Is this an MK Ultra Parody?
Genre: Beat’em Up
Developer: Celestial Gold Studios
Publisher: Celestial Gold Studios
Release date: 27 May, 2021
Whacky Conspiracy Story Bogged Down by Gameplay
Warning: If you’re prone to Epilepsy you should definitely not play this game. There’s a lot of changing of colors and there was at least one instance of flashing light.
Warning 2: This game might not be suitable for depressed people with suicidal tendencies because although it implies the in-game character, it comes with moments where one of the game’s characters says things like “Kill yourself”, “You’re a worthless xxxx”, etc. It’s pretty bizarre and I’m not even sure whether the developer wanted to break the 4th wall or not.
Nobody can realistically expect what’s in Kung Fu Jesus. Aside from its colorful presentation, it’s an amalgam of current conspiracy talks weaved into a story with a less than stellar Beat’em Up gameplay. Let me be clear, I got stuck at about the 3-hour mark and I’m thankful for that because it made me feel the full force of the Theory of Relativity as it felt much longer than that.
Where did it go wrong and could this game still be interesting, despite its shortcomings?
Drugs, Conspiracies and Brawling
You are Kung Fu Jesus a beat-down drug addict living in your crib while working for a drug gang Boss but there’s more to it. The TV talks about all kinds of current-time conspiracy topics such as 5G and even the coronavirus by playing presumably parts of distorted real-world voice clips. For reference, you want to know about the degree of the content, if these videos do exist then they are most likely banned from YouTube and social media.
Then there’s the Strange Universe subscription that features a character who talks about the game’s lore attempting to work on some world-building like a short mention of Reptilians harvesting Adreno-something from humans.
It comes down to some kind of interplanetary invasion from an alien empire.
Is it real or is it just some weirdo having delusions? I have no idea as I wasn’t able to get that far.
There’s only text without voice acting. In some cases, you can manually forward the text. Cutscenes, however, run completely automated and you can skip them completely at most. Considering that those run in real-time graphics it doesn’t make much sense to do it that way unless they are somehow video clips. All of them are just talking so it makes even less sense.
Then there are unskippable cutscenes, which sometimes are before a fight. Lose and you have to watch it all over again, even though there’s a checkpoint system. Games with smarter design automatically skip that part, once you’ve already seen it.
The rating is heavily influenced by the gameplay and that’s the reason why we’re going through it step by step.
While the game is visually in 3D, it works like a classic 2D brawler where you mostly move left and right and requires a controller. You can punch, kick, jump, guard, running and backflip. Later on, you will unlock a Lightning Bolt shot and supposedly a throw (I might have missed it). It starts with simple combos of 4 x Punch and 3 x Kicks and expands the move list with attack strings consisting of both buttons like 2 x Punch and Kick for an unblockable move.
The controls are simple enough but the real catch lies in its gameplay.
Though you mainly move left or right, there are moments where you have to walk upwards or downwards. For whatever reason, the speed for the latter is pathetically slow. It makes zero sense and extremely annoying.
Beat’em Ups are more difficult than one might think. It requires a mixture of Animation, Enemy Reactions, Sound design, and specific gameplay design to pull it off. Games like Zeus Begins managed to make it serviceable by keeping things basic with inspiration from classics such as Final Fight.
This game, however… I have no idea what it attempts to do. The attacks feel like hitting air, there’s very little consistency on how the enemy reacts to the attacks, the enemies take far too much damage and you can even seemingly miss moves because they are pick-ups and the game doesn’t prevent you from progressing without it.
There are some very important basics when it comes to combat. One of them is how attacks work. In Kung Fu Jesus you put out your attacks and pray that they hit because there’s no rhyme or reason when the opponent blocks your attacks or even counter-attacks. If the opponents were only blocking at the first few minutes of the game you wouldn’t even be able to progress due to the lack of a basic counter for this, which only comes later with a special combo.
This inconsistency is due to the lack of Hitstun on the opponent’s side and is one of the reasons why the gameplay is tedious. There’s also a bug where the knocked-down enemies aren’t animated correctly and are still shown standing when you hit them with a jumping kick.
Talking about Hitstun… Rules for thee but not for me. Their attacks can lock you up for easy combos on their side. But there’s more! In most games, you get some invincibility after at least getting knocked down. No sign of that here unless you’re lying on the ground. What does this mean? The enemies can stunlock you to death if you’re unlucky. Granted, it didn’t happen to me but there were times where I got helplessly knocked down like 3 times in a row. Ok, there’s no invincibility but there are surely defensive options to offset this, right?
You can block most of the attacks but you can still get hit by unblockable attacks, thrown, and get struck in the back. Maybe it even needs a little bit of time to activate since there are times I tried to block while standing up and still got a beat down.
The backflip is purely a spacing tool to move backward fast seemingly without invincibility since I tried that as well on wake up and got the whack-a-mole treatment.
Let’s go nuclear here with the jump. This particular option is invincible for the majority of its duration. Unfortunately, it takes a moment to become invincible and has some landing animation. Though it’s a strong option, it’s nowhere close to being an auto-win strategy.
Then there’s magic. It requires MP and you can use it to shoot a lighting projectile or create an invincible shield. The execution of the projectile is very slow and you can expect to trade hits with opponents that have one too. The shield is probably the strongest defensive option but costs a lot of MP.
From what I’ve played so far, most of the goons are relatively easy though there are some exceptions such as the huge shadows that you see in the background at the beginning of The Void area. They can shoot and have some weird extremely fast-spinning attacks.
The biggest problem about the goons is their resilience. Usually, in Beat’em Ups you defeat them with one or two combos. For comparison’s sake, in Double Dragon on the Game Boy, you could defeat a goon with an uppercut and following up with a stomp. In Kung Fu Jesus you need to strike at least 3 combos plus a ground attack each before they are done.
Bosses and their life bars
The first few are not an issue. It starts goon-like and goes further into absurdity from guns to ki blasts, invincibility shields, two bosses, and teleportation-like movement. I had to quit at a boss who had frequent invincibility shield and fast regeneration because every time I deal damage it recovers completely due to the shield.
Their life bars get a special mention because it shows absurd numbers and you never know what you’re supposed to do with it. There are cases where you should run and in others, you have to deal with an unknown specific amount of damage. Why is there a need to show 20k HP when you only need to deal like 200? No idea and it’s annoying, to say the least.
New Moves and upgrades as collectible objects
Another baffling design decision is the fact that new moves are Objects you have to pick up and it looks like you could even miss them. Why aren’t you getting them automatically via a cutscene? Don’t know.
At some point in the game, you can find items that increase your HP and MP. Their placing is very apparent and it’s likely being done to offset a lack of a level-up system.
Corridor runner minigame
Whenever you travel to specific places you’ll be put into a mini-game where you run through a corridor in which you can collect things to get points (and have seemingly no use) and dodge obstacles. Get hit by one and you have to start from the beginning. Overall, completely pointless and seems to be in the game for the psychedelic visuals.
Unfortunately, it’s nothing short of a huge botch and that completely fails at the basics, despite there being so many examples of doing it right going back as far as the NES. Attacking, defending, movement, special moves, enemy design, etc. are lacking that it drains all of the fun away. There is probably porn Beat’em Ups that does the gameplay better than this (Sword x Hime, as a 3D example, was manageable at least due to the level-up system). Supposedly there are 3 endings, good luck getting there…
On another note, it’s not impossible to create alternate combat systems such as Ninja Theory did with Enslaved or Blacksteady with the Arkham series but this wasn’t accomplished in this case.
Maybe a Visual Novel or other easier execute genres would have made it a more serviceable experience.
Graphics and Sound
Graphics are very modest and it uses heavy fine grain and color filters to make it less apparent. The character design looks inconsistent, so there’s a possibility of it using things from the asset store. What you see in the screenshots is what you get.
I guess the music is ok and offers even some songs. Luckily, there was nothing grating and apparently, some of them are even known songs. I hope that the developer has done their due diligence because the music industry can be quite vicious when it comes to licensing. Lastly, there is no voice acting except some weird a single individual voice clip for each character.
Btw. The game requires about 37 GB of space… It boggles my mind why so much is needed. Certainly not for textures or character models.
Kung Fu Jesus is an example of a developer being out of their depth without a solution to circumvent the problems. Whatever interesting attempt there is for the bizarre story, it was squashed by the less than stellar gameplay. Even at its budget price, it’s very difficult to recommend. It requires nothing short of a complete overhaul to become something serviceable design wise.
Some enlightened souls might still find something worth playing in this game so I’m giving it the benefit of a doubt by awarding a Pause rating.