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Lionhead artist's Rag Doll Kung Fu

I got no strings, to hold me down, except the cord, on my mouse!

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

If you've played a first-person shooter in the last two or three years, then you know exactly what rag doll physics can offer a game. Essentially it's floppy models. Floppy models that roll around like Teflon-coated sacks of potatoes in a gale, tumbling their way down stairs, hanging over railings, folding up like ironing boards and generally looking energetically flaccid. It's quite an effect.

There are lots of arguments for and against the use of rag doll physics. If you ask us though, things like Rag Doll Kung Fu are among the best reasons to have 'em. Silly little throwaway physics toys that amplify the unspoken fascination of watching crash test dummies flop around, and spread it over an irreverent setting - in this case a pastiche of kung fu film sets. It's where a toddler's playtime clashes with new-age technology, and spits out a nostalgic dummy so you can fashion an appreciative grin.

We've seen silly little truck crash simulators that take this approach, and, you know, they easily stand up to more repeated play than a hundred licensed third-person action games. We use them like tonics to remind us why we still get up and play The Hulk and co. Is it just us? Who knows? Whatever - the point of all this is that we're currently grinning ear to ear at the prospect of string puppets engaged in Matrix tomfoolery. Pinocchio Vs. Dragon Ninja, if you will.

The fact that it's not a "proper" game with a box and a manual and a stupid marketing campaign is entirely beside the point. Rag Doll Kung Fu is about wielding string puppets with your mouse. There are no pre-scripted animations. In the words of Mark Healey, the Lionhead artist who cooked it up in 18 months of his spare time, "to walk, you have to literally pick up one foot, then place it in front of the other".

This means that your character's abilities are entirely a product of your own imagination, so you can no longer turn to the developer and wave a shaky under-developed fist when you get bored of your own simple combos and tactics. It's not just about fighting, either. "If all goes well, and I get the online stuff working properly, then you can act out various silly situations with people all over the world, have dancing competitions, chatting, fighting, that kind of thing." Yes. We want that. Now.

Sadly though, we can't have it - not right now, anyway. According to Healey, Rag Doll Kung Fu will probably be finished and released online this summer. In the meantime, here are some screenshots, and you should definitely head here to download a funny and sweary trailer. Nice one, Mark - can you do one about paper aeroplanes next?

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