Inspired by the platforming intensity that is Super Meat Boy, cTools Studio's Kung Fu Rabbit first unleashed its formidable fluff as a popular mobile game back in 2012. Recently it finally made the wall-jump to consoles like Wii U, 3DS and PlayStation Vita, but does Neko Entertainment's port of the mobile platformer holds its own against the bustling denizens of the 3DS eShop?
Its origin as a mobile game becomes immediately obvious, and in this case it's not a fortunate obviousness. Unclear menus made up almost only of images that don't explain where they lead to or what they do, a static image dominating the top screen, and an extremely short and badly looped music track that quickly stops sounding cool while getting used to menu navigation. While the menus are unclear and do take some trial and error to get used to where everything is and what everything does, menu transition is fortunately quick, and loading times are relatively small.
A quick rundown: the main four touch screen menu items that look like floating islands are the three worlds and secret world. Completing the first world unlocks the second, and so on, and completing certain stages can unlock a secret, more difficult kind of stage on the fourth island, the aptly named "Bonus Cavern." The main title screen also has along the bottom, an Achievement (those are here, too) List screen, game help, sound options and game credits. Selecting a world brings up other menus; stage selection, a bunny head silhouette with a 'pow' around it that's actually the difficulty setting (yeah, not sure who thought that was more clear than the word "Difficulty" or something), and a fancy swords and shield icon that represents the Dojo.
The Dojo is basically the game's shop, where our Kung Fu Fuzzy Friend can buy and equip items to make getting through those darn dang stages a bit easier. Each stage has three carrots and one golden carrot to collect, and collecting these will allow purchase of Items or Equippables in the Dojo shop, or unlock later stages or modes early for the impatient. Dojo items can only be equipped one at a time, and some are more for looks than use, but their effects are pretty clear and it's never too hard to save up for them, so experimenting to find an item that offers the most fun is easy. Some of these items can make some stages too easy, but it's hard to complain when they're optional and can offer their own fun for players who like their bunny to feel powerful.
Speaking of those darn dang stages, what are they like? After all, this review hasn't been very positive so far. Worry not, because the actual gameplay is where Kung Fu Rabbit starts to shine, with game design and solid gameplay that can only be praised considering the general presentation of the game. It should be said that unfortunately there is no 3D effect present at all in Kung Fu Rabbit, and while this isn't a disappointment during the unclear game presentation, stages themselves have clear sprites, clear platforming, and pretty backdrops. A little 3D effect could have gone over really well here with sprites popping from the background, but it's a minor flaw to an otherwise very cute and solid aesthetic.
The controls are also very solid and easy to get used to, with basic run and jump, and slide-down-wall-to-wall-jump never feels complex. Any lack of clarity within the game's instructions barely matter because the game design itself teaches seamlessly and painlessly about the simple controls and stage gimmicks. One last menu sin before moving on to greener grasses, though: the Pause menu may seem unassuming, but be sure not to hit the third or fourth options if far in a stage, because the respective "Retry" and "Main Menu" pause options are not worded and don't offer any sort of confirmation; one touch of the "Main Menu" button (which looks like a bunch of blocks) returns to the Main Menu, no questions asked.
Fortunately from here it's all pretty good fun. Cute sprites and easy, forgiving stage hazards with infinite lives make mistakes easy to learn from, plus the introduction of new stage hazards like enemies and new platform blocks throughout is first handled within a safe environment before challenging the player more later on. To teach the game's mechanics like this without the need for excessive tutorials is a game design aspect that just can't go without praise. Solid and simple controls that don't glitch up or fail in the presence of certain jumps and obstacles go well with the clever and clear stage design, and the occasional hidden area that retro game lovers will find satisfaction in discovering make an overall solid game package. The difficulty also rises steadily over the course of the game, with some bizarrely tough stages early on and some weirdly easy stages in the last worlds just to remind players expecting the next Super Meat Boy that this is a game where a cute blocky rabbit jumps from wall to wall to save tiny disciple bunnies from evil black blobs of doom, over and over again. It's not a masterpiece, but it does what it does well. Taking a short five minutes to get used to the clumsy presentation means an enjoyable, cute, and occasionally clever little game for under a fiver.
Good, solid fun, but not solid as in difficult, because it's not really difficult; even in the secret stages or harder mode there's very little to make a player tear their hair out. The game mechanics work flawlessly, and they're taught to the player seamlessly in stages through minimal trial and error, but it never strays too far from the simple and straight-forward.
Unclear menus, but in gameplay the sprites are cute and smooth, with clear platforming sections and the quick-to-learn idea that anything pitch black probably hurts. Pretty backdrops adorn the various stage themes, of which there are only a few, but the stage design is usually varied enough for this to not be off-putting. It's a shame there's no 3D feature, as it could have made the gameplay really "hop" out. "Bun" intended.
Near non-existent, with short, uninspired, badly looped music. However, it's mostly inoffensive and is barely noticeable most of the time due to how un-extraordinary it is. The sound effects and jingles, on the other hand, are simple, humble and even appropriately adorable at times.
For a sub-£5 game, it's actually rather meaty. Not as meaty as that super-meat-based game some may be thinking of, but there are a good amount of stages and the unlockable difficulty setting to give that extra incentive for a replay. Thanks to easy-to-obtain carrots, it never outstays its welcome or makes efforts feel forced, either. Just don't sit at home and blast through from beginning to end like a reviewer might do, because that won't last long. Ideal for quick blasts and trips. By the way, Achievements are few and easy; most will be obtained through regular play.
What initially appears to be cheaper than its asking price and unclear game instruction turns out to be pretty good "bun" for anyone willing to fight their way through the less-simple stages. While this game is missing some important package pieces such as good general presentation and any sort of music direction, it's difficult to fault Kung Fu Rabbit on its gameplay, and buttons make the mobile game's transition to console a comfortable one. Far from being the most challenging game around, its demographic of younger gamers could get many hours of enjoyment out of this one for a small price if it was able to even bring a few smiles to some boring game reviewer's mouth through its occasional clever design. One more usage of the word "bun" for good measure? No?