Some fighting games are all about racking up combos, throwing fireballs, or letting you feed your bloodlust. Rag Doll Kung Fu: Fists Of Plastic is merely intent on replacing responsive controls and play depth with permission to have a seizure with the controller in your hands. That’s fine, since Fists skews more toward “party game” than “traditional fighting game,” but it’s probably only suitable for your nephew’s 8th birthday party, after everyone present is all hopped up on cake, punch, and piñata candy.
The game has been ported reasonably well from the PC to take full advantage of the PS3’s controls: Only one button goes unused, while the rest let you punch, kick, grab, block, and even, uh, dance tauntingly with your character’s flailing limbs. There aren’t really any special moves or fighting mechanics, and while jolting the controller to convert chi into electric projectiles is manageable, the game’s expectation that you’ll regain life via meditation by turning the controller upside-down is baffling. This is all meant to foster a kooky party-game vibe, but mashing buttons and shaking violently gets old quickly. Plus, there isn’t much to do with competing opponents: There are a handful of small levels and four different modes, some combinations of which don’t even allow for an attainable playthrough. (For instance, playing capture-the-fish—the game’s version of capture-the-flag—was impossible in a level where planting the scaly beast into the goal seemingly required more telekinesis than player skill.) Also, no online play at all in a downloadable game? Does not compute.
It’d be more tolerable if Fists exuded its charm beyond its glossy, Homies-like interchangeable characters. There’s the geisha; the Afro-wearing dude; the green, red, and blue Raiden-looking guys; the old master; plus whomever you create with the character editor. They all play identically, though, and they’re hard to keep track of when the four fighters are all smacking each other around the screen, thanks to the game’s titular rag-doll physics. The music, seemingly imported from the Rainforest Café, is just as distracting.
Beyond the game: It isn’t much of an incentive, but you can unlock more wacky wigs or body parts to slap on your cookie-cutter combatant.
Worth playing for: Letting loose and goofing around if you have a younger gamer in your life.
Frustration sets in when: A match starts and no one can locate their character. It’s a bad sign when the first move in battle is asking aloud, “Where am I?”
Final judgment: Walking the line between two genres keeps the game from delivering a satisfying experience on either side.