In 2014, Big Deez Productions started something that should have remained just a subversive joke. The team – a mix of minds from the industry who have had hands in projects like Halo, Max Payne, and Final Fantasy – got tired of “bowing to the monolithic men with the money and wanted to work with people who care about the quality of the product.” With the help of the people, via a crowdfunding platform and influx of cryptocurrency, they were going to bring the legendarily bad Shaq Fu back from the abyss of “games we should forget about.”
The modern Internet Age, where memes are created at lightspeed and everyone with a smartphone has the power to take a joke too far, has given Shaq Fu a soul. A few years later, it was given a body in A Legend Reborn. We’ve made a terrible mistake.
Size 22 Bombs
Shaq Fu thinks it’s hilarious. Every other line is a punchline. They come quick and plentiful for you to quickly realize that there are way too many of them. Even when you eventually find a joke that is actually funny, you’ve been worn down by the ten lame, outdated references or problematic insensitivities to even laugh. Not a real vocal laugh – they aren’t THAT funny – more like one of those “LOLs” you reply with via text as you stare stone-faced at your screen.
Shaq is excited, at least. He is fully invested in this story featuring an alternate-reality version of himself born in China as a student of old kung fu and a child of destiny. Shaq Diesel delivers these very bad lines with affable conviction, and visualizing Shaq in a vocal booth screaming obscenities at a fake Justin Bieber is a good mental image. Only this Hall of Famer can’t make this globetrotting quest to beat up a cabal of celebrity lampoons interesting.
Shaq Fu A Legend Reborn Review - Weak Kung Fu
Playing the game is an equal displeasure. The actual act of running around and punching the seemingly endless tide of tropes and stereotypes is bland. You have a basic attack, which when building up combo chains fuels your special attacks like different sorts of kicks that you can’t control, or an extremely overpowered ground pound attack. But often times, the actual hit boxes of these attacks can be inconsistent. Every once in a while, your normal punch will turn into a slow motion, one hit killing move inexplicably. I’m sure A Legend Reborn finds that sort of spontaneity as funny as its Icy Hot jokes.
4 Rings, 0 Fun
Sometimes, the gameplay will divert from the standard beat’em up, but in also poor ways. In one mission, you find a diesel suit to jump into, switching up your move set to let you attack more rapidly, but also having to keep track of a heat gauge. A boss fight stops the normal action in the middle to have a dance off, played out in a Dance Dance Revolution-esque rhythm mini game. These actually were conceptually interesting, but were ultimately just executed poorly or without much inspiration.
Even with it’s remarkable use of color, many A Legend Reborn stages are filled with either bad modern brand references or dull stage-appropriate scenery. Trees lack much detail, outside of the trunk being brown and the leaves being green. Enemies come in various shapes and sizes, but almost all of their animations are clunky. Shaq’s various kicks and punches are remarkably not fluid either. He moves with the same lack of grace and rhythm that he did in his prime years in the NBA, but without four championship rings to show for it.
At the end of the day, Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is a cautionary tale. Jokes are not funny just because you say them. Nor are they funny just because they raised over $450K. But being not funny isn’t a cardinal offense for a video game. Being dull and soulless mechanically is.
Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn review code provided by publisher. Version 1.00 reviewed on a PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.