IMPRESSIONS: Way of the Passive Fist on Switch

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

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Although oprainfall has reviewed Way of the Passive Fist and its DLC before, it’s been a long time since I personally covered it. In fact, the last time I got to play it firsthand was at PAX West way back in 2017. I thoroughly enjoyed it then, and I’ve been eager ever since to play it on a Nintendo console. Well, now that it has made its way to the Nintendo Switch, I finally got my chance. The question is, was it worth the wait?

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First of all, the elements I remember thoroughly enjoying back at PAX West translate perfectly to the Nintendo Switch. The gameplay is tight, and the action is hectic and challenging. Thankfully, for the most part it’s also totally fair. In a weird yet wonderful way, Way of the Passive Fist is a lot like a mix between a beat-em up and a rhythm game. You don’t attack foes, you wear them down and then literally push them over. To do so, you learn their timing and deflect and dodge to the cadence of enemy attacks, until their meter is depleted. Some foes can’t have their energy depleted, and instead you’ll need to use super moves against them. You do this by charging your meter by deflecting so many attacks in a row, and then unleashing them with the push of a button. There are three tiers to the super attacks, and while it may be tempting to go to full power, a stray hit from a foe will reduce your charge to zero, so it’s worthwhile to be conservative with your moves.

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Enemies aren’t always content to attack you up close, so you’ll need to learn the enemy types as well. Some hurl daggers and explosives at you, but you can dodge those to hurl them right back in their faces for an easy KO. I like how the game keeps you on your toes by having color variants use different attack patterns. Normally clone characters in a game are a bummer, but they’re used intelligently here. Having said that, I do still wish there was a few more original enemy designs. In the main game’s 10 chapters, you’ll only encounter a dozen or so different enemy types. I don’t feel any were overwhelming or unfair, either. The only thing I really didn’t like during combat were the random hazards. Some stages you’ll see a colored line or square appear while you’re fighting. Eventually these will result in a laser running across the screen or an explosive blast hitting you, and I found they always interrupted my flow. You’ll even find rocks which randomly fall from the ceiling in one stage. I don’t mind hazards in theory, and sure you can dodge them, but in a game that encourages careful reaction to visual cues and perfect patience, it’s hard not to feel these hazards are unwelcome.

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Besides the basic combat, there are also a handful of challenging boss battles. These were a highlight of the game, and really brought back fond memories of playing arcade games back in the day. Each boss has lackeys they’ll summon to maul you, so your goal is to use the fodder to charge your meter while avoiding the boss’ sneaky attacks. I feel all the bosses were fair, even the frustrating Thornborne. Unlike the other bosses in the game, his attacks can’t be deflected and he has no visual cues to when his scorpion tail will lash out. It’s proximity based, and for a while I thought he was unbeatable. Then I figured out you’re supposed to use the flower monsters he summons to charge up your level two super attack, which does a shockwave on all foes on screen. Once I figured that out, he was actually somewhat of a pushover, at least during the main story mode (more on that later).

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Visually, the game is lush, beautiful and evocative of great games of the past. I really can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed the visual flair of the game, from the Wanderer’s fancy hair to the monsters, robots and degenerates you face in battle. I didn’t experience any slowdown in my time playing portably, which also is fantastic. Musically, the game is punchy, and kept my interest the whole time. That is partly due to the wonderful sound effects. Overall, the artistry of the game is a high selling point.

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Though the story mode is relatively short, only clocking in at a few hours for 10 chapters, I enjoyed the ride immensely. Especially since you’re always gaining experience and learning new tricks, such as an evasive dash move and your various super moves. At the default difficulty, the game was challenging but not frustrating, and I started to get really good at racking up insane combos. And after beating the final boss, it seemed there was a lot more story to tell. Which brings us to the New Dawn DLC.

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I had really high hopes for New Dawn. There’s a cool intro that intimates that the DLC will expand on the events that transpire after you beat the game, mostly contending with a devastating solar assault. Instead, the New Dawn is split into two story light modes – New Dawn mode and Passiverse. New Dawn has 5 new stages, 5 boss fights and variable difficulty. By contrast, Passiverse forces you to play at a very high difficulty with only 1 life, random stages and a few bosses.

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First, let’s cover New Dawn mode. While the stages may be new, the bosses are not. In fact, from what I saw, they are all upgraded forms of bosses from the main mode. Other returning bosses show up as mini-boss fights to keep you guessing. So far it sounds okay, but the other challenge is you get no checkpoints in this mode. And while I’m okay with upgraded boss fights in theory, they decided the first one should be a powered up Thornborne. While he’s not that hard in story mode, he’s seemed significantly harder here. He spawned foes faster and seemed to walk around at a more brisk clip. I can’t count the number of times I was countering a plant monster and then his scorpion tail whipped out of nowhere to kill me. I really thought I couldn’t beat him, though I did finally manage it. I even managed to get to the 3rd stage, but not any farther.

Way of the Passive Fist | DLC Passiverse Choice

As for Passiverse, it’s trying hard to be a rogue-like, but not quite succeeding. I’m all for randomized stages and upgrades, but when you’re also forced to play on the hardest difficulty, that ruins a lot of the fun. What really made it a chore was that anything other than a perfect block wouldn’t charge my super moves, which made things much, much harder than they needed to be. Suffice to say, I couldn’t beat one boss in this mode, and quickly lost any interest in trying again.

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Put together, the New Dawn DLC didn’t do much to capitalize on the things the main mode does right. Thankfully, on Switch it’s a package deal, so at least I didn’t have to pay extra for DLC I ended up soured by. Thankfully, the main mode of the game is still quite enjoyable. Overall, I rather enjoyed Way of the Passive Fist, and hope to see more from this unique game world. Household Games have shown passion and style, and I’m sure whatever they come up with next will be worth any gamer’s time.

Way of the Passive Fist | Praise the Sun

About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.