Fist Puncher (Xbox Live Indie Game version)

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!

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 chairs shaped like giant assholes.  Someone off-screen claimed to match his low prices and he pulled a gun on them, because thems fightin' words!

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.

xboxboxartFist 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.

Fist Puncher

Dr. Karate is the fucking man. Know that now, friends and neighbors, and you’ll be hangin’ tough throughout the 2D, 8-bit, side-scrolling, beat-‘em-up glory that is Team 2Bit’s Fist Puncher.

If that first, rather lengthy, sentence isn’t a clear indication of how I feel about Fist Puncher, let me put in plainer terms: this game rocks out with its cock out. Period. Playing this game reminds me of the lazy, hazy summer of 1987, when my cousin and I discovered this new game called Double Dragon in a jam-packed arcade in Stone Harbor, NJ. We didn’t leave that machine until the place closed…and we were both about $20 poorer. It was money well spent for sure.

Oh, Dr. Karate, how I love thee. Let me count the ways...

Oh, Dr. Karate, how I love thee. Let me count the ways…

Much like the classic Double Dragon, Fist Puncher has a pretty straightforward plot: four diverse characters, Dr. Karate, Steroid Jackson, Hella Fistgerald and the Beekeeper, are heading to the Fist Puncher Dojo for training under the tutelage of the Master. As they arrive at the dojo, the nefarious Milkman kidnaps the contestants in the Miss Fist Puncher Beauty Pageant (yeah, you read that right) and hides them in various sections of the rough-and-tumble city of San Cruces. It’s up to this ragtag band of vigilantes to find the girls and rescue them…while cracking as many skulls as humanly possible along the way.

From there, you basically just have to beat the holy shit out of every obstacle that stands before you. I know that sounds simplistic, and in some ways it is, but Fist Puncher does almost everything right and it is one helluva fun ride. First and foremost, the controls are spot on, with no noticeable lag or stickiness. Controls are paramount in this type of game where you are brawling against multiple enemies at once and need to make split-second, life-saving maneuvers on a dime. Not once when I died did I feel that the controls failed me; it was always my own damn fault. Secondly, there are a plethora of things to kick the snot out of: from regular thugs to zombies to luchadors to creepy pedo vans, the enemy diversity found in this title is rather impressive. A lot games cheap out here by re-skinning enemies, but not Fist Puncher. Thirdly, there are a vast amount of places to go (over 50 levels), items to unlock/discover/collect and character abilities to power up. And lastly, it’s all tied up with one exceptionally humorous bow. The dialogue, character names, even the sound effects (I went apeshit over the panther roar when you achieve RAGE mode) really adds another layer of enjoyment to the overall, ass-kicking experience.

Throwing down on nude beach. That's a new one.

Throwing down on a nude beach. That’s a new one.

The elements of Fist Puncher that I found lacking are rather minimal. The music is just OK, not terrible by any means, but not exceptional either. I was hoping for Streets of Rage 2 levels of greatness here but, alas, it just doesn’t deliver. There are also weird difficulty spikes and some overall cheapness with some of the enemy attacks (fuck those guys with the Molotov cocktails…fuck them right in their cheap bastard cornholes), but that’s almost expected, and welcomed, in this genre. My final nitpick here has to do with multiplayer. There’s a good variety offered here (up to four simultaneous players with 15 different, unlockable characters to choose from…but choose Dr. Karate because, as I mentioned previously, he’s the fucking man), but it is local multiplayer only and I don’t see this kind of mode having great success on the PC. This kind of local multiplayer mode seems much better suited for the consoles. I know Fist Puncher was originally slated to be an XBLIG (and developed with XNA tech), so maybe it will see life on the consoles at some point down the road, and then the multiplayer mode will really get to strut its stuff.

I don't think you can make a game without fucking zombies in today's world

I don’t think you can make a game without fucking zombies in today’s world.

Quibbles aside, the most important thing to take away here is that playing Fist Puncher made me feel like I was 16 again. I had that much fun with it…and you can’t put a price tag on that.  To me, that’s what a really great video game should do: it should make me forget that I am an adult with real world problems and issues for the 20 or so hours that I am playing it. That’s all I ever want out of an interactive entertainment experience, really.

Bravo, Team 2Bit, you’ve jumped to the head of the Indie Gamer Guy Leaderboard. Enjoy the view from the top, lads!

fp coverFist Puncher was developed by Team 2Bit.

For $9.99, Fist Puncher will punch a hole in your soul and leave you begging for more.

Fist Puncher is available on Steam and Desura.

Fist Puncher is Indie Gamer Guy Approved, and now heads up the Leaderboard. This makes Team 2Bit the first developers to earn both the Indie Gamer Guy Seal of Approval, and the Indie Gamer Chick Seal of Approval, which they earned for Washington’s Wig on Xbox Live Indie Games.  igg 2

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