Review: Kung Fu Rabbit (Wii U eShop)

Hop to it

When Rabbit's dojo is raided by Ultimate Evil, it's time to buck up and get even. The hungry aliens kidnap all of the temple's disciples with a view to hold a great bunny banquet, but they make one huge mistake – they leave the master behind. Now our long-eared hero has to put all his martial arts training to the test to stop the nefarious plan before his fellow rabbits wind up on Evil's rotisserie.

Originally released on iOS and Android by developers Cazap and Ctools, Kung Fu Rabbit is a 2D platformer that demands quick reactions, careful planning and a decent sense of timing. It's lolloped into the care of Neko Entertainment for its Wii U eShop release; the French developer has spruced it up for high definition displays, re-worked the controls to take advantage of the system's buttons and switched out in-app purchases for in-game currency.

In each stage, Rabbit's main goal is simply to reach the end and rescue a helpless bunny from one of Evil's purple bubbles. However, while that might be enough to move to the next stage, there are also carrots that need to be collected if you hope to achieve perfect rankings. Three normal carrots and a special golden carrot lurk in every stage — often directly in harm's way. And when one hit is all it takes to send you back to the beginning of a level, sometimes you have to think wisely about whether a particular carrot is really worth it.

Grabbing every vegetable isn't just for bragging rights, though; you can swap them for power-ups to help you out, such as muzzles to stop certain enemies attacking for a time, or claws that improve your grip when bounding into walls. Impatient players can also spend them to unlock worlds, but if you'd rather play through traditionally, unaided, you can happily ignore this side of the game.

The obstacles that you face aren't particularly original, but they are used well for the most part, the occasional cheap placement aside. The main danger is the tar-like substance that sticks to every surface. Enemies patrol, fly and, rather disgustingly, spit at you; blocks dissolve beneath your feet, platforms move in and out of existence, helping you cross dark pits while also punishing you for dawdling too long. Funnily enough, despite the title there's not much in the way of kung fu in reality – enemies can be taken out by charging into or jumping onto their blue weak points, but that's about it.

Whether you're using the analogue stick or D-Pad, Rabbit runs at the same speed at all times. Though his highest jumps are floaty, you rarely feel out of control. Upon hitting a vertical surface, Rabbit loosely grips on and gradually slides down, which lets you slip right down towards deadly pools to collect carrots before springing off to safety. Alternately, if you find yourself in peril you can use the lengthier air time to guide yourself to a wall and use it to bounce back up to solid ground – if you're quick enough.

The addition of button controls alone is a worthy reason for Kung Fu Rabbit's conversion. Whereas the mobile release suffered from touch control that wasn't quite adequate when the difficulty ramped up, on the Wii U eShop Rabbit is as responsive as you would ever need him to be – it's a vast improvement that makes for a far better game. It helps that load times between levels have been sped up, too.

Pixel perfect launches and wall jumps between tar-splodged surfaces feel just right; some levels let you take things slowly, conquering one obstacle at a time with frequent patches of safe land in between, but it lends itself equally well to hare-brained speed runs where you have to just go for it. There are enough control options for everybody: we chose to use the GamePad most of the time, but Wii Remotes, Classic Controllers and Wii U Pro Controllers are all supported too.

There are three worlds of 20 levels to traipse through initially, with levels in a fourth bonus world unlocking as you play. Each stage generally lasts a minute or two with a perfect run, but expect to spend more time than that on repeated retries during several of the later levels: Kung Fu Rabbit is startlingly easy at its outset, but graduates to a difficult, but manageable, pace over time. Thankfully, whenever you do die you can restart again in an instant.

And if you're after a real challenge, fear not: completing the first three worlds unlocks hardcore remixes of them, plus tougher versions of the bonus fourth world. These extra worlds swap about level layouts and tip in more dangers, effectively doubling the amount of content – and they can be monstrously hard. It took us around three hours to unlock the extra worlds, but those additional levels will almost certainly not fall so quickly. You'd better hope that Rabbit's feet are lucky after all.

You wouldn't think it could reach such heights of difficulty to glance at it. The art style is distinctly cute and cartoon-like, and it looks great, clean and sharp in high definition. The levels are layered prettily with detailed trees and buildings in pastel colours. It also translates well to the Wii U GamePad; off-TV play is supported, via the mirrored method wherein the GamePad and television display the same content simultaneously. The music, meanwhile, is pleasant and fits the theme, with Asian drums playing a central role, but it's repeated far too often; more variety would have been appreciated.

Conclusion

Neko Entertainment has taken a fairly decent mobile game and elevated it into a great eShop game thanks to significantly improved controls, while in-app purchases have smartly been converted to use in-game currency. With a challenge level that ramps up steadily and a large number of short, snappy levels, it's easy to hop into Kung Fu Rabbit whether you just want to play for a few minutes or settle in for an extended session.

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