When I first heard a few years ago that a team of developers were about to launch a Kickstarter to raise enough funds to bring a sequel is still considered one of the worst video games of all time my eyes rolled. In fact since the announcement in 2014 I had completely forgotten about it only to be surprised further that the fund raising campaign had been a success and yup, Shaq Fu – A Legend Reborn was finished and ready to launch across all modern consoles. So the only questions that remained were was this going to redeem the original game or could it actually be worse?
Back in the 90s Shaquille O’Neil was a famous US Basketball player and someone making a video game with him as a star kind of made sense thanks to the power his name and brand would bring to it. In 2018 however there is arguably less power to his name and many of this gaming generation would not know either his name or the original game he starred in. It is very evident when you look at any off the marketing for this game that the infamy of the first Shaq Fu is being used to gain interest via the notoriety of it being considered one of the worst games ever. It does have to be said that this spiritual sequel is a huge departure from the original in that gameplay now shifts to an old school side scrolling beat-em up like Final Fight than the original as well as moving into a full animated cartoony art style over the very 90s digitised charter style as seen in the original Mortal Kombat.
Story wise this game is just as ludicrous as the original game just turned way up in the ‘bat crap what the hell is going on’ level of weirdness. Our hero Shaq was abandoned as a baby but then found and raised by a Chinese woman but suffered bullying as he grew up due to his tremendous tallness. Then an old Chinese Kung Fu master took it upon himself to train Shaq in martial arts when one day he is forced to defend his village from demon warriors and after winning is told about the threat to the world from demons who have taken the form of celebrities and only Shaq possesses the power and skills to defeat them and their minions and save the world. Sounds straight forward enough right?
Not even fifteen minutes into the game and already I can sense this game is going to have issues and this begins with the tone of the humour in the opening cut-scenes. This is a game that has clearly been inspired by the recent Deadpool game which got the balance of comedy and fourth wall breaking so perfectly right but here the developers got the mix so badly wrong. Shaq’s martial arts mentor, Ye Ye, is quickly portrayed as a possible child molester and deviant in his dialogue as he speaks to Shaq and it is pure cringe to watch. This is a game full of adult humour and whilst some can be eye rolling funny and a little self deprecating, it also misses the mark hugely in some respects making it fall flat in a lot of places. It is humour that was big in the 90s but not so much now and this is not even from a PC soapbox kind of way but just in a totally ‘no need for that’ level of jokes that does not help a title that is already struggling up hill.
Visually the animation and art style are really well done with very quirky enemies and boss encounters with cut-scenes that could easily be spliced together to make an animated short. Each of the stages are colourful and vibrant on screen as Shaq moves from China, to Hollywood and beyond as his adventure takes him across the world in search of the demonic celebrities. The style of each stage do make them stand out and the art style of enemies compliment each other well as in the later stages enemies from previous ones will combine to gang up on Shaq. Audio effects work really well and you do get some very satisfying Twhack sounds when beating up enemies and the soundtrack does drive each of the stages on quite nicely.
Gameplay is pretty much you standard run of the mill side scrolling beat-em up action which does become very repetitive after a very short time. Shaq will punch and kick his way and after building up enough combo strength can summon his massive magical size 22 training shoe to do extra damage to multiple enemies. The game will simply throw enemies at you in large numbers in order to try and overwhelm the player which for the first few stages will not offer any real challenge until the later stages when the variety of enemy types from all the stages are brought together and thrown in your path. Objects can be picked up and used as weapons with most being overly effective and there is a nice touch in that some weapons will launch enemies into the TV screen. The action is fast paced as you work towards the boss fight from that stage. At timed moments in the game Shaq can collect two very special power ups in the form of a mechanised suit of armour and a Cactus suit giving him the ability to just destroy every enemy on screen very easily indeed. As a fan of old school beat-ems like Streets of Rage, Final Fight and Golden Axe for example, the gameplay was familiar and enjoyable for the most part until the issues all started to creep in.
But those issues are very frustrating and annoying at the same time especially when the bugs start kicking in. For example hit detection can be really off at times leading to cheap hits on you and in some sections of stages the game failed to trigger the ‘Continue On’ command so I was stuck no matter how many enemies I killed forcing me to restart that stage. Boss fights are very disappointing and they often rely on just being really weird rather than making the fight challenging or fun. The script is as I have said above, very dodgy at times and whilst the fourth wall breaking was refreshing at the start, it all becomes grind to get through and once you have completed the game’s campaign there is literally no reason or incentive to replay it at all. There is some DLC that provides the ability to play as Barack Obhama but even with that, once completed there is still no replay value with this game.
The jokes become tiresome quickly as does the repetitive gameplay and once it is all said and done, Shaq Fu A Legend Reborn is just a game to play through once and becomes easily forgettable far more than the original game. Some care and through has gone into this but there is just not enough here to justify its current price although since release some of the physical versions can be found for under £15 now. My gaming world was not made worse by playing this but it certainly was not enhanced by it and if honest, in a couple of weeks I will probably forget the boss fights, the character names and cannot see me every wanting to play this again.
For the elements this game does get right it has far too many average ones to really make this one to recommend you buy, even if you are intrigued to see how bad it is. Some bad games are worth playing and even fun at times but this is one to forget about until it either shows up on Games with Gold or PS Plus as a free game in a year or so.