Rumble in the Bronx.
After hours of rhythmically mashing the left and right buttons on my mouse, I think I can safely say I’m pretty much a master of martial arts. As hundreds of armed men approached from either side, all it took was a simple stroke of the finger to swat them like flies. Sometimes I’d use a lightsaber, or laser nunchaku. Sometimes I’d kick a spiked ball repeatedly at them to dispatch some of my tougher foes. Most of the time, however, it was just me and my fists. It took a while, but I eventually bested all those who would see me dead.
And you know what? It was worth every second.
One Finger Death Punch was originally released on the Xbox Live Indie Games service. Now I’m aware the last five words of that last sentence are enough for any self-respecting gamer to pack their bags, skip the country and have their Xbox nuked, but some gems have certainly surfaced in this fetid cesspool of a service.
Among all the shallow big-breasted dating games, the half-arsed zombie shooters and the shameless Minecraft clones lie some pretty great experiences, like Miner Dig Deep, the unique multiplayer experiences of ZP2KX and Hidden in Plain Sight, the shockingly creepy first-person exploration and checkers simulator Bloody Checkers, and my eternal favourite: Try Not to Fart. One Finger Death Punch is another diamond in this incredible rough, and now that it’s on Steam, it can hopefully reach a wider audience, because it’s so good that it bloody well deserves it.
Enter the Stickman
In One Finger Death Punch, you are a stickman well-versed in kung fu. You must fight other stickmen using said kung fu until there’s no one left. Then you move onto the next stage, rinse and repeat. There’s no story to speak of: it’s just you against thousands of soon-to-be-dead dudes. Controlling your character is the essence of simplicity. When enemies approach from the left, click the left mouse button to kill them. The same applies to enemies coming from the right and the right mouse button. These are the only two buttons you use. Underneath your character is a bar that represents your attack range. When an enemy walks into that range, you click the respective side they’re approaching from to defeat them. You keep doing this until you’ve beaten all the enemies in a level, or fulfilled a specific objective. It sounds easy and a tad boring on paper, but these issues are fortunately quelled by the steady difficulty curve and the wonderful animation work.
Controlling your character is the essence of simplicity. When enemies approach from the left, click the left mouse button to kill them.
As you progress through the game (levels are navigated via an overworld map) you’ll also undergo special missions that deviate from the norm. The weapon-based levels are a particular highlight, but there are also timed rounds where you must defeat a certain number of opponents before your time expires, or “Retro Film” rounds which renders the screen in a sepia tone making it harder to determine enemy types. Said enemy types include ones that take multiple hits to kill, enemies that carry weapons and enemies that can dodge your attacks and require pressing both mouse buttons to take down. Variety is certainly present in One Finger Death Punch, and this serves the game well considering the sheer wealth of missions available. Thankfully, levels rarely last longer than a couple of minutes so you’ll be moving through the game at a swift pace.
The gameplay is, in a word, addictive. But not in that Flappy Bird “why am I doing this?” kind of way. One Finger Death Punch is addictive because all of its strong points synergise so well you can’t help but play for extended periods of time, despite the fact it’s a budget game meant for short bursts of play. Another such strong point is the game’s use of animation. Remember all those awesome stickman martial arts animations that would show up on sites like Newgrounds and Stickpage? One Finger Death Punch is like an interactive version of that. Your character dispatches his enemies with such entrancing fluidity it puts many 3D games to absolute shame.
The many fighting styles he adopts each come with their own unique sets of animations, and the more devastating takedowns are zoomed and played in slow motion for added cringeworthy impact. Not only can you knock dudes out, you can punch their eyes out, throw them into the screen, chop them in half, break their ribs and so on. There are also weapon pickups that allow you to end your foes in a more brutal fashion. Enemies can be knocked into objects in the environment and taken out with projectiles such as throwing knives, bows and a spiked ball that allows you to rack up a delightfully huge combo. Also worthy of mention are the game’s varied and quite beautiful backdrops. Naturally taking inspiration from martial arts films and Eastern culture in general, they provide the perfect setting for your insane punching spree.
I do have a few complaints, however. When the game speeds up it can often be hard to keep track of your enemies, even with the help of the button prompts. The stereotypical wise mentor narration also becomes immediately grating, and eventually unbearable. Lastly, although the stickman animation is indeed amazing, it would have been nice to see something a little more detailed than stickmen. Most of these are minor complaints, however, and can hopefully be rectified if the game ever gets a much-deserved sequel.
For its low price, One Finger Death Punch is very easy to recommend. If you have a 360, I’d recommend getting that version as it’s even cheaper than the Steam version, but you can’t go wrong either way.