When we saw a new Rag Doll Kung-Fu game announced at Sony's E3 keynote, we jumped up a bit in excitement. The original Rag Doll Kung-Fu for PC was an innovative quirky game that helped launched Media Molecule become what it is today. When we first saw Fists of Plastic, we assumed that the LittleBigPlanet devs were going back to Mark's very first independent game. Guess we were wrong.
Unfortunately, Fists of Plastic has almost no connection to the original Rag Doll Kung-Fu. It's not being developed by Media Molecule and worst of all, it doesn't really take advantage of rag dolls at all. The original PC game featured an innovative control scheme, which involved dragging different parts of the rag doll around and creating motions with physics to unleash attacks. The core concept of Rag Doll Kung-Fu is absent in this PSN download. Instead of dealing with rag doll physics, players simply control these awarkdly animated dolls with the face buttons. Yes, there's a punch and kick button, making this feel like a poor man's fighting game.
The various gameplay modes we got to play around with are meant to be played with as many people as possible. Yes, this is a party game, and a rather shallow one at that. One mode had us playing king of the hill, where we had to stand and do poses at the top of the level. Opponents could jump at any time and try to knock us off. Another mode had us carrying a fish from one side of the level to another in a weird basketball-esque game. Other players can knock the fish out of your hands, creating for some chaotic fun.
While these modes are enjoyable, the core mechanics feel like they need a lot of work. The characters are still meant to be rag dolls, and not ninjas. Therefore, the stilted controls may feel cumbersome to use. The lack of actual rag doll gameplay however, makes the title lose a lot of its unique charm. There are additional moves which can be harnassed by thrusting the SIXAXIS controller. For example, if you press punch and thrust the control left, your character will make a dive to the left. These motions were the only ones that felt "fresh," but we don't know how well received motion controls will come by the community.
Overall, Fists of Plastic feels incredibly cheap. When it stands next to other innovative PSN titles, like Flower, PixelJunk Eden and Fat Princess, it simply cannot compete. Paying homage to LittleBigPlanet's predecessor is something that should be applauded -- too bad it's not a game that we'd like to play.