Category Archives: Fighter

REVIEW: Uproar!

Maybe it’s an annual thing, maybe it’s a reverse form of one-upmanship, the race to be terrible, the game that resets the year’s advances to its lowest point— a title that becomes an indie catchphrase for the worst fate you can think of. 2011 had Goolin, 2012 was all TrickyTreat, and now 2013 currently has Uproar! (240 MSP). Nothing beats TrickyTreatbut let me spare you the suspense; Uproar! is worse than Goolin. At least Goolin had bizarre on its side. Uproar! should really end with a interrobang, as the exclamation itself doesn’t do it justice, nor does it ask the important question. Why?

Why, in a time when so many great games exist on every platform, when a dollar can buy you hours of entertainment, do we continue to see half-realized (a kinder word for it, half-assed is what it really is), completely irresponsible releases like Uproar!? And that’s not meant to be an interrobang, but a legitimate interrogative.

Uproar! - Screen

A 2D beat ‘em up with 3D assets and environments, the game masquerades as some kind of poor Double Dragon / Final Fight homage, with thugs conveniently waiting in line to be throttled by our Hero Pugilist, working without a backstory or motivational event to explain why he’s punching and kicking the expressionless crud out of every white person with a shaved head that crosses his path. City in Chaos! screams the box art. Really? I saw one car on fire through four levels of urban / rural blandness. If that’s the definition of chaos, then what’s considered Armageddon? Two cars on fire?

Uproar! is a laundry list of troubles. Despite all of the action taking place on asphalt, the character moves like he’s been dipped in molasses and slides to a stop as if he’s on ice. The controls are equally questionable, with button inputs that only work some of the time (try alternating punches and kicks; it’s like the game has to invent the animation on the spot). To make matters worse, our protagonist seems to suffer from a recurring phantom pain, taking invisible hits outside of combat that drain his health. No idea what’s happening there.

The odd behavior continues with the enemies as they wander into frame, blocking the view and punching the air randomly around you, practicing for their death animation or just hoping to create a tear in the space-time continuum so Elizabeth (BioShock Infinite reference) can pluck them from their current reality and re-seat them in a world where Uproar! never existed. My money’s on the latter.

Uproar! - Screen2

Difficulty, too, is nonexistent. You’re never in any serious danger so long as you button-mash, which can interrupt most enemy attacks. A few basic combos will help, and utilizing a dropped weapon is basically a license to win, though beware; the cherry on top of my time with the game was encountering a Code 4 during the last level’s boss fight, while carrying a hammer. Granted, it only takes about twenty minutes to reach that climactic battle, but I refuse to pummel my way back to that point to see how it ends. I know too well the in-between, and that’s bad enough to have committed to memory.

The only uproar that Uproar! is likely to cause is a riot among wallets at having been swindled out of three dollars, and the shame that very public knowledge will bring when forced to admit it. And ‘swindled’ is indeed the operating word here, as you are receiving nothing in return.

REVIEW: Battle High 2

The original Battle High (subtitled Elemental Revolt or San Bruno, still the same fighter, more or less) was a bit of an enigma during its release in the 2011 Uprising, garnering some praise, as it should have, but slightly more criticism (FYI, I enjoyed it). Looking to settle that argument completely one way or the other, the whole San Bruno crew has assembled once again for Battle High 2 (80 MSP), along with a handful of newcomers.

There are some people that will tell you stories in fighting games are as superfluous as plots in porn films, but I’ve always appreciated it (in games, not the porn). With Battle High 2 the narrative continues, and it remains a hybrid of X-Men / Street Fighter, with a school of elementally-gifted students forced to gather after a series of odd occurrences and the sudden disappearance of their peers’ powers. A new principal has taken over. Of course these events are connected. Again, it’s either your thing or not, yet it does give credence to the fighters’ motivations. Each of them has their own rivals / allies, a personal mini-plot woven into the main conflict, well-acted voice quips, and a comic-style ending sequence after climbing the Arcade ladder.

Fighting games live and die by their handling, though, and I found the controls in the sequel to be responsive (something the original periodically dropped the ball on). Most of my inputs registered without problem. You have the standard move assortment of light / heavy punches and kicks, elemental-specific specials, a throw, and an overdrive counter that gives your attacks added weight and / or speed. Each fighter also has a Super attack, used from the same meter, that typically launches into a multi-hit combo or move that does severe damage. Some of these take more controller work or require exact placement in order to hit, but when used at the right moment, it can turn a fight in your favor.

Which is welcome in expediting battles, as the game’s AI can be laughably easy or mildly irritating, depending on the difficulty slider and your chosen fighter. It’s not overly hard to win in Battle High, and odds are you’ll find that raising the difficulty to its max is closer to Normal in other games. In addition to Arcade and Versus, there are the returning modes— an extensive list of Challenges to complete for everyone, Extracurriculars (think smashing / beating automobiles and gym equipment), and the Journal, which categorizes the fighters’ bios / endings and plays host to a long list of achievements that won’t earn you anything but self-satisfaction. Still, if you want to put in the time and effort, Battle High 2 has plenty to offer.

Battle High 2 - Screen

Exactly how I won a lot of my rounds.

There are a few negatives here. As much as I enjoyed most of the new fighters and old favorites, the cast as a whole still lacks a cohesive balance. You’ll find some the characters are overpowered, and it’s easy to hang back and spam ranged attacks all day (the developers are aware; there’s even journal / achievement unlocks for doing this), pushing opponents into corners with little room for an out. It’s also limited in its reach, ultimately, since the only matches you’ll be able to partake in with other humans will be local. Online play can be tricky in getting it to work right, but it should be an automatic inclusion with fighters. This time it gets a pass based solely on its platform of choice and the service’s jury-rigged compromises. Consider it ‘forced-Old School’ in that regard.

I’m hardly a disciple / historian of the genre, but I do know solid execution and construction when I see it. Excellent animation, art, and music abound. Battle High 2 is fun, and features a surprising amount of depth and playability for any XBLIG, let alone a pugilistic one. It won’t replace any of the punch-happy AAA franchises just yet (nor is it right to compare them), but it’s an excellent companion title to something like the original Street Fighter, and leagues-ahead of anything else like it on XBLIG. Highly recommended if you love a fight.

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Review on Indie Gamer Chick

REVIEW: Steel Champions

Boxing has never caught on with me. Don’t get it wrong, I love wanton and gratuitous violence as much as the next man (I am American, after all), but I can’t stand to watch it as a sport or entertainment (the Rocky movies, maybe, for my Stallone impression, but Hugh Jackman didn’t help matters). And with Steel Champions (80 MSP) positioning itself as an extremely-lite (and formerly Windows Phone) version of robotic fisticuffs, I knew it was destined for trouble.

Steel Champions - Screen2

The first fight is Glass Joe-easy; Domo arigato, Mr. Cyboto.

The screenshots here may not be representative, but Steel Champions is essentially Punch Out!! with robots. Regrettably, any favorable comparison ends with that statement. Before each fight, you can bone up on your next opponent, recycle through the same canned phrases uttered by your engineer and manager (I’m a robot named MAX, I seem more human than machine, play our free Windows Phone RPG, yada yada yada), or do a quick training regimen on the punching bag (preferred). Matching the punch commands will enable you to start off the next fight with a full (or near-full) special meter.

Once you’re in the ring, your moveset is basic; the ability to block or dodge incoming attacks, a pair of high and regular punches (left and right, natch), and a meter which fills up during the fight by landing hits, allowing you to throw the aforementioned ‘super punch’, if you will, that does more damage than a standard hit. Outside of that minimal ‘strategy’, most will probably spam attacks and / or blocks until victory, which should come early and often (my only loss occurred while I bought the game, after the demo expired mid-match).

Steel Champions - Screen

Sadly, your punching bag has more dialogue (and personality) than any of the fighters you’ll face.

For a game that idolizes Punch-Out!!, or at the very least seems aware of it, it doesn’t think to bring any of that game’s unique moves or personality over to its own. It’s simply a series of lifeless fights (totaling 14, if you last that long), some of them reheated rematches, spread across three championship leagues.

What you’re left with is a ‘game’ stripped of almost all interactivity, a button-masher that can be bested in under 45 minutes, meeting very little in the way of resistance and nothing resembling a story or a resolution once the punching is done. Ergo, your toughest opponent in Steel Champions isn’t some robotic uber-fighter; it’s boredom. And that, kids, is fighting a losing battle every time.