As I download Fist of Awesome for PC through Steam I am reminded of that happy moment I met up with Nicoll Hunt at Eurogamer in 2013.
“Are you Nicole Hunt” I asked. He looked at me with his fantastic beard and said “No.”
“Oh” I replied. “I’m Nickel Hunt” He said.
Skipping over and ignoring my own mistake as if it never happened, then stroking my own, then-magnificent-since-shaved-off, beard; I asked him if I could play his new game on the iPad called “Fist of Awesome” and he agreed. Nicoll let me don some headphones, and I plugged myself into his game.
Oh, ok, it didn’t really happen like that, I didn’t get his name wrong, not exactly anyway. When I interviewed him a while back on a podcast, he told me up-front that everyone got his name wrong for some reason. What did really happen at Eurogamer was that we congratulated each other on our wonderful beards and talked about how we managed them. Why am I telling you this? Because Nicoll needs…no…deserves your attention. A talented developer, creator of the imaginary and in reality a truly fabulous beard cultivator. His no-nonsense beard growing is really something else to behold and I just hope that after all the mentions I’ve given his beard that Nicoll still wears his furry food store with pride. I’m sad to say my chin has since been set free of fur, but winter is coming.
Fist of Awesome is a game where you play a lumberjack called Tim Burr. Yes, you read it right. A time travelling travesty occurs and Lumberjack Burr ends up in a beartopian(sic) future, complete with a talking fist that just so happens to a little bit feisty and a lot of awesome.
I’ve played beat-em-ups in this style for years. Final Fight, Streets of Rage and of course Double Dragon and all their iterations since. I see a simplicity in the design of Fist of Awesome that makes me fall in love with it and the story, as silly as it is, makes me want to play on.
Graphically, you won’t immediately find Fist of Awesome on PC high on your photo-realistic games release list of 2014. It harks back to the 16-bit – maybe even a little 8-bit – beat-em-ups of old. The point of the Fist of Awesome, without a doubt, is its vein of humour. While it is perhaps a little bare – um bear, errr raw – every slightly funny reference you could think of relating to bears has made it in. The number of bear jokes, knowing nods to other games, film and media and its self perpetuating in-jokes to other developers, are all well managed and presented.
As a beat-em-up it features the attacks you would expect: kicks, punches, stomps, special attacks and jumps. On the iPad version particularly, I was impressed with the intuitive controls and having played the likes of Double Dragon and Streets of Rage 2 on the iPad, where the controls try and mimic a joypad on the touch screen, Fist of Awesome was a breath of fresh air and got the touch control mechanism just right. That said, i’m happy to see that Fist of Awesome feels very at home on the PC keyboard, and is like it was meant to be. Not only can you play it on a keyboard, but thanks to amazing feats of modern technical prowess, you can also play Fist of Awesome on a joypad or controller and I’m happy to say that really turns the game into something even more special.
There are many things that make me smile about Fist of Awesome and whether it’s the graphics, the jokes, the enemies that are thrown at you or the story, it is the sound that really takes the biscuit. When making animated movies, the film-makers use place-marker sound effects and simple voice over work so that they know what they are working towards. Nicoll uses his own voice to produce all, I think, of the sound effects that you hear. It’s a marvel and gives Fist of Awesome a really original and organic feeling as you punch a deer’s lights out and stomp a bear’s head in.The music instantly reminds me of Double Dragon so I’m transported back to my youth, but this is way cooler than just me reminiscing.
At the end of each stage you can upgrade Tim Burr’s attributes, whether you want to focus on his power, speed, health or special power. This adds an element of strategy to the game and allows you to tailor to how you like to play.
Boss characters are similar to each other and you can defeat them in much the same way each time. The type of minion and the number that fights alongside the Boss are the main changing factors. Sadly I think there’s a missed trick here, as the boss characters really could and should have a little more variety. The trick to defeating each Boss is working out how to fight off and avoid the incessant wave of minions, while focusing on reducing the Boss’s health. Once the Boss’s health is depleted, all the minions die as well. Handy.
While there are many different types of enemy to fight against, they all appear susceptible to the same attack and this just so happens to be punch. The main way the enemy beats you is by mobbing you from all sides, so you need to make sure to keep Tim moving around. Admittedly, this can get a little repetitive, but one has to consider this is a beat-em-up of the old school variety and Fist of Awesome’s purpose is to entertain your funny bone.
There is an “Arena” mode that gives you the opportunity to play as other characters and also provides the opportunity for challenge gameplay to be brought in. You are pitted against enemies and the challenge is to successfully attack foes in particular ways a set number of times within a time limit to win. This does give Fist of Awesome an additional level of replay value and it allows you to compete o on one of the many backdrops featured in the main game. But there are special backgrounds too, such as a Christmas one which is my absolute favourite due to the red-nosed-reindeer alone.
Areas for Improvement
- Gameplay could be spiced-up by adding climbing elements, bringing opportunity for discovery
- Round out the gameplay by making enemies susceptible to different attacks rather than punch
- End of level Boss characters are a little too similar to each other
- Two player mode (local at least)
- Skipping the story elements entirely could be an option if you’ve played before (picky)
Fist of Awesome for PC does everything that its cousin did on the iPad and potentially improves upon it by allowing you to play on a physical keyboard. I’d love to see a co-op player mode so I can share the fun with a friend. On one hand, FOA has heaps of variety with the different characters you meet and its naughty sense of humour. On the other hand, it is overshadowed by a lack of gameplay variety where you could just attack everything in the same way to proceed through the otherwise colourful and imaginative story.
The scenarios you guide Tim Burr through are varied, as are the backgrounds and set pieces that support them. The variety here helps to break up the repetitive elements.
Highly amusing and well presented, Fist of Awesome will give you a good time, but perhaps lacks the challenge other beat-em-ups might offer. Enjoyable and fun are two characteristics it has in spades, so if you are after deadly-serious hardened fighting action, go play Mortal Kumquat(sic) or Street Lighter(…also sic). I personally want to enjoy the limited time I have to play games and Fist of Awesome feels crafted for that purpose.
I pondered the technical components of Fist of Awesome for a while and considered what do we really mean by “Graphic Quality” and I decided that it means “are the graphics fit for purpose?” They are fit and they are amusing. Keeping the somewhere-in-between-8-to-16bit-graphics aside, technically Fist of Awesome is well polished for a game of this genre. I’ve not spotted any bugs during my time with it and don’t expect to see any on my continued travels in its universe either.
Technical Competency – 8/10
Graphic Quality – 8/10
Sound Quality – 8/10
Network Stability – N/A
Overall – 8/10