Games like: Smash T.V., Robotron
Time played: 1.5 hours
There’s a fun sidestep in the genre of run-and-guns. A simplistic idea of moving into a single room, completing the objective which typically ends up just killing everything that moves and then proceed on to the next room. The arcades where the first to feature this type of fast pace action usually allowing up to two or three players fighting together at once. These games are fast paced yet strenuous to make it to the end. Curve Digital’s Iron Fisticle fits the bill to a tee in this addictive shooter.
Iron Fisticle is a twin shooter that moves you room to room after defeating all of the enemies on screen. Picking up the room’s key, you’ll typically have your choice as to which exit to take. Taking an exit will put you on a different path which could lead to an easier or harder way through the floor. You will not be able to visit every room on a single floor so having a good idea of which rooms you’d like to go to so you can ramp up your fighter as much as possible before fighting the end boss. Each floor is setup on the fly using a randomized level designer to give each play through a new experience. Sometimes you start at the top of the map, somethings at the bottom. You’ll never known what you’re getting yourself into until the fighting starts to unfold.
It’s a twin stick shooter, controller required. Yes, you can use the keyboard and mouse, but Iron Fisticle oozes Smash T.V. esthetics and feels like a perfect stand up cabinet; two joysticks per player. The left stick is used to control your player while the right is set for using your weapon. Although you can move in all directions, your weapon only fires in eight. This can prove as difficult if you are fighting off an onslaught of enemies. Dodging and weaving through the piles, trying to collect all the dropped food and upgrades, Iron Fisticle does an excellent job of keeping the right constraints on controls to keep with those arcade hits but still feels like you have a chance to make it.
For the short bit of cut scenes at the start of the game, it appears that something or someone has stolen all of your food and it’s up to you (and a companion) to fight back against the forces of evil and get your food back. I have no idea. That’s about as good as I can come up with. Anyway, story doesn’t mean anything does it? It’s all about the killing and the majority of those enemies are “Frankenstein’s Monster-like” creatures. Complete with bolts in the neck and everything. Then you have your common bugs that scurry about dropping eggs and hatching more bugs. Your main objective is to kill all of the baddies in a time frame. One of which I never saw counting down but you do have the Bomberman style “Hurry Up!” when it’s getting down to crunch time. If you stick around too long, some ultra strong sentinels appear. Keep your wits about you. These guys appear from the sky in groups.
At the end of each floor, you’ll face a boss battle that is indicated by an eyeball on the map. Making your way there, again, you need to be leveled up enough to take on the fight. These bosses are no jokes. You’ll be presented with a long health bar to tackle and little time to figure out what the situation is. Much like games of this type, it’s about figuring out the patterns. If you fail, it’s game over and you’ll have to start over from the beginning.
You start with so many hit points with the ability to pick up more and increase the total, but only one life. Getting hit too many times will result in a game over pushing you back to the main menu. This is where the challenge comes in. It’s incredibly tough. Your starting weapon moves extremely slowly, you move even more slowly, and there’s a ton of enemies that are out to get you. If you die, you’ll be able to restart whatever floor you died on. For instance, if you happened to make it to the second floor, you can start your new game on that floor. The issue with this is you start with your beginning stats which isn’t much of anything. So you’ll have a tougher time making it through starting on a higher level than you would normally. I pushed hard to make it as far as I can, but it became evident quickly that if I wanted to stand a chance in Iron Fisticle, I had to start at floor one.
You want collectibles? There’s more here than you can shake a stick at. Your main pickup is food: cakes, steaks, pies, and even golden poop. All of these add to your final score which will be tallied at the end of your game against a global high score ranker. You also have stat increases for movement, weapon power, and armor. The weapon pick ups are temporary either by time or the amount that you use them. Picking these up will save your life. Since your main weapon is so slow and labored, these new weapons, even though temporary, have the ability to clear out a room quickly. At the end of the day, you’ll going for longevity and high score. The longer you can last, the higher your score will be.
Moving from room to room gives you a chance at purchasing upgrades at the store as well. Along with all of the glorious food, armor and weapon upgrades there are also coins you can collect of multiple domination. You can purchase these same upgrades or health you randomly pick up in the dungeon. But since these are random drops this will give you a chance to really hone in on your stats. There’s even an interesting mini game to play to collect more coins. It’s a side scrolling runner of sorts that has you jumping over spiked filled pits and pools of lava while grabbing coins. I’m not too sure where the developer was trying to go with this aspect of the game but I had fun playing it. Even if the jumps feel a bit stiff.
The music takes a backseat. It’s not bad but there’s nothing special to take you out of the action that’s happening on screen. There’s points in the music that actually seem to sync up with you throwing your slow moving axe. The sound effects even take a farther back seat. The volume is extremely low and most of the time you don’t know if you are hearing something or just imagining it.
Iron Fisticle takes the reigns of those classic arcade shooters with all of the fun and excitement you’d come to expect. I was only able to make it to the second floor boss and didn’t last that long in the fight. But it’s a fun and challenging game that bears quite an audience for these types of games. I’m not crazy about the name though. Sure I get the joke and frankly I have issues with about 90 per cent of game titles, but this one is just a tongue in cheek kind of joke. We get it. It’s funny in an elementary sort of way. Just not my cup of tea. Damn, I’m getting old.
Iron Fisticle is a top down, room by room twin stick shooter that pits you against a growing army of undead, bugs, and giant eyeballs to keep your feet running and your thumbs moving. Sprinkle in some rogue-like level design, RPG stats and upgrades and you have yourself (and a friend) a kill or be killed romp. A throwback to the days of Smash T.V. and Robotron, Iron Fisticle creates an interesting fantasy setting with the main objective of getting back your stolen food. Because, you know, people have to eat.