In Kung Fury: Street Rage, the two-button endless beat-’em-up video game released simultaneously with the Kickstarter-funded eponymous 1980s grindhouse-chic short film (embedded below — caution: NSFW language and gratuitous hilarity), the Nazi war machine time travels to 1985 and does battle with Kung Fury himself, the best cop in the world.
Led in the film by a Kung Fu Hitler caricature – an unappealing phantom menace at the podium with neither a Goebbels to run the social media campaign nor an Eichmann to handle the grisly logistics and exquisite cowardice, the Nazis are the same hateable guys as they were in The Last Crusade, dressed here in the black gas masks of Wolfenstein: The New Order’s black military uniforms. You play as Kung Fury and you cannot win. The Nazis keep coming at you. (Consider Extra Credits’ musings on the similarly endless gameplay mechanics of Missile Command embedded below.) You lose your three hearts, fall at their greasy fascist boots. By the same token – more specifically, by the next token – you rise and, as in infinite runner games, the pattern begins anew. No end in sight.
Spoiler: The film’s absurd narrative – in effect, a prequel – culminates with the down but not out Kung Fuhrer himself escaping via time travel to the present, protected by his mechanical golden eagle. End Spoiler. If one accepts that there is a narrative to be found in the game, the narrative relies on a conceit of eternal struggle between the righteous and the tyrannical. Tricericop, the machine gunning viking, and Hackerman (the greatest hacker of all time) stand on the sideline and watch the action unfold like the audience members in a Street Fighter level. They are scenery, non-sentient, inconsequential, more like filler pixels than NPCs. The fight is not theirs to join. They will not play a role in the action. Spoiler: Lest they fall as Kung Fury’s first partner falls in the film, cut in twain in the street. End Spoiler. The game’s street is not theirs to rage in. This is between Kung Fury and the Nazi kung fu war machine.
If you have not seen the movie and you play the game, nothing directly tells you killing time traveling Hitler is your goal. With only the roof-top jump animation as exposition, the game comes across as an existentialist thought experiment. Try Again, Fail Again, Fail Better: The Game.
The gas masked foot soldiers, the lumbering arcade console monsters, the ninja blondes, the Aryans with two hit points may march menacingly towards you but your truest enemy is yourself. Your willing executioners are tangential, coincidental. Their deaths become collectively a means by which you beat your “Personal Best” high score.
Although you do not win, the Nazis do not win either. When you have fallen, they stop their advance and stand and occupy the street with remarkable purposelessness, banal reminders of the military foolishness of their real-life doppelgangers.