The original Shaq Fu received mostly positive reviews at launch, but as time passed it gained the notoriety of being terrible, one of the worst games ever made in fact. Certainly, a sequel or reimagining didn’t seem likely, but after a successful Indiegogo campaign here we have Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn, and what a pleasant surprise it is.
Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn ditches the original Mortal Kombat style tournament fighting setup for a side-scrolling beat ‘em up one instead, and it’s a great fit. Playing as Shaquille O’Neil (Shaq) you fight your way through six locations beating the life out of the many anthropomorphised demons that mean to stop you, before engaging a more varied and grotesque demon boss at the end of each one.
Combat is wonderfully simple and smooth, with a normal attack doing the majority of the work, a heavier shield-breaking attack, a dodge, a dash, and a powerful limited use attack rounding off the compliment of moves. Each one is gradually taught to you as they become necessary; it’s an intuitive move-set that proves fast, effective and fun.
Enemies are varied enough to encourage you to think about what move best suits a situation and which threats are best taken out first, but it’s still a fairly mindless brawler, to its credit that is. Instead you can focus on just how satisfying it is to beat up these enemies, seeing the occasional goon fly towards the screen and crack it, and watch bemused when Shaq randomly unleashes an exaggerated attack involving high kicks and body slamming. It’s silly, over-the-top fun.
The over-the-top-ness continues with the presentation, with crisp, bright cartoon visuals bringing the levels and characters to life, and some excellent caricature design for the enemies. The is especially shown off during the animated storytelling sequences between levels, where the characterisation is brought to life with excellent animation and wonderful transformations as the demons turn from human to demon form. Furthermore, a funny script that’s well acted does its part to make this reimagining feel thoroughly modern.
Indeed, there’s a story to follow as well, and while it begins only as a means to drive you forwards, it soon becomes intriguing, amusing and immersive. Demons hiding as celebrities, Shaq’s peculiar mentor and friends, all help to create a funny adventure and include the occasional fourth-wall breaking jokes. It all feels a bit Deadpool starring Shaq.
Unfortunately, despite the adventure only taking a few hours to complete, the combat scenarios do get repetitive. The odd special transformation for Shaq, a cactus suit and a mech suit, help with variety, as do the occasional environmental hazard, but the majority of play is spent fighting waves of enemies and gradually moving to the right. Additionally, we did run in to a couple of bugs during one boss fight, which was frustrating.
Once the short story is concluded there’s very little to entice you back. A lack of multiplayer is a crying shame and feels like it might have been the silver bullet to keep Shaq Fu interesting after completion, but alas. Instead there’s a Shaq-o-pedia to look up information on enemies and the like, as well as additional difficulty levels, but otherwise nothing to temp you.
Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn certainly provides a fun and amusing single player beat ‘em up experience. The lack of multiplayer, lack of variety, and overall shortness hurt it a little but there’s no denying how enjoyable it is the first time playing through.
Thanks to Wired Productions for supporting TiX