Baron Dashforth, gentleman daemonologist, has had many adventures and is widely renowned for his work. But for those of you who aren’t familiar with him, Dashforth and his sidekick Scampwick will educate you on his work through a stage-performance that involves kicking a lot of butt.
Foul Play is a 2-player co-op side-scrolling beat ’em up brawler that was released September 18 for PC and XBLA. You and a friend can play through the theatrical performance of Dashforth’s adventures that must win over your audience or face the closing of the curtain. There are 22 stages for you to fight through, with the story highlighted along the way. The use of a stage performance setting is an excellent idea, and serves gameplay and narrative well. Dashforth tells a compelling tale of his adventures, and you can count on performances from your enemies, too. I loved seeing the stage peeling away to reveal the next area and watching stage hands manipulate rigs in order to make birds move around in the sky or to move objects around the stage.
Because this is a theatrical performance, there is no health bar for Dashforth and Scampwick. Instead, there is an audience mood rating that must be kept above a certain level in order to continue the performance. This is achieved by streaming combos and defeating enemies, which amps up the audience and keeps your game alive. This meter also dictates your overall performance in each stage, which if you are an achievement fiend (or perfectionist), this is how you will pull off some of the more difficult achievements to accomplish. Take a hit from an enemy? Take a hit to mood rating. There were more than a few times that when overwhelmed with enemies and taking a few punches, the rating plummeted, and frustratingly so. Let’s just say this audience is hard to impress, and you basically have to be untouchable in your brawls, something that is pretty hard to accomplish. But when they cheer, they go nuts, and the fight becomes much more exhilarating.
That being said, enemies aren’t too difficult, even the bosses. Button mashing can get you through this entire game, but your rating and experience will be pretty mediocre. The boss moves are a bit limited as well, and some can take a lot of damage before falling, making things a bit tedious. But Foul Play isn’t trying to be a Ninja Gaiden type, where you live and die by mastering insane button combos to take out incredibly difficult enemies. Foul Play is a fun romp that anyone can pick up and be pretty good at, making this a great game to co-op in. Once you unlock those special moves though, things get a lot more interesting when you have a few more tricks in your arsenal to dispose of baddies.
Like I said before, there are achievements and challenges to each stage. You can finish the stage to just get to the next one, or you can try and accomplish all the challenges each stage presents. This is what makes the game very replayable, in my opinion, as these can be both fun and challenging to attain. It will take a good sense of controls and moves for you to string together mighty combos to complete these challenges.
For those of you looking to pick this game up on PC (which is the version that I reviewed), I highly suggest using an Xbox 360 controller, especially if playing with a friend. The keyboard controls aren’t the most forgiving, especially if two people are playing.
All in all, Foul Play is a great looking brawler that excels in excellent visuals and narrative. The game isn’t too long, but that’s a good thing, and you will find yourself wanting to replay levels to complete some of those hard to achieve challenges. Also, you don’t have to be an expert to play this game, just good enough to push a few buttons.
Final Verdict: 8/10