GAME NAME: Foul Play
PUBLISHER(S): Devolver Digital
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360, PC
GENRE(S): Fighting, Action
RELEASE DATE(S): September 18th, 2013
Meet Baron Dashforth, this stiff upper-lipped moustachioed fellow is all about being proper. He has a fine top hat and a mean fighting cane; his monocle firmly in place as he pummels enemies. His play regales a tale of his studies in Daemonology and seeking answers as to where his father disappeared to so many years ago. This is the very first time that Dashforth has ever spoken about his past or his studies, so the theatre is packed to capacity and everyone who is worth anything in town is here tonight; it’s a very special night for Dashforth indeed.
Welcome to a beautiful stage, get comfortable on it, the whole game is set right here. Foul Play, as you’ve probably determined, is a game about a play. This 2D, humorous side-scrolling online or local co-op brawler follows Dashforth and his trusty sidekick, Mr Scampwick’s, adventures. This adventurer spends a lot of time hunting down demons and exterminating them; ridding the world of their evil so to speak. The premise reminds me a lot of Gunslinger, minus the Kinect stuff and the marionette strings. Cleverly designed sets; extras in monster outfits, who clearly look like there is a human inside and get caught chatting or missing their lines and sneaking off stage when nobody is looking at their ‘dead’ bodies; and an audience watching your every move are indeed what makes this a “theatrical”.
As an actor, you have no health bar in Foul Play, but rather an audience meter, similar to what you would have in a Guitar Hero game. If you get hit by enemies or don’t do anything for a while, or your moves don’t result in massive combos, the crowd gets bored, and the curtain will fall to shield you from the audience’s ire. While this is a great concept to avoid a disconnect from the game’s theme, it means you are really tough to kill, thanks to being able to ‘regenerate health’ by pulling off a long combo or a crowd pleasing stunt. In fact, not once did I actually die, due to the horde of moves and tricks that Dashforth has. One of these is the showstopper bar, which is, again, similar to star power from Guitar Hero. Activating showstopper mode when the bar is full will make you glow in a light that fills the audience with awe. You are such a fine fellow that their mood increases at double the rate, giving you a nice healthy boost out of danger. Pulling off stunning piledrivers or human cannonball combos pleases the crowd even more so, while keeping you (hopefully) out of harm’s way.
The game is only 5 hours long, which is a blessing really. The combat is far too simplistic and the monsters too repetitive to make this button masher keep you interested for too long. By play 2, act 2, I was already just playing to see how long the game was and if the story was still worth following. The jolly fine fellows and their dialogue was wearing thin; the humour not given enough attention to stay the course. The first few appearances of the stage manager being caught behind schedule or out of place are comical, but eventually these appearances and the quips of the heroes become formulaic. The combat slowly devolves into a slog fest; the newer abilities you unlock adding some variation to your assault, but nothing so handy that you find using your new moves often is not worth it. The action also eventually becomes so busy that you spend less time seeing your character in the sea of enemies and more time looking for the telltale signs that an enemy is signalling intent to do grievous bodily harm to you.
The game has some replayability, as you attempt to get five stars in every act and try to complete the various challenges. It’s sad to see a game with so many interesting ideas and concepts get stuck on the hurdle of repetition created by a lack of imagination when it comes to monsters. I also know that thanks to its score, many will not even try this game, even though it’s worth your time if you enjoy the likes of Castle Crashers.
We’d like to thank PrepaidGamer.com for sponsoring the review copy of the game. Good on ya fellas.