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Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic

15:0006/04/2009Posted by Simeon Paskell4 Comments

A spritely reimagining of the quirky PC original, Tarsier Studios’ Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists of Plastic continues PSN’s recent run of exceptional titles to deliver glorious multiplayer fisticuffs, with a considerable single-player experience tacked on for good measure. However, just like its older brother, Fists of Plastic does come with a few strings attached.

screenshots4The original Rag Doll Kung Fu was born out of experimentation and delivered a very unusual experience. Rather than controlling your chosen fighter directly, characters were manipulated through pointing and dragging limbs with the mouse. This digital puppetry was combined with a realistic physics engine, resulting in gameplay that was as much at the mercy of gravity as it was from your own input. For the PS3 version, Tarsier Studios has simplified things somewhat, mainly by replacing the mouse-puppetry with a more direct and traditional control scheme, but simultaneously, they’ve managed to retain enough of the original’s quirks to make it worthy of the Rag Doll Kung Fu moniker.

Fists of Plastic is a game of two halves, split into multiplayer modes and a series of single player challenges, with both containing a considerable amount of gameplay. The game’s focus is undoubtedly as a party-based multiplayer fighter not dissimilar to Nintendo’s fan-favourite Super Smash Bros. Through a combination of tight gameplay, crisp, charismatic visuals, authentically ‘Oriental’ sound effects and some excellent utilisation of the SIXAXIS motion controls, the multiplayer can be best described as a kung fu riot. A range of play modes are available, from a straightforward Deathmatch to Capture the Fish (think a scalier version of basket ball) and the self-explanatory Dodgeball. The highlight is undoubtedly King of the Hill, where players must occupy a platform while using LittleBigPlanet-inspired analogue stick arm-controls to gloat and taunt the opposition for extra points. Although best enjoyed with four human players, (surprisingly credible) AI opponents can fill any empty slots.

screenshots1Like all the best beat ‘em ups, Fists of Plastic’s combat is easily accessible, but contains enough depth to reward practice. Button mashing can win you bouts, but mastering techniques such as the Firefly (which sends your character rocketing across the screen) and using your chi-energy to pull of special moves will separate the real Kung Fu masters from the Shaolin wannabes. Slamming your opponent into the ground with a shake of the SIXAXIS feels beautifully visceral, and genuinely adds to the experience. In fact, after thatgamecompany wowed us with Flower, it’s encouraging to see another title making such successful use of the SIXAXIS and its (often derided) tilt functionality.

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  • Ken said:

    Great review! Can’t wait for the game to be released the 9th of April!

  • GabeP said:

    Very good review, but I’m biased :D . Love this game HARD and love to see a well written review posted. Thanks Simeon.

  • Triggerhappytel said:

    I just started playing this a couple of days ago. It is a lot of fun, but button-bashing does feel perhaps a little too effective, and I’m sad that it has no online multiplayer as I don’t often have friends over for gaming.

    It’s got great presentation and style though, and I love the soundtrack. Worth a purchase, although I suspect it is at it’s best with a pal or three in local multiplayer.

  • Bashi said:

    A well written review although the score seems a bit forgiving (a quick look at metacritic seems to bear this out). Indeed, this writer veers close to Sony fanboyism on occasions; they gave SOCOM a good review for goodness sake! I sincerely hope Tarsier find a way to introduce online multiplayer at a later stage.

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