Tim Burr – you may groan now – was just another ordinary lumberjack, who simply wanted to have a party with his family, when suddenly Earth’s timeline was violently rewritten. Before he knew it his house was on fire – his family was gone – and the entirety of the human race was being subjugated by hyper-intelligent deer and bears, all of whom now walked upright. However – and far more importantly – Tim Burr’s left hand had suddenly become possessed and began speaking to him, referring to itself only as the almighty Fist of Awesome! The Fist of Awesome immediately assures the bearded hero that – with his guidance – they can safely travel across the time stream, punching every bear they meet along the way, in order to save the human race.
Thus begins the setup to Fist of Awesome (out now, $3.99), a brand new – and completely awesome – Beat’em Up from Nicoll Hunt and his appropriately named studio: I Fight Bears. The game proclaims itself as a love letter to all of the side scrolling beat’em ups that used to rule the arcade scene long ago, mixing elements of classics such as Double Dragon II (NES) and Golden Axe. Yet while also providing a far superior touch based control scheme than most ports of those aforementioned classics have ever received, such as Double Dragon (our review) – X-Men – or Streets of Rage.
The control scheme works by having the entire left hand side of the screen function as a floating virtual analog stick of sorts, with Tim Burr moving in whatever you drag your finger. It doesn’t actually matter where you first place your thumb on the iDevice’s left side, it’s only the direction that your finger moves from its starting point that’s relevant to controlling your lumberjack hero. Thankfully this works really well and I never once had trouble getting Tim Burr to move precisely where I wanted him to, which is certainly far more luck than I have had with some other movement control schemes I have witnessed
The entire right side of the screen – on the other hand – is used to invoke all of the Fist of Awesome’s amazing beat down prowess, with the player either tapping or slashing in one of the four cardinal directions. Tapping the screen will have Tim Burr continuously wail upon whatever malevolent wildlife should try to get all up in his grill, while holding down will see him powerfully thrust forward with all of his fist’s awesome might. Furthermore, if the player holds the screen during an attack combo’s final strike, then the hero will scream forth “Timber!” as he violently – Shoryuken style – uppercuts through everyone.
Swiping in the direction that Tim is standing will let him kick his opponent in the gut, temporarily stunning them in the process, after which he can kick them again to send them flying backwards. Alternatively he can walk up to stunned animals and grab them, after which Tim can either violently wail upon his grappled foe – via tapping – or fling them into other wildlife with a sideways slash. Finally, swiping in the opposite direction that the hero is facing will – a la the Double Dragon series – cause him to perform a powerful backwards kick upon would be interlopers.
If you slash down while Tim is standing over a fallen opponent, you can repeatedly slam your foot down upon them – gaining massive amounts of health back in the process – until they get back up. Slashing up will cause Tim to leap, which will either go straight upwards – or forwards at an angle – depending on whether or not he was already moving before the initial jumping action was executed. You can furthermore perform a kick while the bearded lumberjack is currently air born, which is just as much of an awesome crowd control technique in Fist of Awesome as it was in the various beat’em ups of yore.
As I previously mentioned, the Fist of Awesome is so amazing that it doesn’t go looking for pot roasts discovered in knocked over dumpsters – unlike some other beat’em up heroes – it instead manages to heal is wielder through laying down the smack. Attacks will generally either be highly damaging – while providing low healing – or a touch on the weak side, yet capable of soaking up tons of life healing energy with each strike. So long as you constantly lay down the punishment, and skillfully manage your opponents so that they don’t get poor Tim Burr in a deadly pincer, there won’t be enough bears in the entire timeline to keep the Fist of Awesome from acquiring justice.
With all of this pugilistic prowess you will beat up all sorts of opponents across the mangled time stream: punk deer, secret agent deer, cavemen deer, Assassin’s Creed deer, afro wearing bears, kingly bears, angry bison, prehistoric raptors, and much more. One of my favorite parts of felling all these opponents is that they let out a Golden Axe style death shriek upon being defeated, only further adding to Fist of Awesome’s love letter status. Of course the game also makes sure to let you pummel these foes in one of the most iconic beat’em up locations ever: a subway train (which just so happens to also be a time machine).
As you finish each level you will be rewarded, based on how well you performed, with ability points that can be used to shore up Tim Burr’s health – combo speed – and attacking power. You will also be given a chance to spend your earned EXP should Tim ever meet an unfortunately less than awesome demise, afterwards being thrown back to almost exactly where you left off. The extreme number of check points found in Fist of Awesome means that not only will everyone be able to finish the game given enough effort, but also that the app fits nicely into the bite sized chunks that many iDevice users prefer to work within.
Upon finishing the title you will be given access to play through the game again on an even harder difficulty, but with your previous ability level-ups carrying over, or to challenged endless arenas against brutal opponents to see just how long you can hold out. Both of these options can either be tackled with the Fist of Awesome having Tim Burr, or with any of the enemies/NPCs found throughout the entire game – bosses included – each of whom have their own stats to be leveled up. The end result is that while many players might be able to finish Fist of Awesome in only a few days, there’s still going to be lots of game play to be had for anyone who is seeking an even harder challenge.
Anyways – matters of gameplay aside – I am also pleased to report that the entirety of Fist of Awesome is delivered with an appropriately low-fi pixelated presentation, rounding out the game’s intended love letter status. In an age when proper arcade style beat’em ups of this sort are sadly far and few between, Nicoll Hunts’ offering is certainly a most awesomely welcome sight for sore eyes. However, unlike some other recent retro revivals, Fist of Awesome – with it’s ludicrous old school charm, easy to understand controls, and frequent checkpoints – is perfect for both newcomers and talented gamers alike.
Just be sure that – if you do get the game – to check out the main menu’s credits option, as Fist of Awesome’s staff listing contains a hilariously epic theme song that absolutely must be heard.
Nicoll Hunt’s Fist of Awesome is a hilariously absurd tribute to the classical era of arcade style beat’em ups, featuring simple – yet highly effective – touch screen based controls. With these inputs players will be able to effectively pummel – grapple – and curb stomp their way against wildlife everywhere, all displayed via a well wrought retro pixelated presentation. With multiple levels of difficulty – and generously frequent checkpoints – both veterans and newcomers alike will be able to derive much enjoyment from Tim Burr’s main quest, as well as the game’s extra arena challenges.