Review: Kung Fury

Kung Fury is the arcade brawler boiled to its base essentials, a cheap and short bit of fun - but fun is indeed the operative there.  Comparisons have been made to One Finger Death Punch, perhaps since it's the point of reference for this generation, but this is something most evocative of the dual button brawlers in arcade cabinets of old.  It's quick, stylish, and it knows exactly what it wants to be, and owns the hell out of it.
Review: Kung Fury
Date published: May 29, 2015
2 / 3 stars

Kung Fury is a simplistic arcade brawler developed and published by Hello There as a tie-in to the independent film of the same name.  The source movie, freely available here, was a Kickstarter-funded success to revive the "retro-future" genre in cinema, with its super-cars, leather jackets, and martial arts.  All those sensibilities and more carry over to the game, which is itself evocative of an older age - the halcyon era of the cabinets of old.  So while there are some who may love that niche and others who might not, the underlying question here is: does it do what it sets out to do?  And the answer to that is a resounding yes.

The mechanics of Kung Fury are simple on the surface,
but go fairly deeper on actual examination and work well

This is kind of the apotheosis of the "easy to learn, hard to master" gambit when it comes to the arcade brawler.  The subversion here is that you can only move when you attack, something that has gotten it compared frequently to One Finger Death Punch.  The comparison is not inaccurate, but it loses the subtle mechanics Kung Fury possesses, and does it a huge disservice by doing so.

The trick to Kung Fury, as it were, is that you do move - as part of an attack.  As such it's less the immobile One Finger Death Punch and to me more of a traditional brawler - one where your attacks are movement, and missing and getting placed out of position can be a death sentence.  This keeps the initial difficulty decent, since it is fairly easy indeed to learn to push one of two buttons, but the mastery of the game is more elusive, since it requires a combination of identifying enemies, learning their patterns, and knowing where to position yourself, and how.

If there's any complaint I have with it, it's that the difficulty ramps up quite noticeably at a couple points in the progression and I can already see the sudden nature of that basically throwing a nice brick wall in the way of most people.  This isn't entirely without reason as it were, since classic arcade games were often paragons of unfair difficulty that just dicked you around - one casts her mind back to the many LJN reviews done by the Angry Video Game Nerd.  The thing here is it seems less of a curve and more just arbitrary points at which it gets appreciably harder.  It's not that bad though, and I know plenty of Souls game players who would probably sneer at the idea of that being called difficult.

At the end of it, though it breaks down to a combination of pattern recognition, positioning, and reflexes, and with a snappy control scheme that supports, keyboard, mouse, or controller at your leisure with no noticeable input lag, it does that quite well.

The progression comes from progressively harder waves of enemies (the difficulty increases mentioned above), and the ultimate goal is basically score attack.  You play until you die, and the goal is to last the longest.  This really would be a great game for an arcade cabinet, because this is just the kind of game I could have seen a much younger me crowded around the cabinet with my group of gaming friends at the time waiting for my go.

The aesthetic of Kung Fury has a lot of attention to that retro styling - I've mentioned this numerous times before, but many games often rely upon pixel art as a lazy out from having to have proper art design.  This is certainly not the case in King Fury however, which lovingly recreates the feel of those old games, from the pixel packs on the screen, to the particular style of pixel art, the distortion effects, and the pause menu even resembles the old error screens of old.  It’s not just pixel art with a few fancy shaders over it, either, as some games have done (even some good games fall into this trap a bit, for example Puppy  Games’ distortion effects become a bit much on occasion) - the pixel art itself is crisp, well done, and more importantly does a good job of having contrast between actors and the background, and depicting the characters from the show accurately.  It’s easy to tell whom and what is what at a glance, something many brawlers get wrong - especially brawlers where there is as much an emphasis on dumping a truck-load of enemies on you as there certainly is in Kung Fury.

The soundtrack for Kung Fury is likewise brilliant

I actually wasn't able to find much information on who produced the soundtrack for the game, but I would it was either produced by the same artist whom worked on the movie (Mitch Murder) or at the very least inspired by it, given the similarities.  Regardless, it's a brilliant bit of chip music in the 80s style that seems pretty authentic to the kind of music that would be produced by such a cabinet sound chip as well.  I know I mentioned that authenticity a fair bit in the review, but it's hard to overstate how much an obvious focus this was in the game, and it shows in every aspect thereof.

Nonetheless, for all its production there's a few issues with Kung Fury

Probably the biggest problem some will have is ultimately it's a score attack game and it gets repetitive without much variation in the gameplay.  It's kind of one of those "what do you expect for two bucks" things given the price point, but I can nonetheless see some people having an issue with that.  The other big thing is there is no options menu to speak of, so if you're having control problems or simply would prefer to use other keys than are assigned by default you're pretty much sorry out of luck, same for if you'd rather play in a window.

The Final Word: Recommended - Kung Fury is simple-minded, quick, waify, and an utterly brilliantly-fun affair for how much it owns what it is, much like its source material.  Underneath the simplistic surface of Kung Fury is a game well-executed and very responsive, and that’s what makes the game as strong in its chosen niche.  It might be simple and kind of silly, but it does that very well, and is quite affordable.  Assuredly worth the look for arcade fans.