And the award for worst timing ever goes to………..
FIST PUNCHER ON XBOX LIVE INDIE GAMES!!
Team 2Bit stands up and takes a bow. Tsutomu Yamaguchi rips up his program and walks out of the auditorium in disgust.
You see, I think Fist Puncher is probably better than your run of the mill brawler. Think of it as Castle Crashers without having to equip weapons. You level up. There are a variety of special moves and combos you can pull off, and you can earn more as you make progress. Levels aren’t always about smacking some twats around, walking ten feet to the right, then smacking more twats. Sometimes you’re in a poisoned subway. Sometimes you’re riding motorcycles. This is all set in a decidedly mature world with adult themes and occasional voice-over narration.
Sadly, it’s hard for me to get excited about this when I started playing upcoming Xbox Live Arcade brawler Charlie Murder about an hour before trying this. I haven’t yet formed an option on that game, but playing it undoubtedly soured me on Fist Puncher. Both games intend to take brawlers in a more progressive, modern direction. It’s as if they’re both in a race, and Fist Puncher is running at a pretty decent pace. Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter because Charlie Murder is using quantum time displacement magic to have already finished the race, give Fist Puncher a wedgie, and sleep with its wife.
Oh shit, it’s Scientologists!
All games should stand on their own. I still believe that. But, I really am having trouble separating these two games from the same genre which released this close together. One of which is extremely modernized and the other of which is still has some firm roots in tradition. If I hadn’t just played Charlie Murder, I think I would have liked Fist Puncher a whole lot more. Not too much more. I hate brawlers and I can’t hide my contempt for them. One of the worst times I’ve had as Indie Gamer Chick was playing the Simpsons Arcade Game with my boyfriend. It wasn’t even an indie, but I had never played it and figured I could get a decent review out of it. Then I dragged Brian along for the ride. I hated every moment of it, but I thought Brian was enjoying it. Then after we finished, he said “well, that sucked.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“When was I supposed to say something? You haven’t stopped complaining this entire time. I’m actually surprised you could complain that much without stopping to breathe.”
The thing with 2D brawlers is, most feel like the same game with different skins. Even popular ones. Look, I played Streets of Rage and its sequels when they were in Ultimate Genesis Collection. I played Final Fight on Capcom Classics Collection. I’m happy you old school gamers still enjoy them, but I don’t get it. It’s just button mashing the same guys, walking to the right a few feet, then button mashing more of the same guys. Repeat this until you run into a boss with an unfair attack pattern and button mash him. Then maybe you watch a static cut scene before repeating the whole process for seven to eight levels. It’s boring. Having a variety of fighting styles doesn’t take the edge off either, because usually there’s one attack that just plain works better than everything else, of which you’ll use it so much that you’ll wear out the buttons you have to hit to activate it.
Fist Puncher, God bless it, does its very best to break up the monotony by including different objectives, branching paths, and fairly short levels. There’s also an upgrade system that, in the tradition of Indie Gamer Chick, I attempted to abuse by simply putting all my stats into strength. Didn’t work, because enemies become downright cheap. I encountered a boss that has a murder of crows surround you. If you’re unable to run away, those damn crows will stun lock you and utterly drain your health. At this point, I had maybe two points spent on defense and I didn’t last too long. Of course, that’s my fault and not the developer’s, but I was still pretty peeved at the cheapness of it. Not to mention that some of the levels are clearly designed with four players in mind, like a subway that fills with poison. You have 90 seconds to clear a few waves of bad guys and a boss. Now, by the time I played this stage, I had nearly filled my strength meter to the brim. It didn’t matter. Enemies were spongy as hell, and there was only one of me to finish a stage meant to be played with friends. The amount of enemies probably should have been scaled back a bit to accommodate solo play.
Since I missed the narration due to a glitch in the sound, I filled in the blanks myself. in my version of the story, the guy in the yellow is attempting to sell multi-colored toilet seat covers shaped like giant assholes. Someone off-screen claimed to match his low prices and he pulled a gun on them, because thems fightin’ words!
When you play with friends, it does take the edge off. But while the fighting style consists of more than punches and kicks, Fist Puncher still has a relatively low ceiling before combat gets too repetitive. And while occasional minigames (such as a batting cage where I swear to Christ I could not line up to hit the fucking balls correctly) or hidden keys do try to make this something more, I just found Fist Puncher to be the type of generic brawler that has been done hundreds of times before and will continue to be done until the end of time. Plus, the XBLIG port of the PC title is loaded with some awful glitches. I died during one section of play and had to be brought back to life by being given CPR, which is done by hitting button prompts. Once I was brought back to life, Brian was still bent over in the CPR position, unable to stand up. This was not by design. Weirdly, he eventually stood up, but none of the action buttons would work. He had to intentionally let an enemy knock him down before anything would work again. In addition to all of this, the sound effects (including the voice over narration after the first stage) would cut in and out, sometimes leading to playing whole stages without the satisfaction of hearing your fist smack against some asshole’s face.
I’m not scoring against the glitches (unacceptable as they are), because I didn’t like Fist Puncher regardless. Indie Gamer Guy did, and it would seem many long-term fans of the genre disagree with me as well. Having played through it, I do admit that Fist Puncher is a well crafted tribute to one of the industry’s most revered game types that does try to do a little bit more than they did. But I never liked brawlers to begin with, so I was not who this game was aimed at, and Fist Puncher does absolutely nothing to try to convince people like me that we have it all wrong. Its only ambition was to satisfy fans of games like Streets of Rage or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and it seems to do that well. I’ll never understand why games like this are still popular when gaming has come so very far since the mid 90s. If anything, brawlers are having a revival, and not one of those ironic ones like people watching movies on VHS or pretending to like My Little Pony. I’m talking honest-to-God elation. I don’t get it. A lot of people my age don’t get it. Then again, people of their age don’t get how we could convince our parents to murder each-other on Black Friday to score the last booster pack of Pokemon cards for Christmas. It’s a generational thing.
Fist Puncher was developed by Team 2Bit
400 Microsoft Points have no opinion of Charlie Murder yet, except that it does try to do more with brawlers, and that’s a step in the right direction in the making of this review.