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Kung Fu: High Impact

While playing Kung Fu: High Impact, in the beginning, I discovered that my primary enemy was myself. Or if I wasn’t the enemy, my fat was. I am very out of shape, and attempting to battle the combined forces of Tiki village people and shadowy contraptions of doom led quickly to sore muscles and heavy breathing. This is a game that takes the Kinect’s decree to heart: the body is the controller. Jump, punch, it’s all in the mind. Think of a move and do it. You are the martial artist, master of your own form. That’s the dream here, and despite High Impact’s attempt at greatness, its inherent flaws and dysfunctions disrupt its flight.

While High Impact may be unique as a martial arts game on the Kinect, it is not the first of its series. The original game was Kung Fu: Live, also from Virtual Air Guitar, and it used the EyeToy to incorporate the player into the game in much the same way the Kinect does for High Impact. This new version tells a different story on different hardware, but functions the same, both good and bad.

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Some of the good comes in the form of the returning, somewhat interactive storyline. The plot is a pile of festering cheese and is only notable for moving you from one battle to the next. The fun comes along with the use of Kinect. At the beginning of each chapter you are given seemingly random poses. The game captures you in form and pastes you into a comic book as the main character. It’s an amusing thing that never loses its appeal, whether you’re posing properly or not.

Once you emerge on the battlefield and opponents start swarming out of the woodwork, it’s up to you to define how you plan to fight them. Do you go for standard punches and kicks, or do you like to change things up with a jumping attack now and then? Have you noticed that your guitar from Rock Band has been collecting dust, and you wish to use it as a weapon? You can. The game will detect your axe. My style of fighting involved getting close to my opponent, and then waving my arms like I was participating in faux slap. It was easy and it worked, but man it was draining.

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There is also an assortment of special moves available. Thrust your fists out and you’ll perform a flying punch that sends you across the screen. Jump in the air and punch on your way down for a stunning ground pound. Eventually you’re capable of summoning a bow and arrow, flinging lightening and even slowing down time. But, as you are the master of your own style, it is up to you to incorporate these moves into your own repertoire.

The bad comes into play via the limitations of the Kinect, particularly when movement is concerned. There is no real way to properly move about the stage. Stepping to limits of the Kinect’s viewpoint will only get you so far. The best way to traverse a level is with the flying punch maneuver. Find yourself with an enemy on the other side of the map and the fastest way to get to them is flying punch. If you end up losing too much health and need to retreat, you’ll find no better solution than to flying punch to safety.

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This all assumes that you’re not at the edge of the Kinect’s viewing angle. Stand too far on the left or the right and your fists may disappear from play and all attempts to punch are nullified. It’s times like these when the best course of attack is jumping away. This is not a tactical move, but rather a a workaround. The Kinect sensor can only view so much.

More issues crop up with detection. It’s easy to flail about in a manner that’s misinterpreted by the game. Throw out your hands for a somersault too soon and suddenly the backwards flip you were attempting becomes a flying punch, turning a retreat into suicide. It’s an action game that expects you to be quick on your feet, but its ability to detect your motion is sub-par, especially considering how much movement is expected. The faster the action gets, the more these issues creep up.

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All of these prevalent issues turn High Impact into a workout that doesn’t work out. The flavor is that of a party game, but within multiplayer it grants no Kinect functionality for other players. It lends itself towards allowing all styles of combat, but lacks the capabilities of detecting a wide range of motion accurately. As a cardio exercise, its desire to make you flail about will get you on your feet and moving. As a game it does little more than function, and at that it succeeds most of the time.

5 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2011.

Gentle persuasion

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