If you’ve been following anything I write about here, then by now you know I’ve got a somewhat sordid love history with indie games. Much like the quirky, less-popular kids I got along with best at school, they’ve got this charming appeal that keeps me coming back and, more often than not, liking what I find when I spend the time to get to know them. Unfortunately, much like the misfit children of my local learning-halls, some of them are unpopular or shunned for good reason. So it is with Fist of Awesome, a pixel-heavy brawler about a bearded guy, a talking hand, and lots and lots of bears.
I’m not entirely sure where to begin, really, so I’ll start at the beginning. Fist of Awesome follows the plaid-sporting misadventures of Tim Burr, who is either a hipster or a lumberjack. Our story opens with a woodsy celebration with friends and family at Mr. Burr’s cabin, which quickly turns dark as the world suddenly collapses around our ‘hero’ and, for reasons not discussed for some time, his hand suddenly springs to life, identifying itself as the titular “Fist of Awesome”. The Fist explains that bears have used time travel to accelerate their evolution, creating a timeline where they’re now the dominant species, and humans are hunted to near extinction.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I actually enjoyed the premise behind Fist of Awesome, as ridiculous as it may be. There’s a certain charm to the game’s humor, as well, rife with tongue-in-cheek machismo and pop culture references that do elicit chuckles from time to time. The game’s downfall isn’t here, in the setting and trappings thereof, but in the bland, repetitive gameplay. A sidescrolling brawler in the style of Double Dragon or Streets of Rage, this title makes itself different by being incredibly dull, using the exact same enemy model from one level to the next, swapping out color palettes and nothing else – even the attacks don’t vary.
Where Fist of Awesome fails in enemy design, it matches the effort in level design. Generic, pixelated backdrops to each time period/stage play on tired tropes, down to the inevitable “subway” level full of metro-traveling enemies from each of the prior levels (they didn’t even get a new skin, just retreads of the old ones here!). The resulting gameplay is so bland and lifeless that I couldn’t find much of a reason to keep going beyond a necessity to complete this review. I don’t often pan a game; I really try to look for the good, but as the stages dragged on, each so closely resembling the last, I couldn’t think of anything truly positive to highlight. For a cheap $7.99 on Steam, I could see the value for die-hard brawler fans or those curious about the game’s quirky jokes, but personally, I’d recommend passing on this and waiting for a better, brighter, and more varied title.
[+Some good, self-aware humor] [-Bland, repetitive enemies] [-Boring, uninspired gameplay] [-Poor sound and music design]