(Activision for Xbox 360)
By Mike Delano
Games with movie licenses are nothing new, but even this many years into the modern era of movie “tie-in” games (titles that are rushed to the shelves for release within days of the movie hitting theaters), that brand of movie game is still nearly uniformly awful. At best, they take an entertaining core gameplay mechanic (Hulk smashing things, Spidey swinging between skyscrapers) and bury it in an otherwise mediocre-to-terrible game. That’s why something like Kung Fu Panda is so surprising. It’s actually good. The designers took to heart the stylish look of the movie and seem to have been genuinely inspired when translating it into a gaming world. The levels borrow (in a good way) from everything from the God of War series’ flight sequences and balance beams to Sonic’s spin attack, and there’s even a Donkey Kong homage. The challenge and overall simplicity is geared to kids, but the game’s fighting mechanics and platforming will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s ever played a Devil May Cry or Ratchet and Clank title. Which is to say, it’s a gamer’s game, from its influences to subtle touches like listening to Jack Black’s obese title character pant and groan as he tries to lift himself up on a ledge. It’s far from revelatory, especially since it shares the same release month as Metal Gear Solid 4, but any movie license these days should envy the care given to this panda.