Genre: Side Scrolling Beat ’em Up
Dear readers, I will tell you something that I tell few people I meet offline: one of my other hobbies is LARP. I write this because, this weekend, I’m going to the current game I’ve been playing. At this game, I play a demonologist and monster hunter from a steampunk “definitely not victorian england” land. In search of inspiration, I’ve been playing a few games recently, many more popular than others (I’m looking at you, Dishonored). I decided to go a little off the beaten path, to check out a game that’s had mixed reviews from the internet, an odd title that brings demon hunting… to the stage. I present to you, Foul Play.
The premise of the game is this: you play as Lord Dashforth, a daring daemonologist dealing death to devils everywhere, and may be joined by your second player, Scampwick, a lovable cockney chimbley sweep, whom you found fighting off demons as an orphan boy some years back during your adventures. You recount your adventures on stage to a live audience, whose approval is a large part of the gameplay. The enemies you fight are all costumed actors, and the stages are actual stage sets.
First and foremost, this game has a great and terrible sense of humor. You can often see the stagehands as you stroll into a scene, and the actors occasionally crawl off screen after you beat them up (which is probably the part that is all too real). Often, Lord Dashforth and Scampwick will also partake in some witty banter, cutting into the seriousness of having to face burly men in haphazard costumes. If you are not a fan of comedy in your games, this would not be the game for you.
The story itself unfolds the more levels you unlock, revealing new Daemonic Diary pages, and giving you insight into the life and history of Lord Dashwood and his trusty sidekick. It’s what you’d expect: a father steeped in daemonology, a femme fatale, the whole shebang. The back story, while it does have it’s lighthearted moments, is rife with stoic and serious explanation and exposition.
Game play is quick to pick up, and difficult to master. It’s basically about turning opponents attacks back on them, and building up the highest combo counts that you can, in order to impress the audience, in order to build up bigger combo counts, to get the highest scores possible. I tried to play it on the keyboard and mouse, but the game is practically made for a controller, making use of four face buttons, an analogue stick and four shoulder buttons.
As far as brawlers go, it’s neither the longest nor the shortest, the most challenging or the easiest – it straddles a fine line in the middle of the road. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since the game makes up for many shortcomings with an amusing setting and the quirky gameplay mechanic where someone has to keep the audience amused, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind.
Graphically, this title has a pleasant aesthetic, both simple and characteristic of other games made by the company. With hand drawn characters and amusing enemies both simple and complex, the cartoonishness sets itself well against the backdrop.
For audio, the game was admittedly generic. While I can remember the tracks and they weren’t annoying, they just weren’t anything special. Nothing stood out, nothing popped as out of the ordinary, and things kept to the background noise level that you’d expect. For a game that feels adventurous, almost like you’re swashbuckling without a ship, it doesn’t give you the kind of oomph you’d want for that.
Overall, the game is a solid beat ’em up, especially if you have an afternoon to kill with a friend. I can see where the mixed reviews came from, and it’s scored in all across the board from terrible to great on different gaming sites. It is widely available on a variety of systems. Other than through Steam on PC (and Linux!), Foul Play is available through the XBox store, and through Sony’s online venues for PS4 and the PS Vita. While it’s not the best brawler you’ll ever play, it has an amusing charm that makes it hard not to like.