Fist Puncher (PC), Review

We knock knuckles for a bloody and pixelated good time in this ridiculous 2D beat-em-up sidescroller adventure…

Release Date: June 21, 2013

Platform: PC

Developer: Team2Bit

Publisher: Adult Swim Games

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Category: Action, Beat-em-up

Fist Puncher is a new 2D sidescrolling beat-em-up arcade adventure from Adult Swim Games, and it plays just like the hysterically awesome, incredibly violent romp through pixel town that I wish we’d had back when we were kids. Perhaps a bit TOO pixelated in certain areas (if that’s even really a thing), the game evokes all sorts of nostalgic gaming feelings, while wrapping it all up in that sick and twisted sense of absurdist humor that we’ve only come to expect from something associated with the Adult Swim name. But unlike most games these days that are primarily focused on letting us relive the past, Fist Puncher easily proves that it can stand on its own as a quality game of the present. If I had played games like this down at the arcade when I was growing up, then I can’t even imagine what kind of gamer, let alone person, that would have made me become today.

The story of Fist Puncher is mostly what you’d expect from a game of this sort: an evil villain named the Milkman has stolen a handful of beautiful girls, and so it’s up to you and your ridiculous ragtag band of misfit heroes to punch your way through the world to get them all back. While nothing special in of itself, it’s the completely random sense of humor that lets the game really shine, and you only need to take a glimpse at the generous cast of characters to see what you’re going to be in for: Dr. Karate, The Beekeeper, and Lady Chop Chop being a few of the many standouts. If you were smart enough to pre-order the game on Steam before its release, then you’ll have unlocked the option to play as Adult Swim’s own Robot Unicorn! For this review playthrough, I decided to put my trust in Dr. Karate, the neurosurgeon and black belt leader of the group, to take down everyone before me with the utmost of surgical precision (and deadly knuckles).

Variety, variety, variety. It’s one of the many things we gamers always look for in prospective new titles, and I’m happy to say that Fist Puncher brings in the variety in spades. One minute, you’ll go from beating the crap out of nudist beach goers with pixelated and strategically-placed censor bars, to beating the crap out of Star Trek fans in swivel chairs in a meat house the next, and pretty much everything else in between. What’s also great about Fist Puncher (which is something I can’t say I’ve ever really seen in a 2D beat-em-up game before) is the game’s nonlinear progression, which lets you branch off down several different paths on the world map at any one time, and tackling different quests if you get too hung up on one.

Aside from the sheer amount of awesomeness that we’ve seen in the design department, one of the most welcomed surprises about Fist Puncher is the game’s impressive sense of depth as far as the combat is concerned. Remember the old days when you could simply hop in on a game of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and just sort of punch and jump your way to victory? Well that’s not the case here with Fist Puncher! You’re going to need to own a high command over all of your possible skillsets in the game, and keep charge of a refill meter that lets you show off some of your more powerful special attacks. There is an immense amount of strategy required to proceed in the game, and merely punching with your fists is sure to lead to a quick and timely defeat. Luckily, the game features a neat character leveling system that will strengthen up those pixelated fists in no time! After each new level milestone is reached, players will have the option to improve several base traits like strength, defense, and speed, while additional, character-specific perks and special moves can also be unlocked at a more gradual pace.

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But Fist Puncher’s difficulty is mostly felt in the game’s many diverse and challenging boss fights, which force to maneuver around playing field with the utmost of care, and to always keep a close eye on the quickly-draining health bar. I found this out the hard way during the very first boss fight of the game, against a larger-than-life street thug who bore a striking resemblance to “Yeezus” himself, and beat me down more times than I could possibly count. The second boss I encountered didn’t help with my confidence much either, as the park goon enlisted an irritating little brat to constantly barrage me with a slingshot the entire time that we were fighting. Thankfully, you’ll be able to find a number of funny food collectables to always keep you in the fight, and the whole experience just feels that much more rewarding once you’ve played it cool and finally managed to best one of these difficult foes.

But of course, while Fist Puncher epitomizes all of the things we know and love about those retro beat-em-up sidescrollers, a few questionable design choices still manage to leave the final package feeling far from perfect. For starters, a conflict of interest begins to arise pretty early on between the unique character leveling system and the 15 total characters that you can eventually choose to play as. The big problem here is that, as you play through the game and gain experience and more advanced moves, it becomes almost impossible to switch to another character without having to start over completely from scratch: as the enemies become so formidable towards the middle of the game, that your new Level 1 character will be pummeled in a mere instant. While Fist Puncher is certainly a good enough game to warrant multiple playthroughs, I’m not confidant enough that everyone will want to complete 15 of them to experience everything the beat-em-up has to offer.

Another big issue manifests in the game’s online co-op capabilities: of which there are currently none. Games like Fist Puncher are practically MADE to play with three of your friends, and so it’s more than a little odd that this seemingly essential feature is nowhere to be found. The game certainly positions itself as a multiplayer bout as well, with the option of toggling on friendly fire (or friendly punching) to stir things up, but unless you’ve got four Xbox 360 controllers and a big enough PC screen for you and all your friends to huddle around, then Fist Puncher is going to be a largely solo affair. And speaking of controllers, it becomes abundantly clear as soon as the opening tutorial segments that the game has been optimized (and fully intended) to be played with one. , where the on-screen button prompts are defaulted to an Xbox 360 controller, with the familiar red “B” and green “A” buttons providing a bit of unneeded confusion for keyboard-based players.

But in the end, even if you’re forced to go it alone, and even if you only get to play as one of the ridiculous characters without starting over, Fist Puncher surmounts these minor grievances with stellar gameplay, tons of variety, and challenging boss fights. It’s just another reason why Adult Swim Games is seriously becoming a force to be reckoned with in the world of indie gaming, and they’ve nailed that perfect ratio between pixelated nostalgia and 2013 depth of gameplay and nonlinear progression. So whatever you do, make sure that you have Dr. Karate on speed dial before you get started, because something tells me that things are about to get bloody!

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Story – 8/10

Gameplay – 9/10

Graphics – 9/10

Soundtrack – 9/10

Multiplayer – 6/10

Replayability – 8/10

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Overall -8.1/10

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