When you play Kung Fu Live, a game not for the Xbox 360, your body is the controller. This is a game for PlayStation 3, not for Microsoft's controller-free Kinect. Yet the effect is impressive, similar and enjoyably ridiculous.
Kung Fu Live uses the PlayStation 3's camera, the PlayStation Eye, to turn a gamer's real-life kicks, punches and jumps into fighting moves in your TV. This isn't just another PlayStation 2-style EyeToy game that lets players wave their arms to wash virtual windows or paw at the air so that they can swat virtual flies. The capture for this game is more advanced.
The Eye camera pulls in a video feed of the player, making them a character in the game's brawling action. You see yourself as the action hero on the screen, and all your moves are shown on-screen as the feed of you is integrated into the game's graphics. On the TV, it is you who is beating up the video game bad guys. And you're beating them up with the moves you are doing in front of the camera.
The Kung Fu Live camera system, which comes from development studio Virtual Air Guitar, creates the optical illusion that this game is pulling a Kinect. But while Microsoft's sensors wind up tracking about 20 joints in a person's body, interpreting the player as an advanced stick figure that becomes the skeleton for an in-game character, Kung Fu Live is still simply watching its player's silhouette. This is not a bad shortcoming, because Kung Fu Live is fun enough. The game does make it look like you are the real you in a video game world. And it doesn't relegate your movement to canned animations, a la Nintendo's Photo Dojo.
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At the Penny Arcade Expo 2010, I watched a developer on the game beat up a mid-boss, then I tried a multiplayer sessions. During both of these sessions, we supplemented our punches and kicks with a few special moves triggered by poses. Doing a YMCA-style Y, for example, causes time to slow down. Jumping in the air and punching the ground causes the terrain to rumble. Yanking your arms back overhead starts an exaggerated backflip. You can only have one person perform this Kung Fu in front of the camera, but up to four players can control enemy fighters using standard PS3 controllers. In my multiplayer session, I competed in front of the camera against a developer on a DualShock.
The biggest question that lingers about Kung Fu Live is whether it will, like so many PlayStation camera games before it, fail to work in the light of my living room or yours. Camera games of this type are notorious for working well only in the lighting conditions under which they are demonstrated at trade shows. A representative for the game said that Kung Fu Live wouldn't be bedevilled by the light in our rooms at home. We'll need to test that.
Until then, let's check out a boss battle: