Kung Fu Strike: The Warrior's Rise is the first game from Shanghai-based dev team Qooc Software, and it's not a bad first effort overall. It's visually scrappy and the gameplay is far from perfect, but if you go in with lowered expectations - and tackle it strictly in short bursts - then you may just have enough fun to justify the 400 MSP asking price. However, Kung Fu Strike costs 800 MSP, which is something of a problem.
The plot of Kung Fu Strike is delivered via a series of static art panels that precede each and every level, and the story is basically nonsense. There's a raid, a siege on a temple and a rebel uprising, but precisely none of it makes sense. It feels like the author spent most of his or her time struggling to fill each panel with something (anything) and it only gets more desperate as it goes along. The option is always there to skip these sequences, and you should definitely take it. You'll miss nothing.
This is a third-person brawler that takes place in a series of 3D spaces; imagine a low-budget version of Dynasty Warriors, only with far less enemies onscreen and no weapons. Or horses. It's all about the melee combat, and it's relatively straightforward at first; there are two attack moves and a defensive parry which you can ignore. A couple of levels in though, and that parry quickly becomes the most essential tool in the game. Later enemies can't be beaten unless you learn their attack patterns and parry every last one of them, so after the opening stages Kung Fu Strike actually starts to become pretty damn hard. It's definitely worth noting that Easy difficulty isn't a walk in the park, so even if you're a die-hard fighting game nut, Easy mode is actually the ideal place to start.
Despite the uneven difficulty - even on easy, it's riddled with unwelcome spikes - It's all very enjoyable in a slightly mindless sort of way. That said, it gets monotonous very briskly indeed, so this isn't a game to binge on. The fact that multiple enemies can sometimes hound you at the same time with attacks that are impossible to predict, or the fact that some of them have moves that are completely unblockable, are things that are easy to stomach in short bursts; but if you overdo it you'll get frustrated very quickly. Incidentally the environments are bland too, so you endlessly feel like you're playing in a level that you've already completed, even when you're doing battle with a memorable boss.
It's a real shame, because there are some really nice ideas here. First off, there's a local campaign co-op mode - which is always a winner in games like this. There's a nice system whereby you unlock moves only when you grab the right collectible after a fight, which can lead to a few humorous and panic-stricken races when you forget, because you are only ever given ten seconds to do this. Later on, you gain the ability to summon buddies who help you in combat for a small fee, and this adds a very welcome air of strategy to some of your rucks. But in the end it's too little, too late. The game stops being entertaining way too early for these aspects to make much of a difference: they should have been there from the beginning.
This is a scrappy production, but the blemishes are fairly easy to forgive for the most part. The character animations have a certain goofy charm to them but at heart this is really basic stuff; the stylised oil paintings that fill in the blanks between levels may be lovely to look at, but they make the project feel like a game from a bygone era. And not in a good way.
Kung Fu Strike isn't bad, it's just disappointing. This is a game that really belongs in the Xbox Live Indie Game area, because it simply doesn't cut it against the high-tier competition in the Arcade marketplace. If it cost 80 Microsoft points, it'd be an absolute steal, and word of mouth would serve it brilliantly. At 240 points, it'd still be worth it. If it cost 400 points you'd be mad not to think twice, so why does it cost 800? That's way too much dough to pay for something that has almost no shelf-life or replay value at all. Qooc Software do show some promise as a production unit, but it's probably a good idea to dodge this outing and wait for the follow-up instead.