Not a bad haul this year. Over the holidays I got Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, WATCH_DOGS, Divinity: Original Sin, Legend of Grimrock II, Wolfenstein: The New Order, and about 50 other Steam games through bundles and ridiculous discounts. The hard part was deciding which one to play! Care to hazard a guess as to which one I settled on? Yup! Just as you suspected, it was none other than One Finger Death Punch! Despite how my backlog is now riddled with some of the best games of the last year, One Finger Death Punch was the game that held my attention…
…for fourteen freakin’ hours.
Now, just in case you’re not up to date on what the Canadians have been up to, let me tell you all about One Finger Death Punch. In One Finger Death Punch, you use one button to attack left and another to attack right, as hordes of enemies charge onto the screen. That’s it! 10/10, right?
Kick! Punch! It’s all in the mind.
Okay, so there’s a bit more to it than that. Your character only has a limited attack range, shown clearly in the interface, and attacking early or late will result in taking damage. The enemies that you face also grow more difficult as the game progresses. Some are able to withstand more than one hit (indicated by multiple life bars below the enemy), and many of them can switch from one side of the player’s character to the other between hits (indicated by different colored life bars), forcing the player to switch buttons on the fly. Occasionally an enemy will throw a weapon at you, which will have to be attacked as though it is a regular enemy. And some enemies have weapons and picking them up once they are defeated requires an additional button press, which can throw off your timing if you were expecting to attack an enemy but pick up a weapon instead. You also occasionally get throwing weapons such as knives, bombs and arrows, which can one hit kill any enemy. The game can also randomly trigger slow motion finishing moves and other flourishes that serve to give you a brief respite more than anything else before getting back into the action.
Finally, there are brawler enemies which require anywhere from three to dozens of hits to finish off. Once you strike one of them, all other enemies back off so that you can deal with this enemy 1 on 1. At that point, it’s basically a rhythm game without the timing window. Icons representing left or right attacks scroll down the screen and you have to press them accurately before they scroll below the playfield. If you take too long or press the wrong button, you get attacked and take damage instead.
In any case, it all boils down to the simplest of mechanics: one button to attack left and another to attack right. So I suppose you must be wondering why on Earth I played this for fourteen hours. There are several reasons actually. When it comes to the fundamentals, I love the visuals. Even though the combatants are little more than stick-figures, they are animated in a way meant to purposely exaggerate the variety of combat styles your character can use. These styles have no effect on the gameplay, but they do make the game interesting to look at. The backgrounds on the other hand are quite beautiful to behold, and objects are constantly placed on the battlefield simply so that your enemies can smash into them. There isn’t a lot of music in the game, but the few tracks that accompany each level successfully match the often frantic pace of the game.
But the main reason I love One Finger Death Punch is that it is fun to play and hard to put down thanks to the many game modes and mechanics that exist to keep the game fresh. As you move through the gigantic world map selecting stages, they become progressively more difficult as you travel east. The number of enemies you will face increases, as does how fast they will approach your character. The speed of their approach is further increased according to how well you do. If you manage to beat a level without missing once or taking any damage, the next level will be much faster. If you fail, or just barely survive, the next level will be a bit slower—though each level has an ever increasing minimum speed as you move further east along the map. The game also slowly adds more types of enemies which require various combinations of left and right attacks to defeat, and each of these is a consistent color to help you memorize the patterns.
The world map also includes many different types of stages. The most common, Mob Round, has the player face off against a specific number of enemies which can be anywhere from 50 in the early stages to hundreds in the later. Then there’s Multi Round, which involves 4 or more back to back stages with the exact same pattern of enemies, but drastically faster game speed between each level. There’s also Light Sword and Nunchaku Rounds, which are simplified and extremely stylized levels where every enemy is a basic one hit kill, but they approach must faster than in other levels. The last enemy in those stages is always a brawler type with a very long list of buttons to press to defeat, all at a much faster rate than you would normally have to deal with. Speed Rounds involve killing a specific number of enemies before time runs out. Thunderstorm rounds are similar to mob rounds, but make the game more difficult by making all enemies look exactly the same, and Retro Film Rounds have a similar effect. Smash Rounds are all about destroying objects in the background by forcing enemies into them. In Defender Rounds, every enemy throws a weapon at you instead of approaching you, and if a single one hits you, you lose. Survival Rounds are more like a preview of Survival Mode, where you face off against a limitless number of increasingly difficult enemies until you eventually lose. And finally there are Boss Rounds, where you fight an enemy who changes his weakness pattern every few hits, which can be quite tricky. Late in the game you have to fight more than one boss simultaneously!
The map is filled with branching paths that always eventually lead further east or to a dead end. These dead ends are worth exploring, because they almost always award a new skill when completed. There are more than 20 skills in the game, and they all substantially affect the game. My favorite skills are Three Bombs, Three Arrows and Three Daggers, which gives my character two extra throwing weapons whenever he picks one up, which I like to use to one hit kill brawlers and enemies that requires 3 or 4 hits. There are also a variety of defensive skills, such as one that heals a bar of life every 99 kills, or another that prevents my character from being damaged once every 70 kills. Skills can also affect attack range, how long weapons last before being destroyed, and there are even special attacks that can wipe the screen of enemies or freeze enemies on one side of the stage.
If you complete the entire game on the default difficulty, Student, you still have Master and Grandmaster difficulties to look forward to. As you might expect, the number of enemies you face will be greater, and they will approach even faster on these challenging levels. But my favorite part of One Finger Death Punch is Survival mode.
Survival Mode is similar to the Survival Rounds from the main game. Like normal, you can equip a few of the skills you have unlocked, and then face off against an endless supply of enemies. There are achievements for every 500 kills in survival mode between 500 and 7000 kills. The furthest I ever got was 2161, and by the end of that, I was pretty exhausted. Fortunately you can pause when you need to rest, though that might take you out of “the zone.” I always chose the defensive skills in Survival mode, as they drastically increase the number of hits I can take before failing, but even without those skills, there is a way to heal up.
Every so many kills, Survival mode turns into a Nunchaku or Light Sword round which continues until you are hit 4 times. These hits do not count against your life total, and during these rounds, white enemies can spawn which heal you for one point when defeated. So even if things are starting to look bleak, you can focus and survive long enough to get to one of these rounds to heal up, and if you get on a roll, you could even heal all the way back to full life. In my case, things eventually got too fast, and I couldn’t keep up with even the basic enemies. But I got far enough along to unlock the next mode…
Blind Survival! In this mode, the life bars beneath the enemies that can withstand multiple hits disappear, so unless you’ve memorized the pattern associated with the color of that enemy, it can be very difficult to keep up when things get crazy. Also missing from Blind Survival mode is the range indicator, though by the time you start playing this, you will be very used to your character’s range. And if you get far enough in Blind Survival mode you will unlock No Luca No mode! I won’t spoil this one for you since it’s freakin’ hilarious, but let’s just say you will be blinded even further than in Blind Survival mode.
If I had to fault anything in the game, it’s that the map has too many levels… over 250 actually. And even though there are a lot of game types to keep things fresh, this map is just unnecessarily big, and it makes unlocking all of the skills and getting to the next difficulty a bit of a chore. But really, that’s just a minor blemish on an otherwise fantastic game.
One Finger Death Punch is frantic, fun, and affordable! Silver Dollar Games has priced it perfectly at $4.99, and it provides plenty of entertainment for that price. And if you’re anything like me, you might find yourself forsaking some of the best games of the year for it! The inquisition is on indefinite hiatus, the nemesis orcs have won, and I have yet to watch a single dog, but I’ve punched and kicked the crap out of a about 25,000 bad guys, and have had so much fun doing it. It’s the kind of fun that got me hooked on video games to begin with. And if you don’t take my word for it, trust the 99% of the more than 5000 reviews on Steam that are positive. Play One Finger Death Punch!
Available on: PC, Xbox 360
Version Reviewed: PC