Dev. Confused Pelican / Pub. Curve Digital
Yeah, you read it right.
No, I don’t know either, you’re just going to have to try and go with it.
Search engine friendly titles aside, what’s to say about Iron Fisticle – a game which at first glance appears as comfortable and familiar as a well-worn pair of slippers? I mean, they sound nice but you wouldn’t buy them from the shop like that. Actually, that’s an idea. One of you stop reading now and go and open a business selling pre-broken in slippers and let me know how you get on.
Whilst we wait for feedback on my latest sure-fire business winner, let me tell you why Iron Fisticle belongs, not on the scrapheap but in your hearts – or at least Steam accounts.
Designed as a loving throwback to the days of 10p guzzling arcade classics such as Gauntlet and Robotron, the two-man team behind Iron Fisticle have brought us a twin-stick arena shooter. You must guide your knight either solo or with a buddy sitting next to you, through a beastie infested set of rooms, ever descending towards a final encounter with the monster-scum who sucked up all your fruit and vegetables. Confused?
You will are.
Actually, it’s all remarkably straightforward, which helps the game develop an instant rapport with the player. If you’ve ever played a twin-stick game before, you’re immediately familiar with 90% of what’s going on. Guide your knight with the left stick, fling axes at the encroaching orc menaces with the right. Open chests, collect upgrades and limited-time special weapons. Kill everything, unlock the exit. Escape.
So what’s the draw?
Well, firstly, the game manages that all-too-rare trick of using 16 bit style graphics and yet taking advantage of some of our modern lighting effects to add some extra panache. It takes a set of instantly familiar sprite tropes and warms them with fire effects and super smooth animations. It shaves away all the rough edges that you’d actually see if you went back and played Smash TV or another of Iron Fisticle’s forebears. It’s sweet, it really is like having a sexy, late 80’s arcade cabinet in your front room, albeit without the fag burns and stench of teen-sweat.
What makes Iron Fisticle a glorious triumph though, is how delicious it is to play. Buttery smooth to control, it also has the kind of crunchy, satisfying feedback usually only found in piercing a crème brulee. Constantly allowing you to pull off deft feats of skill, skipping past enemy projectiles, cutting a swathe through enemies then executing a perfectly timed dash to escape a wild floor hazard, the game is extremely satisfying from minute one. It gets better still once you realise that you can raise your own difficulty level on the fly in the game by wading into the midst of a sea of enemies trying to chain together pick-ups. Recover food items in quick succession and you’ll receive a significant points boost. The on-line leaderboard is surprisingly addictive, even for someone with crab-hands like me. With the 360 pad in hand, I was soon dodging and weaving my way through the first few levels like an old pro – which is exactly what I am now I guess. I’ve been playing games like this for nearly 30 years.
Christ alive. That’s a long time.
It plays wonderfully, looks gorgeous and even manages to have decent sound assets that tie the action together well. Of course, it’s not all perfect so let’s take a look at where the game falls a little short.
Actually I’ll list these, then if the devs want to fix them, here’s a simple job sheet.
- MAKE LESS GREEN. Lots of the enemies, collectibles and floor gubbins have green in them. I don’t know why green crops up so much but it does and there should be less. Seriously though, in a fast paced action game, the last thing you want is to confuse a goo blob for an apple whilst you’re in the midst of a swarm.
- TWEAK YOUR GENERATOR. In between some stages, you get to play a little Mario-esque side scrolling platforming bit, collecting coins and dodging hazards. These appear to be randomly generated – sometimes it appears they can be unbeatable, which is obviously irritating for the player. So, just give it a poke please.
This is a tricky review to write in the sense that what makes Iron Fisticle a great game is the feel of the thing. It has a ‘just-one-more-go’ vibe (aided by a degree of persistence in some of your character upgrades) that’s rare in video games full-stop. Each time you play, you feel like you can push that little bit further, either in progress or point score. I’ve found myself playing this over bigger titles simply because it offers instant gratification and a great experience. Time will tell how long this remains my go-to game for a quick 20-30 minute run out but with the possibility of forthcoming procedurally generated infinite dungeons to play in at a later date, this is going to be hanging around on my desktop for a while at least.
Every game of Iron Fisticle I’ve played, I’ve done so with a big smile on my face. Not too shabby a result for £6 worth of investment. It seems you can put a price on happiness. Who knew?
Iron Fisticle is available now for PC