Fist Puncher – What We Think:
You are a street fighting hero and you must save beauty queens from around the world who have been unceremoniously kidnapped by one – the Milkman – and hauled off, slung over the shoulders of his henchman like so many sacks of potatoes, to some nefarious hideaway. And…scene.
I first saw Fist Puncher at PAX Prime 2011 in a room just around the corner from Ironclad Tactics. While the marketing was clearly over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek, nudge-nudge wink-wink, I didn’t spend much time at the booth, as I had more brainy matters scheduled – meetings with Jason Rohrer and Jesse Schelle and the like.
Now, some three years later, as I scour through the offerings from Q3 2014 on my Steam games list, Fist Puncher feels like just the thing I need – a little bit of the old zany beat’em up action to remedy crappy world news and a full moon on a hot humid September night.
In this regard, the title, distributed by Adult Swim – the reliably zany and equally over-the-top purveyor of all things 2D and retro gameness, delivers on its promise. It delivers like a Hostess Twinkie deliver Twinkieness. Herein is a title in which you play one of a number of witty characters – like “Doctor Karate” or “Steroid James” (I actually raised eyebrows at that one) – and take them out on the town, via a topographical map, to smack down some pixelated creeps. It is very much like Double Dragon, even in the way that picking up a baseball bat and swinging it at someone feels, or grabbing someone by the back of the shirt and kneeing them in the face multiple times.
But the good people at Team2Bit keep things moving along and constantly change up the ideas, whether it is keeping your balance on the top of a moving 18-wheeler, or riding a Harley through heavy freeway traffic, or even a survival mode in the underworld filled with undead; there is a lot of variety here to keep you curious. In fact, I found I couldn’t put the gamepad down – I was caught up in “just one more” mode for several uninterrupted hours. At some point I vaguely remember feeling a strong need to urinate, but it passed eventually, probably like the kidney stone I will develop as a result of playing games like Fist Puncher.
Fully Toss-able Environment
The environments are mostly static, however you are able to enter doors upstage and explore for hidden levels and other interesting cutscenes and mini games. You can pick up and toss almost anything in these environments too – from boulders to cars to dogs wagging their tails. Presumably the amount you can lift and throw is mitigated by some character stat that can be improved when you level up and assign points to said stat.
You also have a Special Energy bar that fills up so you can perform some magical sorts of attacks – fortunately using these attacks still count in your combos which in themselves offer perks for completing. Your Special energy will become quite important as you face rooms of huge mobs + bosses, but you will need to decide whether to use it up in sweeping AOEs or self-heals, or even team-heals in local co-op mode.
The bosses are big, though for the most part, besides some minor variation, mostly the same. They tend to resist your attacks regardless of your tactics after several consecutive hits, so most of them just need to be kited around while you use ranged attacks (like the totally anachronistic fireball for Doctor Karate) until they drop. In general, fights are kept fresh not so much by a huge number of moves as by the variety of characters you can play and develop. There are some cool twists like self-heals or passive abilities like recovering full health after a 25-point combo.
Cue Training Montage
Oh yes, the development of characters part: your hero levels up and consequently, you can allot skill points or learn new tricks as you ding. I rather enjoyed this element, as I did the running tally of fruits and desserts that i found, just as much as the in-game achievement cards I was unlocking. The devs have implemented all sorts of ways of taking a rather basic and repetitive mechanic and turning it into a micro universe to play around with.
So let me paraphrase that: nothing about Fist Puncher comes to close to reinventing the wheel, but it is as enjoyable as a box of Twinkies when no one is around to stop you. This is some good old fashioned fun in this box of sugary fried dough, and if you are in the mood for letting off some steam and adding a few chuckles in while you’re at it, this is a great little hideout for doing just that.
A Fistful of Awesome
I think, due to the grindy nature of all the smacking-down, this is really a 3.5 star game, but I had so much fun stupidly mashing buttons while colorful, comedic pixel art danced before my eyes that I am giving it another half star and then passing out as I crash from my post-sugar high.
Get Fist Puncher on Steam
Get Fist Puncher on Desura
Fist Puncher Pitch Trailer – Desura