Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn may be one of the funniest games you play all year. It doesn’t take itself seriously at all. It’s self-referential, has one-liners, and it has clever little jabs at celebrities. It is a short game that is so successful and fun, until that shine is tarnished by some boss fight bugs that forced me to restart multiple times.
I have been looking forward to Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn, since I saw the announcement trailer. The marketing was clever, and they realized that the original Shaq Fu was not amazing. They acknowledge it in the same trailer.
I am happy to say that Shaq Fu lives up to the marketing. There are pop culture references and jokes bursting out of the game. This even extends to the character screen that you can access at the main menu.
The humor is delightfully juvenile, while never stepping into the uncomfortable zone of being offensive for the sake of being offensive. Even Shaq is not immune. You use Icy Hot to heal you, and Gold Bond makes a big appearance as well. It’s good to see he and his advertisers have a sense of humor too.
The story starts with a baby Shaq growing up in China and learning the secrets of Wu Xing martial arts. His master is killed, and he will go around the world to defeat demons who have taken over celebrities to basically make the world dumber. The game is not exactly satire, but it is deep into parody territory. Or, is it?
- Developer: Saber Interactive
- Release Date: June 5th
- Price: $19.99, £18.99
This is an old school, beat ‘em up game with plenty of strategic button mashing. You can jump and use a standard attack that will build a meter for your special attacks. These involve a kick from your size 22 shoe, a Shaq Wave to throw you into enemies, and a Shaq Smash to destroy everyone in your personal space.
Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn drops in some transformation power ups in a few levels. Named for his first album, Shaq Diesel puts you inside a robotic suit. You can rapidly punch you way through waves of foes, but you have to release the pressure through an area of effect attack to keep from overheating. The Shaq-tus suit puts you inside a needle shooting cactus suit. Whenever you are in either, a huge amount of enemies are added, so you can feel the power difference.
Weapons are another way to increase your power. You can pick up weapons throughout the six areas and use them to give your attacks a little more punch. Overall, the combat systems are simple, and it works well. If you are just a button masher, you can still enjoy this game.
Every new area has an assortment of enemies that fit with the boss’ personality, and the screen will stop to allow enemies to filter in from the right and left sides. Once you beaten them all, you can keep moving to the right and eventually reach the boss.
Even though it’s familiar, the developers do a good job of keeping it fresh over the 3-5 hours it will take you to complete. You can slam enemies to crack the screen, and there are destructible and interactive objects in the world. There are even random, slow-mo special moves with screen blur.
The visuals and sound are great. Every environment is a little different, and most have vibrant colors with sharp character designs. For those who were unsure, Shaq’s voice over work is very good, and the over-the-top performances of the villains fit the game perfectly.
There are some licensed songs in the game. Along with a new rap track that Shaq created for the game, I think there is a Michael Jackson song during a boss fight. If you are old enough to remember Shaq’s collaboration with Fu-Schnickens from 1994, the sounds of “What’s Up Doc” are played a little too much at the end. It still works, and it makes sense.
Things were going pretty smoothly until I hit the boss battle for Diamond. She may be the best imitation in the game. Sadly, the real-life person is probably less annoying than the multiple times the game locked up during this fight. I’m not even close to Pure PlayStation’s best gamer, but I had at least three (or more) times where I had to restart the checkpoint after it froze in different ways. In another boss fight, I was stuck to the bottom of the screen.
Although I would like to say this is pre-release and a patch may fix it, this is the same retail version anyone else picked up on release day. I made it through by beating my head against that brick wall, but my blatant lack of skill should be the reason I don’t move forward in a game, not a bug.
I really like Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn. It is so successful in the dumb fun it is trying to deliver. For most of the game, it works well as a retro game with modern conveniences. Shaq and his old sponsors are good sports about everything, and the writing is truly top-notch. I actually laughed out loud multiple times while playing.
Unfortunately, the bugs in the boss fights keep me from giving it the score it would otherwise deserve.
Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn PS4 Review
Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn is everything I had hoped to see and more. Although it's short, the writing is excellent, the tone is fantastically goofy, and the combat is decent for a basic beat 'em up. By not taking itself seriously, it is elevated to a truly funny game.
It's not all good news. An otherwise flawless technical performance is marred by game killing issues during two different boss fights. You can finish the game after restarting multiple times, but you will have to decide if it's worth it.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using a PS4 Pro.