Here in the west, we don’t see too many games from China. That makes Qooc Soft’s Kung Fu Strike: the Warrior’s Rise quite unique. Part brawler, part historical epic (the only genre of story legally permissible in China these days), this game certainly looked promising in early screens and videos. Plus, co-op! Sadly, poor balancing and several other issues threaten to defeat Kung Fu Strike before it can achieve gameplay glory.
Kung Fu Strike is an arena-based beat-em-up in which the player(s) take on hordes of enemies in each level, proceeding to the next level if they’re lucky enough to survive. Levels pan and zoom a bit, but they’re almost all confined to single courtyards or rooms – only a few stages dare to mix things up by taking place in circular rooms that can’t fit on one screen. There are tons of levels, but they lack for variety other than the combinations of enemies contained within.
Still, a brawler doesn’t absolutely require memorable level design like Double Dragon in order to work. As long as the combat is enjoyable, things can come together. For the first few levels, Kung Fu Strike does actually deliver an enjoyable fighting experience. Based on the wuxia genre of films and stories, this kung fu fighting is fast and features lots of mid-air dashing and juggling of hapless combatants.
While the game only uses a single primary attack button, numerous attacks also involve the jump button – for example, when using the Xbox 360 controller, pressing X and A simultaneously performs a special attack that consumes a precious chi bar (you start out with one and can eventually unlock a whole two bars for fueling special moves). Doesn’t make for deep combo opportunities, but at least you can learn it quickly.
The protagonist also has both a block and a dodge button at his disposal. Pressing block just as an enemy attacks will stop the move and open a brief window to counterattack and receive a small health bonus. Good idea in theory, but eventually enemies come in such numbers as to make successfully blocking all but impossible.
The dodge button rolls the hero out of harm’s way. This quickly becomes super important thanks to the unblockable attacks that many enemies and all bosses employ. When a bad guy glows red, forget about blocking or even hitting him or her; they are immune to all but the special attacks I mentioned earlier. Not a great mechanic to begin with, it’s made worse by the fact that advanced enemies’ unblockable attacks actually home in on the player, making them way too hard to dodge. I’d say unblockable attacks suck about forty percent of the fun from combat.
In case I haven't made it clear, Kung Fu Strike’s biggest problem is its difficulty. The first ten or so levels are pretty fun, but the remaining 20-ish (it feels like 40) just cry out for proper balancing. Enemies relentlessly swarm the player, which would work in a Dynasty Warriors-sorta way if not for cheap mechanics like the unblockable attacks and semi-QTEs.