Thunderbolt logo

Eurogamer Expo: Fist of Awesome hands-on

Eurogamer Expo 2013

Checked shirts, beards and the ‘90s. That’s the set up for I Fight Bears’ latest videogame project. Tim Burr is the leading man of the hour in Fist of Awesome. Following a dimensional time warp event with no interest in exposition, he’s now involuntarily out to save humanity from hordes of homicidal wild animals who rule the land in this alternate history. Tim’s not alone though. The warp has transformed his fist into the Fist of Awesome, a talking entity that can take control of his body.

eg13fistofawesome2

“Homicidal wild animals who rule the land”An inspiration blender of ‘90s scrolling beat ‘em ups in a modern pixel aesthetic is the blueprint here. Tim slowly made his way way through two stages in the hands-on preview. Opening up in a forest beside his now burning home, the Fist of Awesome takes him through the woods and towards the city, punching, kicking, and grappling walking bears along the way.

The music score by Brendan Ratliff that came blasting through the headphones was greatly indicative of compositions and tunes from the earlier Commodore 64 and Amiga days. The bleeping SID chip dedications were a matching course for the pixel aesthetic, casting it closer to the pre-16-bit era in visuals and sound.

The sound effects of attacking often sounded like they were coming from Tim himself as he was attacking, especially when leaping and jumping. The war cry as Tim jumped was too high in the audio mix and was jarring, unbalancing and undermining the neat overall compositions.

eg13fistofawesome1

“Bleeping SID chip”Nicoll Hunt, founder of independent studio I Fight Bears, explained how he wanted Fist to play how he remembered old 16-bit beat ’em ups and not how they played upon revisiting them. He found that memories of those older videogames were more often than not better than going to back to them now. Not all of the classic brawlers have matured well with age. One core principle this train of thought led to was a control scheme that avoids the usual flaws of transposing standard controller inputs onto a touchscreen.

The left thumb moves Tim around the screen while the right thumb is used for actions. Through gesture control you don’t need to worry about pressing the right area of the screen. Tapping punches, a swipe kicks in that direction, down stops and up jumps. It’s atypical, fluid and avoids cumbersome A and B buttons on the touchscreen. A welcome change.

Grappling was a little awkward at first as I misunderstood the tutorial for this move. Trial and error proved it was only possible via a kick first which was counter to my knowledge of the genre. Not a bad thing, and the rest of the control scheme worked as intended. Not once was I distracted by having to check where controls were. It was intuitive to both me as a user and the platform.

As we got talking about design a shared love of Superbrothers and Capybara Games’ Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP came to light. The way in which they were able to convey so much by adopting and crafting a minimalist design that encouraged ones imagination was adored. The deer antler design in Fist was a loving nod to their work.

The word art was used and I agreed; more is not automatically better. Subtle, intelligent design can be equal to if not stronger. The rush for bigger & better has missed much in the power of videogame design that is now being rediscovered and unearthed through a grassroots school of thought.

eg13fistofawesome2

The completed project will include eleven stages and an Arena mode where unlocked characters can be pitted against one another. A PC version is planned and Nicholl is in encouraging talks for console ports. He hopes to include local co-op options on these platforms though this all depends on how well this inclusion would function with the foundations already laid. As old school scrolling beat ’em ups were always better with a friend this would be a fine addition.

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

Gentle persuasion

Think you can do better? Write for us.