By William Haderlie / March 19th, 2018
|Title||Way of the Passive Fist|
|Release Date||March 6th, 2018|
|Age Rating||ESRB T for Teen|
Having really enjoyed the first three stages of the Story Mode when I did an early Impression of The Way of the Passive Fist, the only real question that remained was whether the indie developer Household Games could stick the landing. For this review I won’t repeat anything that I already stated in the Impression piece, however I will go over any mechanics that changed later, the new modes that were unlocked after beating the Story Mode, and if my overall opinion of the game changed once I played the full release. I didn’t have any complaints about the preview version though, and I can spoil right away that I also didn’t have any for the full release. This is solid indie game development all around.
10 stages of a brawler style game is actually pretty hefty, genre wise. One potential issue for the game might have cropped up if they kept the story and visual aesthetic the same throughout every stage. I like Mad Max and The Fist of the North Star a lot, but even for me that vibe would have worn a little thin if every stage was a wasteland. Thankfully the last half of the game really changes up the setting quite a bit, and along with that aesthetic change comes a few interesting twists in the story. Granted, as a tribute to brawlers of the past, the story isn’t entirely fleshed out. But that is also part of its charm. The between chapter scenes are delightfully pulled out of the late 80’s and early 90’s, and I never felt the desire to skip past them.
Thankfully the new settings also brought along with them many new enemies. Some, like the grappler above, are like more powerful versions of their previous iterations. And others are completely new and feature drastically different move sets that you have to learn the new timing on. The bar above each creatures’ head still gives you all the information that you need on whether a move needs to be parried or dodged, but those decisions are so split second (on standard difficulty) that you will still need to learn their patters for maximum success. Much like Final Fight, and the many other brawlers of its era, you will still need to remember how to fight the old enemies because they will also frequently appear in the later stages.
The bosses in this game remained a highlight, just like in the preview. I was a little worried that they would always feature the mechanic of having a large number of minions that you would build up your combo totals on and then unleash your special attack, but that turned out not to be the case. However, the one later boss that did feature that mechanic was Thornborne and he was a lot tougher than the first two bosses. In fact, a minor quibble is that even though he was the 2nd to the last boss, he was by far the most difficult fight for me. Granted, he would have been a lot easier if I would have changed the difficulty even slightly (particularly the slider that allows you to keep your combo rate after being hit). There is the fairly standard boss rush mode in the game’s second to the last level (fairly common back in the era of brawlers), but the game developers wisely kept Thornborne out of it. Fighting all the other bosses again was difficult enough without adding the salty old plant-man at the end of them.
With the preview of the game I was only able to earn Level 3, because there is a certain maximum experience that you can earn. You can’t really go back to stages and grind up XP to level other than making up any experience that you missed by getting medals under the rank of Gold. That being said, if you only rarely get Gold medals, you should be able to reach the maximum level of 5 before the end of the game. I reached maximum level early in Chapter 8 (out of a total of 10), and Chapter 9 is by far the longest one in the game with the most potential XP. Level 4 gave me the standard health increase that the even levels do and the ability that I gained at maximum level, Gravity Well, was truly worth it to have (even if the combo build requirements are rather steep).
Along with the new enemies that greeted you with each new location the music also changed pretty drastically as well. You would hope that with such drastic changes in aesthetic that the style of music would change, but that isn’t always the case with indie developers who don’t have a lot of money to bring in outside composers. Thankfully they were able to achieve that with this game, and it is better for that. While still remaining an effectively 16 bit chip-tune style soundtrack, it remained constantly enjoyable and always changed to fit the tone of the particular chapter and the boss that you are fighting. As I said in the Impression piece, the artwork in the game is very nice and it remained solid throughout. Much like the music, it just changed to fit the new aesthetic of each stage. The characters are a bit too large to have worked on an SNES, but this would have stood out even in arcades of the mid-1990’s as having gorgeous character designs.
After you beat the Story Mode, you unlock the first Arcade mode. The first Arcade mode is called 10cc Mode (similar to Mario Kart) and requires you to play through the entire game with a total of 29 lives. That’s a pretty easy ask on a normal difficulty for anyone who is good at video games with twitch reflexes (I did not spend even close to that many lives on Story Mode). That being said, as I discussed in my Impression piece, the many different difficulty sliders mean that you can customize your difficulty in many ways if it’s too easy for you. Once you beat the 10cc Mode, you unlock the 1cc Mode, and as you can imagine it is much more difficult. Every mode in this game, including Story Mode, features a global Leaderboard so the lasting appeal will always be there of seeing your name on the global boards. I’m not going to lie, I’m not very competitive but seeing my name pop up in the top 20 was still a distinct thrill and made me want to see how high I could get.
If there was one thing that could be said to be missing in the overall experience of this game it would be the complete lack of multiplayer. As someone that is virtually allergic to playing with other human beings, that is very much not a problem. But for many people who grew up in my era, their most fond experiences were of playing brawlers with a friend. In fact, some brawlers like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle games, featured as many as 4 players at once. So a complete lack of multiplayer, either online or local, may seem like a missing part to those people. However, the developers were not trying to make that game so I hesitate to penalize them for it in the score. Besides, that would be really tough to balance with their extremely fine tuned difficulty system. What there is in the game is more than enough and even if it will only take a couple hours to beat all 10 Chapters of the Story Mode, there is more than enough reason to keep coming back to assault those Leaderboards or just for the fun of the experience. The moment to moment gameplay and the overall package more than justify the $14.99 price. In fact, I would have paid double for this game and still would be happy with it. So I cannot recommend this game enough, especially if (like me) you miss those classic brawlers of the past.
Review Copy Provided By The Developer
brawlerHousehold GamesPCpost apocalypticsidescrollingSteamWay of the Passive Fist