From developer WhaleFood Games and publisher Blowfish Studios comes KungFu Kickball, a unique new action-sports-platformer-fighting game. With 1v1 or 2v2 action, players compete in an acrobatic game whose objective is to kick a ball into the opposing player’s bell on the opposite side of the stage. Jump, kick, and teleport your way around the field to make precise hits on other players and the ball as you try to score.
Off the bat, the premise of this game is genius. With a competitive spirit, I could see getting sucked into matches of this game for big chunks at a time. There are four playable characters in the demo and several different stages, with more available in the full release. Each character has slightly different moves, special attacks, and personality. With three moves—jump, kick, and teleport—you have to learn to combine them, along with height and speed, to kick the ball and your opponents with just the right timing.
Each stage is also uniquely designed with different hills, valleys, and platforms to spice up the competition. The ball will bounce all over the place at advantageous or dastardly angles. The location of the bell is also different on each stage. There are different walls, lips, and curves around their placement to make scoring and defending easier or harder.
KungFu Kickball’s gameplay itself is not always entirely responsive. I would sometimes press jump or kick and not have any reaction, making me miss the ball completely. I also couldn’t tell whether my occasional use of special moves was ever tied to inputs or just random, because the game offers no instructions besides the three jump, kick, and teleport buttons.
When it does work though, the gameplay is unique and quite fun. It requires intense precision to hit the ball on the ground, let alone in the air, but when you do, it’s deeply satisfying. Playing against the more difficult AI, it’s clear that a skilled player can combine the simple moves to maneuver quickly across the field and perform impressive offensive and defensive moves. Combining kicks, headers, teleports, and slides keep the games high-octane.
I’m a bit concerned with how deeply stereotypical the characters in the game are. As far as I can tell, the one-man development team Jonah Wallerstein is not Chinese, and the stereotyped models are borderline offensive. Appropriating Kung Fu for the game is already one thing, but the characters could have been not only just more creative, but as wacky as the game’s concept without being caricatures. And why is Kung Fu one word in the game’s title?
A well-conceived new game with some not-so-minor pitfalls, KungFu Kickball comes to consoles and PC sometime this year. The free demo is available now as part of Xbox Summer Game Fest.