You should Game and Watch this one pass you by.
UFO Interactive has had three interesting ideas for eShop games thus far. Their first, Samurai Sword Destiny, was a side-scrolling roguelike. Their second, coming a few months later, was Zombie Slayer Diox, a zombie-and-rock-music-fueled rhythm game. By most accounts, these experiences were pretty rough around the edges. Their third and most recent eShop title is Johnny Kung Fu, a modern and retro single-screen action game. It’s easily their most ambitious eShop work to date, but still isn’t a great game.
Johnny Kung Fu takes inspiration from Nintendo’s old Game and Watch games. Much like the Game and Watch Gallery titles (two of which are currently available on the 3DS Virtual Console), it features both retro and modern takes on familiar ideas—Johnny Kung Fu has its own Donkey Kong-inspired level, and even a clever mode similar to the Game and Watch game Ball. For the most part, though, the game is a sprite-based single-screen brawler, involving beating up enemies using quick combos and avoiding damage by deftly dodging.
The goal of the game is to reach the top floor of a villain-patrolled building to rescue a beloved damsel. Each floor consists of a single screen, which alternately displays on the bottom and top screens of the system. On the bottom screen, everything is done up in a throwback style. It’s neat seeing things look almost exactly like a Game and Watch game, but unfortunately Johnny Kung Fu plays like a terrible one most of the time. Levels are novel and easy early on, though as you progress through floors and start seeing more difficult versions of each mode, play becomes frustrating and obnoxious. The difficulty in these modes doesn’t come from any normal challenge; it’s from just waiting in one spot, sometimes for 15 seconds or so, for an opening into which you can move your character. If you miss that opening, you either die and restart the area from the beginning, or you have to wait another 15 seconds. It’s not fun.
The top screen presents levels in a nice 2D art style. Most are just brawling segments, featuring an endless onslaught of enemies, oftentimes building to a challenging boss. The bosses are usually humorously designed, since most enemies look like evil office workers, but seem to have just a little bit more health than necessary: every boss fight drags on just a little too long.
Johnny Kung Fu’s biggest crimes are likely frustrating difficulty and poor pacing. The game’s presented like a high score affair, as you try to make it as far up the building as you can in a limited amount of time. Unfortunately, it takes so long to make it to the top that you’ll likely never want to play it again once you do. You can only play a crappy version of Donkey Kong so many times.