Team2Bit aims to scratch your old school beat-em-up itch with Fist Puncher, a side scrolling local co-op game for PC, OUYA, and Xbox Live Indie Games. Constantly paying homage to classic 8-bit era games, Fist Puncher delivers exactly what you would expect from a game with such a title. While the experience is certainly entertaining, it’s not without its setbacks.
In a retro beat-em-up style reminiscent of Double Dragon and River City Ransom, you and up to three local friends are tasked with rescuing beauty pageant contestants who have been kidnapped by a crime lord known as The Milkman. Beyond the opening setup and a few lines of dialogue before each boss encounter, there is little story to dive into – but the story is not why you’re playing a game like Fist Puncher. The gameplay and humor are where the title really shines. While the writing certainly won’t win awards, it will provoke eyebrow raises and giggles while walking the fine line between corny and laughable. Every boss you fight is over the top and larger than life, whether they are just a giant man, or a giant naked man on a nude beach, they all have idiotic and ridiculous things to say before meeting your fists. Playable characters include the likes of Dr. Karate and Steroid Jackson, which ultimately results in choosing a favorite based purely on vanity versus their ability. At one point, you’re tasked with fighting cultists who worship a type of moose. Why? It doesn’t matter.
The levels are fairly short, but still offer a challenge, if only in the sheer number of enemies you have to fight. Luckily there are checkpoints throughout the levels, so if you die at a boss you don’t have to start over. There are also multiple difficulty modes so you can adjust accordingly. Typical level progression follows a repetitive path; fight a bunch of dudes, fight one big dude who is a boss, move on to the next level, repeat. There are a few things to mix up the action, such as vehicle levels, but nothing you wouldn’t expect from any 2D brawler. It’s a game best played in small doses, a level or three here and there for some quick fun. I don’t see this as a game I’d want to spend all night with.
You may want to spend all night playing with your friends, but Fist Puncher won’t exclusively hold your interest more more than an hour or two. In four player local co-op you can unleash a wave of fists on screen, but the real gems are when you and your friends look at each other and laugh at what is actually happening. Going at the title alone certainly has some value, but it will take longer for you to unlock cards (think achievements) and in the end, co-op is just how Fist Puncher should be played.
Sticking to the main story line will run you around four hours to complete, but with unlockables and side levels available, the whole experience can take you up to eight hours.
At $9.99, the time spent is a good value even if you’re not going to go back and play with friends. However, Fist Puncher is the type of game that you’ll want to share, simply because introducing someone to a fun and humourous experience provides its own intrinsic value. I tested the game on OUYA with a PlayStation 3 DualShock 3 controller and experienced no issues, so if four OUYA controllers aren’t in your grasp, you do have options. Though if you are playing on PC, you’ll likely want to plug into a large monitor and hook up several controllers. The OUYA version also comes with two additional characters you can unlock that aren't in the PC or Xbox versions of the game.
Fist Puncher handles well, better than many retro style beat-em-ups that have recently released. Often in these titles you can move up or down screen, and left to right, but the act of drink to cut across diagonal feels clunky. With Fist Puncher, that’s not the case. It’s a small characteristic but it’s nice to see it handled correctly. Hitboxes can be a little weird. For instance, if an enemy throws and object at your and you are up screen, if the art of that object hovers over you you’ll take damage, even those if they were to extend a kick or punch at you it would completely miss. At the same time, you get that benefit as well, so it’s balanced both ways.
The game can be easily exploited, which can be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. Out of the four starting characters, if you’re playing as the Beekeeper it is nearly impossible to die. She has a homing projectile attack that shoots bees at people, which, when added to the jump kick (that every character has), it’s near impossible to take damage. That being said, using this strategy can get boring as it takes a while, but if you encounter a tricky boss you can essentially stop trying and just win with patience. Another starting character has a dodge move that essentially makes you invincible. For any given enemy you can through a few punches, dodge, repeat, win.
One area that the game shines in is its sound. The music is an interesting style of old school mixed with modern beats. While it fits well with the visual style of the game without being nostalgic just for nostalgia's sake. Every swoosh of your fists and hit of your kicks delivers a satisfying blow that does not seem to get old, and I constantly found myself smiling while listening to the music and punching along to the beat, for no reason other than pure fun.
Fist Puncher features light RPG elements, such as leveling up stats like defense, attack, speed, etc. and unlocking special moves such as a spin kick or health regeneration. These mechanics encourage you to do some side levels, but if you die in the main quest your experience is still saved, so it may not be necessary. During one level, I leveled up, died, leveled up again, died in the same place, and then was overpowered. Granted, with a title like Fist Puncher it can be fun to be overpowered, and the perk won’t last for more than a level or two.
A $9.99 price point is right on that fence of ‘quick stupid fun’ or ‘a short, yet engaging experience’ and Fist Puncher is definitely the former. Yes, online co-op would be nice, but this is old school co-op at its core. It’s fun to throw down on the couch with some friends, go through a level or two, and then move on to something else. Punching people is a great time and you’ll get some laughs, but it’s likely you’ll tire of the experience after a few hours. Fist Puncher adds something different to the OUYA catalog, specifically a couch co-op experience with substance, albeit minimal and somewhat silly. Even after tiring of its quirks, I could still pick it up and dive in, if only for some quick fun.
The Co-Optimus review of Fist Puncher is based on the Ouya version of the game. A code was supplied by the publisher for review purposes.
The Co-Op Experience: Fist Punch your way through the streets with up to 4 players locally. Clean up nude beaches, and rain terror upon your foes, old school style.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.