Powering the gameplay experience is Virtual Air Guitar Company's FreeMotion technology, which promises "real-time tracking of the entire human body as well as background removal using regular webcams." Certainly, the promise of Natal-esque gameplay using a standard camera has us intrigued, but is it better than your typical PS2 EyeToy game?
It's clear that the technology powering Kung-Fu Live is far more powerful than what we've seen in the PS2 generation. The system is able to accurately remove the background in real-time -- and is intelligent enough to know when new players jump in or out. Another aspect that benefits Kung-Fu Live: personality. The game is story-driven, told through comic panels in which you can feature. At the start of each level the game will suggest a pose for you to attempt, after which the camera will take a picture and inject you into a comic book scene. Seeing myself roundhouse kick three goons in a generated comic book strip was definitely amusing. (Being able to share these photos online seems like an ideal way to use the game's built-in Facebook functionality, as well.)
There's no problem with the responsiveness. The game registered every kick and every punch I threw at the virtual bad guys, and I really enjoyed using the various powers. Jumping up and waving my arms to the side, for example, made my avatar vault over enemies. Holding my arms at a 90-degree angle made me shoot lightning. Best of all, holding both arms up in the air slowed down time, allowing me to get in some ninja-fast kicks and punches.
However, this doesn't negate the fact that I'm staring at the TV and punching and kicking the air. Because of the 2D orientation of the game, you'll be facing forward, but moving side to side, which is simply not as intuitive as facing the screen and moving in the same direction.
Also, I can't help but wonder if the game won't get too tiresome, both physically and creatively. Although the kung-fu powers add a bit of variety to the experience, the demo we played featured the same type of generic enemies to beat on. And since you have to literally punch and kick throughout the game, it's easy to break a sweat. The ultimate couch potato gamer may not even be able to play at all: jumping over enemy kicks, and quickly swaying from side to side may be a bit too demanding for some.
Despite a few shortcomings, Kung-Fu Live is an entertaining diversion. With a PSN-friendly price tag ("under $15," we were told), coupled with some interesting connectivity options (with Facebook and YouTube), it should be a novel addition to the libraries of new PlayStation Eye owners later this year.