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Iron Fisticle (PC) review

 
Iron Fisticle logo
Iron Fisticle logo
Iron Fisticle logo

 
At a Glance...
 

Formats: PC (reviewed)
 
Genre: ,
 
Year:
 
Publisher:
 
Developer:
 
Final Score
8.0
8/ 10


User Rating
no ratings yet

 

We liked?


  • At its heart, fun - with legacy play and some depth to maintain interest
  • Visually appealing - colourful sprites, and monsters splattering the arenas (but more comical than visceral)
  • Feels distinctively like its own game, albeit one joining a relatively small genre

Not so much?


  • Playable on keys but probably not worth trying without a decent modern controller
  • Occasional bugs; very occasional, but can tip the challenge from "unforgiving" to "aggravating"


Final Fiendish Findings?

Twin stick shooters are a simple and old gaming concept, but what Iron Fisticle has done is to take inspiration from many different sources and turn them into something distinct in the (admittedly small) genre.

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Posted September 15, 2014 by

 
Full Fiendish Findings...
 
 

Mix Gauntlet with Smash TV, add in a dash of Ghouls n Ghosts, and stir with a rogue-lite… Iron Fisticle is a game that offers tributes to a lot of classics.

The story is quickly set by an opening cutscene, with two knights sleeping on watch being accidentally kidnapped by a monster stealing the food they are guarding. But from here on in the fantasy-medieval side of things is more setting than essential.

You (and a friend – though multiplayer is local play only) get to face hordes of enemies, firing whatever you can lay your hands on into the crowds. This is twin-stick shooter territory, where you have an infinite supply of throwing axes, throwing them with the right stick while moving with the left.
Iron Fisticle screen
There was a moment of surprise on first playing that these could only be thrown in eight directions – even with an analogue pad it’s strictly digital aiming; however, after putting some time in this feels less significant than it initially seemed.

You also have access to the ubiquitous Iron Fisticle itself – a limited use special attack that destroys all monsters in a radius around you… discovering when to save its uses and just run, or fire it when swarmed is a good early lesson.

The waves of enemies are faced in individual non-scrolling arenas – clear enough creatures and more join the fight, keep clearing and a key will drop for the exit. While a majority of monsters will just bee-line for you, others can complicate matters – teleporting wizards, wall-hugging turrets, or bats flying at angles for examples.

The pressure is maintained not just by the limited space, but a timer too – when too much time has passed, near invulnerable golems start getting added to the arena and further pressing you to keep moving… Your aim is to reach the boss room, and hope you’re ready for something bigger.

With only three points of health, your initial runs will likely end in failure, either due to enemy attrition or on getting to the boss itself unprepared. However, the game has a degree of legacy play – achieving certain (cumulative session) score goals will unlock extra goodies; most usually new random weapon pickups which last a certain time. Shops also sell stat bonuses, if you’ve collected enough coins – they may not help you in that game, but instead mean you can start the next game with an extra edge.
Iron Fisticle screen
Some exits are colour coded – you leave via a yellow one to access the shop before the next stage. But if you need some coins, a green exit may be your best bet, leading to a bonus stage. This is a slightly surreal – and ruthlessly unforgiving – platformer, jumping across spikes and lava, collecting coins and occasional hearts… The first damage you take ends the level without any other penalty, hopefully a little richer than before.

It’s a minigame within a small game – something that would likely never stand as a game on its own but as a side mission played in quick bursts it doesn’t have a chance to outstay its welcome.

The desire to make a new-old game with Iron Fisticle is clear – from the digital controls to the various inspirations making the game up. It even goes as far as having optional scanlines on the screen, something to take you back to those arcade cabinets of the 80s. It is a game wearing nostalgia on its sleeve.

But is it fun? Well… yes. Watching the arena progressively splatter green as you blast through hordes of zombies, or evading those golems as the timer tries to punish you is very satisfying. The game is not difficult, although it is unforgiving – it’s a game where you’ll be trying to find your flow, and losing that will likely be the start of a slippery slope back to the main menu.

On face value the game is an extremely basic idea – and it is. But it does also reward a basic learning curve – how to control the crowds, which skills to upgrade for the next run to begin with – which make progressing from game to game satisfying.
Iron Fisticle screen
It’s not a perfect game – there are some simple bugs, and not the kind to shoot, although these are mercifully rare. Also, if you don’t have a modern joypad you might want to pause before proceeding – the game can be played via keys (and with two players – good luck with that), but conceptually it is built around having a moving stick and a shooting stick; your level of pleasure it likely to be defined by the controller you use.

Might it be perhaps too simple? Twin stick shooters have never really held the popularity that genre classic Smash TV managed two decades ago, so it may be something of an acquired taste. But if you think that taste might please your palate then you will likely find Iron Fisticle to be a surprisingly rich in flavour.

In conclusion

Twin stick shooters are a simple and old gaming concept, albeit one that has never exploded as a mainstream thing. But what Iron Fisticle has done is to take inspiration from many different sources and turn them into something distinct in the (admittedly small) genre.

And for the record, the name “Iron Fisticle” is still either genius or lunacy, but definitely nothing in-between.

Iron Fisticle is released tomorrow, September 16th, on Steam, Green Man Gaming and the Humble Store.


Peter

 
Peter can be described as an old, hairy gamer, a survivor of the console wars of the 1990s, and a part-time MMO addict. He has an especial fondness for retro gaming and observing the progressions in long running gaming series. When scandalously not caught gaming, he can also be found reading comics and fantasy fiction, or practising terrible photography.