A blast from the past, mixed with some of the new.
Developer: UFO Interactive Games
Publisher: UFO Interactive Games
Release date: July 12, 2012
Johnny Kung Fu is a game well-suited to a downloadable format, especially one on a Nintendo system. The game borrows a bit from Nintendo’s history, offering gameplay split up into bite-sized chunks, with simple controls and concepts.
There’s really not a story to talk of here. Johnny’s girlfriend has been kidnapped and taken to the top floor of a tower, and it’s up to Johnny to beat up tons of bad guys and save her. It’s a basic framework to get you to beat up lots of enemies, but it does its job. It’s not a knock against the game that it doesn’t have a compelling narrative.
Johnny Kung Fu has multiple different stages that you can play. Several of these stages are modeled after classic Game & Watch games, and even feature classic black-and-white character sprites. Other stages are very arcade-like, and have you mostly beating up hordes of enemies with simple fighter controls; as you fight, you and your enemies can jump into and out of the background, which you can use strategically in order to avoid being swarmed. Whichever kind of stage you’re doing, the gameplay is simple but fun; it feels in some ways like a WarioWare fighting game, with the way your objective is continually changing.
As you play through the game, you quickly and continually move from one floor to the next, and each floor of the tower has a different gameplay style to it. The continual changes help keep the game feeling fresh, and the simple-to-understand objectives keep the changes from being overwhelming. You only have one hour to get to the top of the tower, though, and each game over you get reduces the total time you have. Getting to the top of the tower isn’t particularly easy, especially as the enemies get tougher and tougher, and an hour of solid gameplay is a bit much to dedicate all at once, for a downloadable title. As a result, it’s not the best option for playing in smaller chunks.
The controls are pretty simple for each different stage, and you get a brief explanation before each stage begins. The Game & Watch stages all have different controls, but they’re also particularly basic and easy to understand. The fighting stages all have the same control scheme, which is based on 2D fighters but with fewer button options. There are basic combos that you can learn as you go on, but they’re not always that useful, and ignoring them won’t be your downfall or anything.
The presentation is the area where the Game & Watch homage is the most clear. In those particular stages, Johnny appears as a static black-and-white sprite, moving from one place to another instantly. It’s a well-done visual effect that really hammers in the feeling of nostalgia. The rest of the time, the game uses basic 2D drawings that are basic and fun, making the game feel lighthearted and silly. The cutscenes are about as bare-bones as they can get, though, and you’ll see a lot of repeating environments.
Final Word (Not an average): 3.8/5
Overall, Johnny Kung Fu has a simple and nostalgic feel to it, and the gameplay is very pick-up-and-play, though it’s not really a game designed to be played in short bursts. The game is very basic, but that’s why it succeeds as well as it does. Fans of Game & Watch would do well to take a look at this game, as well as anyone looking for a spin on a standard beat-’em-up fighting game.