Originally developed on the PC by Mark Healey, who would later go on to form Media Molecule, the studio behind Little Big Planet, Rag Doll Kung Fu puts a similarly whimsical spin on the fighting genre. While it's nothing mind-blowing, it should fit the bill for Wii-less gamers looking for a simple multiplayer-centered fighting game in the vein of Nintendo's juggernaut Smash Bros. franchise.
Rag Doll Kung Fu is split into two main parts. The first is the "challenge" mode, which is a collection of eight mini-games that mostly serves as a tutorial to learns the various moves and techniques needed for success in the game. Getting high scores in this mode unlocks more items to customize your character, and you can also upload your scores to the Playstation Network to see how you're faring against other people from all over the world.
But the real meat and potatoes of Rag Doll Kung Fu lies in the "multiplayer" mode, which itself has several variations to play with up to four people. Deathmatch, as you might expect, is a straight-forward fight where whoever gets the most knockouts will be the winner. King of the Hill switches things up, as players must remain standing on a platform to generate points. Things start to get a bit stranger with the Dodgeball variant, which concentrates on players hitting each other with a giant ball to gain victory. Finally, we are treated to Capture the Fish, where you'll be trying to toss a huge flopping fish into a giant wok while avoiding the attacks of the other players.
Control is ultimately important in a fighting game, and unfortunately, Rag Doll Kung Fu falls a little flat in this regard. Your basic attacks are simple enough to pull off, but any special attacks are intiated through a button push combined by a Sixaxis motion. It can end up feeling too convoluted at times, especially in matches where you have four people playing and need to try and aim your attacks precisely. When you factor in the various power-up items and weapons falling from the sky, it can almost become too confusing at times, especially during your first few games.
Also, in a game that practically screams for online multiplayer, that aspect is supiciously absent. Perhaps Sony is waiting to offer that down the line as DLC, but it would have been great to have that right out of the box. It definitely would have helped the replay value for those people that don't have buddies to play along on the couch with them. As it is, the single-player experience of Rag Doll Kung Fu feels fairly limited, and can grow old after a few hours.
Still, the game has a nice 70's-era charm to it, brought forth by the colorful graphics and funky soundtrack. Once you do get a hang of the controls, the matches gain a nice bit of depth to them, especially on the higher difficulties and/or versus multiple opponents. And, hell, the game's only ten bucks, and is a small download, clocking in at about 650 MB. For that price and size, it's worth giving up some space on your PS3's hard drive to check this out.