game does a fantastic job of poking fun at itself and source material as the game progresses. Take the first line from start of Story Mode - "A long time ago in feudal China. Or was it Japan, I always mix those two up. Anyway..." The narrator's blatant disregard for caring about his own game's setting is the kind of silly fun that can be seen throughout the entire game. The developers definitely didn't take themselves too seriously.
Unlike many Wii U titles, Kung Fu FIGHT! features specific achievements in the form of a "Trophy Case". In keeping with the game's goofy vibe, the trophies often have comical titles and requirements. Take the "Bad House Guest" trophy for example. It requires players to "break 15 things and don't even apologize" on their Kung Fu quest. Others, such as the "On Fire" trophy are more straight forward and focus on taking out loads of enemies in a row. It's a nice touch to a game that doesn't have a lot of meat on its bones.
Kung Fu FIGHT is a fun little title. It delivers diverse and often times humorous action alongside a handful of custom achievements. While it can be demanding and require quick reaction time, it's certainly a game that keeps players coming back to increase their high score. It's no Runner 2, but it's worth a look if you are in need of some endless running and a bit of pixelated silliness.