Wednesday, April 10

Review: Way of the Passive Fist [Nintendo Switch eShop]

If there’s a classic genre I thought I knew very well, and had seen everything possible for, it would be the beat-em-up. Dating back to the classics and even some modern takes I’ve seen some variations on the core theme, but in general you’ve always been able to make some simple assumptions about the way they play. Enter Way of the Passive Fist and there’s firm proof that with some ingenuity and a willingness to take some risks playing with expectations there’s still room for new ground to cover. While it may disappoint people who just like to mash their way through a bunch of enemies, folks who would normally bemoan a lack of challenge and technique in the genre should be in for quite a surprise.

Essentially turning the genre on its head, in Passive Fist the key to success isn’t aggression, it’s being in tune with your enemies, blocking their attacks and then countering when when they’re either exhausted or you’ve juiced yourself up enough to knock them down hard. While at times that means the style of play feels like a completely different genre the classic character archetypes and element of fun is there, you’ll just really need to work for it. Boss fights, in particular, can be tough since you’ll absolutely need to build up a combo so you can throw a serious punch at them to wear them down. It’s all about knowing your enemies’ attack patterns, being quick to counter them, and showing patience.

While first and foremost the game’s general style may be divisive and a bit too technical for some tastes, I appreciate the developer sticking their neck out and trying something different. Along the way you’ll want to use everything possible to your advantage, whether that may be bombs or lasers being fired at you that you’re able to use against your enemies, to even some of the boss attacks that you can try to use to wear down their minions. Countering is something you’ll get a feel for but the timing and trying to manage multiple enemies on screen at a time can get intense so when there are opportunities to get in cheap shots you absolutely should take them.

Though the default difficulty settings are initially manageable as things wear on the lack of regular checkpoints can make things difficult. So when you start out and are able to tweak the difficulty sliders I’d strongly suggest giving yourself a break in one or two areas. Even toned down the game gets plenty tough. Especially with the boss fights, or even with some environmental attacks, your character can feel a bit sluggish, and that can lead to taking some cheap damage. You’ll learn to try to compensate but some things like your dodge animation simply take a while to run their course and your warning a blast is coming when you’re just starting to attack can leave you roughly screwed since you won’t have time to move. It’s small things that can chip away at your patience, things feeling just a bit too slow or unresponsive in places, but again that’s why I think adjusting the difficulty helps to compensate and keep things generally fair.

While I wouldn’t recommend the game to everyone due to its overall difficulty and what ends up being a fair amount of repetition ultimately for brawler fans seeking out a challenge it delivers something both tough and fresh. Learning every enemy attack, getting a feel for their timing, and being on top of anticipating their moves so you’re able to block, dodge, or get in a special attack can be very satisfying. If you’re up to taking a bit of a beating as you absorb the game’s nuances it can be a rewarding overall experience.

Score: 7.5

  • Absolutely a different variation on the classic beat-em-up
  • The ability to tweak the difficulty in multiple areas is smart and absolutely helps make the game more accessible, though in the end it’s still challenging regardless
  • Some added extra goodies once you complete the game

  • Many enemies end up being palette swaps with different attacks, detracting from the variety a bit
  • The overall style of play and challenge won’t be for everyone
  • Some scenarios leave your character feeling on the sluggish side