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REVIEW / Iron Fisticle (PC)

 

There has been a resurgence of late of old-school games such as Diablo, Space Invaders, Smash TV and Gauntlet. Continuing that trend is Curve Studios, with the release of their new take on the classic arcade shooter, Iron Fisticle. This fast-paced twin-stick shooter presents a fresh take on arena shooters by adding in elements of an RPG, allowing the player to level up their characters skill, abilities and attacks in order to become the ultimate bad-ass. Iron Fisticle is at times both retro throw-back and genre reinvention. It gives the player the freedom to choose multiple routes through the dungeons, brings back the bonus stage and throws more weapons, enemies and boss fights at the player than they can shake a stick at. In addition, the game offers multiplayer as it was designed to be, with simultaneous two player local co-op so you and a friend can slay enemies together. So, gear up fellow challengers and face the gauntlet that is Iron Fisticle.

 

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The game can spawn a lot of enemies at one time with no slowdown so watch your back.

 

Iron Fisticle is not just a game where you enter a dungeon and have waves and waves of enemies thrown at you…well, it kind of is, to be sure, but the kicker here is that all the while you are slaying these enemies, you are gaining EXP points and collecting gold that will level up your character, making him faster, stronger and with better tools to clear the dungeon levels. While the game is on PC, it is recommended that you use a controller for the best experience. In typical twin-stick shooter fashion, movement is handled with the left joystick while shooting is handled with the right joystick. Special attacks like your Iron Fisticle attack and your Dash attack are handled with the left and right bumper buttons respectively. The really cool aspect of this game is that dungeons are randomly generated so it keeps the gameplay fresh and offers a new experience every time you play.

The graphics in Iron Fisticle are done in a really cool retro arcade-styled, hand-drawn pixel art and is running at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second which offers a very fluid action experience. The character models are reminiscent of the types of designs that you would see in games back in the day and really helps to set the mood and feel of this adventure. The exquisitely designed dungeons are sometimes dimly lit and are only illuminated from the light that is cast off from the main character while others are lit by candle light or other ambient sources. The pixelated graphics is what sets this game apart and looks better than even the best art done in the best old-school arcade games. The whole feel of the graphics is what makes this game so visually interesting while helping to maintain its own identity.

 

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Bonus levels are side-scrolling affairs with coins to collect and dangers to avoid.

 

The awesome soundtrack in Iron Fisticle was a big surprise for me. I would put the soundtrack in this game in the same category as the soundtracks for games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Super Ghouls ‘N Ghosts without hesitation. The hauntingly excellent chip-tune melodies that play in the background while you are dispatching zombies, ghosts, bats and goblins sets the stage for the adventure at hand. Sometimes upbeat and heart-pounding and at other times haunting and morose, the musical accompaniment of the game is a perfect fit and made the dungeons that much more fun to clear. Oftentimes the musical score is overlooked in smaller indie titles but in this case, I think that the tunes chosen for this game were painstakingly crafted and very well done.

While Iron Fisticle was built to give a challenge, I couldn’t help but feel that the balance of gameplay difficulty was off somewhat. What I mean by this is that it took me having to level up to about level four before I could make it to the boss in the first dungeon area and defeat it. The problem is that it was just too difficult to progress past a certain point if your character isn’t leveled up enough. My character was just too slow and under-powered to do any real damage to the enemies until I leveled up and to do that I just had to keep playing the same level over and over until I was strong enough to make it to the boss and defeat him. Once I got to the next stage, it was the same thing all over again. Even though the dungeons are procedurally generated, it got to feeling very repetitive very quickly which may be a turn off to some players.

 

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The Iron Fisticle: “I HAVE THE POWEEEEERRRRR!!!!!”

 

It is clear that Iron Fisticle is built for two players yet the only way to play with two players is by local co-op because there is no online co-op feature available. That being the case, the only way to level up your character enough to be able to progress through the game is to grind…a lot. You can purchase upgrades with the gold that you find in the rooms but I found that the game just doesn’t drop enough gold to allow you to purchase the upgrades when you need them. Add that to the fact that you can only enter a store when you are in a dungeon and that it is totally possible to miss the store room altogether if you are not paying close enough attention to the map that appears on screen between rooms. Sometimes you may be in the next room over from the store room but if you haven’t approached it from the right direction then you don’t get an opportunity to use it.

While I found Iron Fisticle to be fun and challenging it just felt like I was handicapped, to an extent, when playing by myself. It is possible to play the game and to complete it on your own, but it would be a much more fun experience to do so with a partner. I would suggest that tackling this game with a second player is the way to go but if not then be prepared to play the levels repeatedly in order to make progress. This is a great game that takes you back to the old-school days of gaming but there needs to be some work done on the balancing in single player mode to make it feel like a more polished experience.

 

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