Pandas are soft and lazy, and the words tai chi usually conjure up images of senior citizens in the park, serenely practicing their routines. With those popular images in mind, Taichi Panda, Snail’s latest “hack n’ slash adventure” was initially a little confusing. The most confusing part? This game can’t seem to figure out what type of game it wants to be.
The graphics are slick, and the game will even prompt the player to adjust for the best frame rate. Good thing too, because as nice as they are, the images did tend to flicker. The music is similarly of high quality, with various fighting sound effects thrown in for good measure. But even though the levels are well designed, those designs repeat themselves over and over. The scenery changes from dungeon to desert to forest, etc. but the general level structure remains the same: fight some identical monsters, walk a few feet. Fight a boss. The end.
As the player’s level increases there are more rounds and more baddies to fight per round, but the fighting gets repetitive as well. To keep our fingers from getting sore while repeatedly tapping the attack button, there is an auto-play setting that allows the game to take control of moving your character and attacking during combat. At that point, all the player is responsible for is special combo moves. And those are typically only needed during a boss fight.
The plot is convoluted at best, doled out in cryptic chunks from a wise mystic. Basically, the panda (or one of the other three character classes) must fight a bunch of enemies for vague reasons. There’s occasionally some snappy dialogue between the mystic and the panda wherein the panda talks a great deal of smack about its fighting abilities.
Outside of the main story levels there are several other aspects of the game. So many that it requires an irritating “oracle” character to hold the player’s hand. There is an arena where the player can fight other characters for rank. There is a market, ways to smelt new items, ways to win free items, bonus levels, even pets that can accompany the player into battle that require their own tinkering and leveling. Is this an MMO or a solo hero’s quest? Am I perfecting tai chi or training Pokémon? This game is easily 1/3 fighting and 2/3 confusing busy work, like fortifying seven useless helmets into one pretty good helmet.
What’s more, there is free loot everywhere. You get free loot just for logging in, for logging in multiple days in a row, for sharing the game on Facebook, even for completing a level, in addition to whatever loot you found there in the first place. My current inventory is so full of random shards of stones and various medicines that it’s hard to keep track. This renders the in-game store (and grinding missions for extra diamonds) effectively useless.
Perhaps for the gamer looking for a free knock-off of World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria (or even the film Kung Fu Panda while we’re at it) this would be a better fit. Yes, at least it’s free; the only thing it asks of you is your time. For some, certainly for this reviewer, that cost is a little steep.
Is it Hardcore?
The graphics sparkle, but the plot and tedious side quests fall flat.