Foul Play Review

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Foul Play Review

Mash all the buttons

Going for a spin or two in the indie title Foul Play takes us back to our youth. Specifically, a time before we had deep knowledge of fighting-game moves; a time when the fabled art of the button mash often proved successful against our lesser-equipped (grade-school) friends.

Master the art  of the air combo and you’ll be  nigh-unstoppable in Foul Play.

Master the art of the air combo and you’ll be nigh-unstoppable in Foul Play.

Foul Play slaps a decently creative premise over a genre classic: This game is a 2D, button-mashing, side-scrolling slugfest, pure and simple. So much so, that we’d almost prefer to play it on a handheld controller instead of our keyboard. While the game does an admirable job of straddling console and PC platforms with minimal frustration, it’s pretty clear it was developed with consoles in mind. A quick, refreshing jaunt through one of the game’s 22 separate “acts” feels like the kind of thing you’d do to relax while waiting for a friend to come over (obviously, to join you in some Foul Play co-op.)

The game’s story isn’t all that interesting, we admit: Set in an environment that’s aesthetically reminiscent of Gangs of New York, you’re a demon-hunter, retelling stories of your accomplishments through each of the game’s five plays. That’s right—plays. The intriguing bit of Foul Play is that the entire slugfest is set within the world of theater. You’re not running through caves or climbing mountains, so much as you are acting out your exploits on stage—beating up actors costumed as baddies, throwing enemies through set pieces, and stringing together wicked fighting moves for approval by the ever-present audience that’s watching the carnage unfold from the lower-half (or so) of the game’s screen.

Foul Play does an excellently cute job of maintaining the game’s “stage show” aspect.

Foul Play does an excellently cute job of maintaining the game’s “stage show” aspect.

In fact, you don’t even have a health bar. In this beat-’em-up, it’s audience approval that dictates whether you “live” or “die,” as it were. Dodge your way around a level and generally act boring, and you’ll start to get booed (and ultimately have to restart your brawling from the last checkpoint); string together a 50-hit combo, and the crowd will throw their hats into the air with approval and your special move meter will start to shine like a Tony award.

Foul Play isn’t itself all that challenging; we found ourselves rarely succumbing to any of the game’s fights while rampaging through its three-to-four-hour storyline. What’s challenging, however, are the game’s… well, challenges. Within most of the game’s levels, Foul Play gives you the optional task to accomplish three varying things. One might be something like, “achieve a 75-hit combo,” or “throw three people into one another”—things like that.

These challenges are relatively achievable and, honestly, much-needed aspects of the core game given that the endless fighting does start to get a bit lukewarm after a while. However, we wish Foul Play’s combo system was a bit more lenient; we often found ourselves losing our multi-hit combo—and our patience—simply because it took too long to jump to an enemy halfway across the screen. Boo, indeed.

Additionally, we wish the main character himself simply had more he could do. We’d much prefer a crazy amount of Arkham City–style combos, move-stringing, and general insanity versus Foul Play’s simplified setup, which made us feel as if we were mashing the same button over, and over, and over—about as fun as it would be to play Street Fighter II and jab all the challengers to death.

Foul Play is cute, fun, and quaint, but it needs a shot in the arm to maintain interest until the big eleven o’clock number.

$15, http://mediatonicgames.com/games/foul-play, ESRB: E

Foul Play

Les Misérables (stage)

Lovely visuals; funky and unique audience mechanic; fun co-op; challenges and unlockables add replay value.

Les Misérables (movie)

Fighting moves feel underdeveloped; story could benefit from voice-over narration; not very difficult; combo system could be more forgiving.

6

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