Review: Iron Fisticle (Computer)

Iron Fisticle: Official GBAtemp Review

Computer 1,682 view 2 likes 10 comments
Reviewed by Nick Riddle, posted Oct 4, 2014
Oct 4, 2014
  • Release Date (NA): September 16, 2014
  • Publisher: Curve Studios
  • Developer: Confused Pelican
  • Genres: Twin Stick Shooter, Rogue-Lite, Retro, Indie
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Twin stick shooter? Check. Rogue-lite? Check. Don't get me started on all of the retro inspired goodness and fruit pickups that your fisticle loving heart could ever want.
Nick Riddle

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"You have my sword."
    -Aragorn
"And you have my bow."
    -Legolas
"And my axe!"
    -Gimli

Swords, bows, and axes aplenty.  Alas, you'll fight along side none of the Fellowship.  I hope your fisticle is ready, welcome to the dungeon.


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Title screen; sleeping guards not doing much guarding.

Enter Iron Fisticle, the retro inspired twin stick shooter sprinkled with rogue-lite elements aplenty.  Available on Steam for Windows as of September 16, 2014 from developer Confused Pelican and publisher Curve Studios, Iron Fisticle takes your typical twin stick shooter and adds rogue-lite gameplay elements such as stats and character leveling as well as a procedurally generated dungeon and randomized enemy placement, sticks it all in a retro package and drags you down into the dungeon.  The game employs retro styled graphics and audio that fit well with the game and really take you back to the 16-bit era, and if that wasn't enough for you the game even has optional artificial scanlines to really drive home its retro theme.  And in case you were really missing point-boosting pickups like you'd find in an old game of Pac-man, Iron Fisticle has 168 different pickups available in game that serve many purposes ranging from giving you points and health to new weapons, stopping time, invisibility, and even another sprite to follow you around and mirror your every move and attack.

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Fast paced, twin stick gameplay; vaporizing everything in a 15 foot radius has never felt so... satisfying.

Gameplay is fairly straightforward, about as typical as twin stick shooters come.  The game recommends you play with a gamepad, and with the Xbox 360 pad being my go-to controller, I quickly found the controls simple and intuitive having not even looked at the control list.  You have your typical move and shoot, each given their own stick, the left bumper activates a dash move and the right bumper activates your Iron Fisticle - a magical gauntlet you wear that when activated, releases a beam of light upwards and emits a circle of energy around you that destroys all enemies and projectiles caught within it.  Dungeon progression is also straightforward, with a procedurally generated 4 level dungeon layout and procedurally generated rooms as well.  You will occasionally have a bonus stage or shop between rooms, and there are also special "graveyard" and "catacomb" rooms that function differently than normal rooms.  Also, though not marked as a special room, you'll occasionally find a room under the effect of what I like to call "rush mode" with a much shorter time limit and greatly reduced time between wave spawns.  In any room, when you run out of time golems will begin to spawn every few seconds and will continuously try to follow you and shoot projectiles at you.

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Side-scrolling platforming sequence for your bonus goodies; shopkeep has wares; D1 layout is basic, D2-D4 get a little more interesting.

Boss fights are fun bullet-hell styled encounters but can quickly become frustrating at lower character levels as you don't have much health or stat upgrades to effectively deal with them, resulting in your untimely demise and needing to grind over and over to level up your persistent stats.  I only wish there were more boss fights, as there are only 4 boss fights total, one per floor. Despite how short the game actually is, clocking only 6 hours on my Steam account, it does feel like it takes a decent amount of time to beat and it stays relatively fresh throughout.  It also offers Steam achievements and a log to track which of the 168 pickups you have collected, so there's plenty of meta-gameplay to be had for die-hard completionists.  There's also the option of starting the game in 2 player local co-op mode if you have a buddy and a spare controller, and after having played some co-op, I can confirm that you'll see the world in a whole new light after having two fisticles. 

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"Bullet-hell" boss fights, and when they die they pop like a piñata!

At the end of the day I'd say this is definitely a game worth checking out.  It's simple, quick, unforgiving, and always fresh.  Local co-op works just like single player, but with a second person, there's plenty of collectibles and a few achievements too.  The game developer actively engages with the community in the Steam product forums, and directly supports the game and addresses feedback and suggestions from users. After playing through the game I'd say my only real complaint is the fact that enemies have 360° aiming when it comes to shooting projectiles, however you're limited to 8 directions, leading to many situations where they can hit you but you can't get them unless you are continuously moving.  But aside from that, I really don't have anything bad to say about the game at all.  It plays well and it's the type of game I can see myself coming back to every once in a while for a few quick dungeon runs.  For better or for worse, you'll probably find yourself unable to stop saying the word "fisticle".  Hm... fisticle.

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In the land of the iron fisticle, everything is right once more.

Verdict
Pros
+ Solid, fast paced gameplay backed by simple controls
+ Clean visuals and good music
+ Very replayable, plenty of collectibles
Cons
- Player is locked to 8 direction shooting while enemies have free aim
- Could use to be a little longer, maybe offer extra game modes
7 Presentation
16-bit era graphics and music are very nicely done, however they're nothing that hasn't been seen before. Artificial scanlines do add a very nice touch.
8 Gameplay
You can figure the game out in a matter of seconds with zero instruction. Simple and fast gameplay can be brutally difficult at points but grinding levels and stats out for a small amount of time can greatly aid in any tough areas you find. Game is unfortunately on the shorter side and could benefit from a deeper dungeon and extra game modes like boss mode and free-play bonus stages.
8 Lasting Appeal
Plenty of collectibles and the procedurally generated world keep the game fresh with plenty of meta-game. Local co-op is an intuitive way for a buddy to join the fun. Game is easy enough to pick up for one or two quick runs (or deaths) through the dungeon.
8.2
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
The most impressed I've been with an indie game in a long time, Iron Fisticle does so much right in such a small, simple package. Without a doubt worth picking up at some point if you're a fan of twin stick shooters.
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