The DS version of Kung Fu Panda 2 is vastly different from its console counterparts. Rather than being a standard third-person action game, it's a turn-based RPG with an interesting mini-game thrown into the mix. Unfortunately, it's marred by gameplay that's so unbalanced, it becomes boring.
Kung Fu Panda 2's story is set after that of the film. Po and the rest of the Furious Five find themselves troubled by wolves, gorillas, and komodo dragons. With the help of the Kung Fu masters, Po has to uncover the plot behind this siege and put a stop to it. The story is just OK, but it does fit nicely into the larger Kung Fu Panda universe, with the characters behaving true to their big screen counterparts. However, tapping through lots of screens of dialogue got old pretty fast.
In Kung Fu Panda 2, your party consists of two characters: Po and one of the other Furious Five. Each character has unique attacks and skills that require differing amounts of Chi (think mana) to perform. There's a rock-paper-scissors element where each attack and enemy has a different color and paying attention to the two means you can deal more damage. There's nothing inherently wrong with this combat system, but it fails to be engaging because of two flaws.
The first is that both of your characters always get the chance to carry out an attack first, regardless of enemy. The second is that there are special attacks you learn by doing one of the side quests that are so powerful they take out all of your enemies. And since your Chi refills completely between each battle, you can pull it off on your first turn every single time. After unlocking this attack fairly early on in the game, 99 percent of the subsequent battles involved me winning before my opponent even had a chance to take a turn. In the other one percent, my opponents' health was so low that they were easily dispatched on my next turn. Because of this, I only needed to use an item a couple times to refill my health, and I never needed to stop by one of the shops to buy more, so I kept collecting coins by winning with nothing to spend them on.
Graphically, Kung Fu Panda 2 isn't terrible, but it's not fantastic either. The characters are rendered in 3D, and you can watch the battle play out on the top screen as you select your attacks. I was disappointed to see that most of the attacks looked basically the same even though their names gave the impression of something different.
Even with this flawed core gameplay, Kung Fu Panda 2 is partially redeemed by a fun and addicting card mini-game called Five Card Fu. You have a deck of cards, of which you can select five to use for each game. Each card has a number from one to nine on each of its sides. You play cards on a 3x3 grid, with the goal being to capture the other players' cards by using a matching or greater number against theirs. It's a simple concept, but can actually be quite challenging. You find better cards as you play through the story mode and complete side missions. Five Card Fu can be played locally against someone else who also has a copy of the game.