When a game’s iTunes page proudly proclaims that it “…could be the best Super Smash Bros. alternative for iOS”, one would naturally expect great things of Fright Fight (out now, free). After all, Super Smash Bros. — no matter what some might think about Nintendo at times — is generally regarded as the finest four-man multiplayer fighting game ever made. Instead, Appsolute Games’ offering manages to contain none of the nuances — expansive roster lists — or solid controls of the title that they sought to mindlessly ape (although Super Smash Bros. certainly did have similar network issues).
When you first begin Fright Fight — without ever being given a chance to sample any of them — you are immediately ordered to pick one of the app’s four fighters: Carmilla the Vampire, Kahn the Werewolf, Grim the Reaper, and Hugo the Yeti. Afterwards this will permanently become the one free fighter that you get, no matter what you might think of the monster later on, with the other characters needing to be purchased separately. There should at least have been a better explanation of their differences, other than a tiny handful of words, when a user has to make so massive a decision a mere five seconds in.
At this point you will be run through a tutorial that basically explains to you that the left side of the screen serves as your virtual analog joystick, and that the right side of the screen is your singular attack button. Furthermore, swiping up or sideways on the screen’s right-hand side will cause your chosen monster to either jump or dash forward respectively (or at least they would if the controls worked reliably). Finally, holding down the attack button — instead of merely tapping it — causes your character to charge up and eventually release a special attack from their extremely limited move repertoire.
At the beginning of each fight — which are primarily against real people — you will have the opportunity to select the performance enhancing booster of your choice, all of which cost coins. Since these self-same coins are needed to unlock expensive features in your character’s skill-tree (which are mainly just tiny value increments), only gamers that purchase gold by the IAP bucket load can truly afford to obtain these. Anyone whom has zero tolerance for pay-to-win multiplayer shenanigans of this sort might as well stop reading this immediately, as I won’t be pleading anyone to overlook these faults later on.
When a fight concludes — either after you’ve lost the match, or once your opponent rage quits long before the timer expires — you will be awarded a handful of gold and experience, and your ranking on the ladder will also be modified. These experience points, of which real cash can also be spent to temporarily double their acquisition rate, will eventually cause your character to level up after you’ve obtained enough of them. Once this happens you will be given a single stat point that may be spent however you see fit, with the caveat being that — unless you shell out even more money — it will take ever increasingly ludicrous amounts of time for your stats to finish upgrading.
While there have indeed been heavily IAP drenched games in the past that managed to excel despite their greed, Fright Fight’s gameplay unfortunately does not have the panache needed to save this train wreck. The first problem you will immediately notice is that neither the dash nor jump functions can reliably be triggered, making leaping back up onto the stage — after getting knocked over an edge — a crapshoot at best. While this is already an annoying problem with Fright Fight, it becomes even worse when you factor in how the game determines which case-sensitive special attack move you meant to use.
The special move you’re charging up is determined by whether or not at the time of invocation you are: standing still, dashing across the ground, jumping, dashing through the air right after jumping, and whether or not your rage gauge was currently full. As I’ve already explained, trying to do anything viably — other than merely running across the ground swinging wildly — is not exactly the easiest of ventures when playing Fright Fight. This in turn ensures that most of your online battles will become rather dull affairs of everyone running into each other as they endlessly fire off either normal combos or their standing still special attacks.
While this already makes for bland combat — riddled with an extremely small character pool, and also aggressive IAPs — all under the weight of poorly implemented controls, that is unfortunately not where Fright Fight’s troubles end. There are also the latency issues that will — even on a reliable connection — cause both you and your opponents to suddenly teleport about at random, which is especially fun when it suddenly says you’re over a pit. Furthermore, the matchmaking software itself is extremely slow at finding an opponent (and that’s when it’s performing optimally) and instead will usually leave you sitting there for a long time only to eventually inform you that it couldn’t find anyone at all.
Finally, anyone believing the graphical claims on Fright Fight’s iTunes’ page — wherein Appsolute Games proclaims that their title features vibrant 3D graphics — is going to be sorely perturbed. All of the characters in Fright Fight are entirely 2D — uninterestingly drawn — and rather poorly animated, with only the background scenery itself being rendered in actual 3D (which is itself also rather bland). Worse yet still would be that the arenas are just an uneventful series of floating platforms, completely lacking any of Super Smash Bros.’ random environmental disasters to help shake things up.
If Fright Fight is truly the best iOS alternative to playing the actual Super Smash Bros. games, then I would have to strongly suggest that anyone looking for such a portable experience immediately look to other pastures entirely.
iFanzine Verdict: Fright Fight serves as a good poster child for how not to do an online multiplayer fighting game on iOS: a hyper-limited roster, pay-to-win tactics, controls that only work half the time, and dodgy connectivity issues. It’s a real shame too as the Super Smash Bros. style of gameplay, that Appsolute Games clearly wanted to mimic, would have been a perfect fit for the iOS gaming mentality. I am — due to all of the problems present so far — sadly not only unable to recommend Fright Fight as it currently stands, I am furthermore unable to suggest that people keep tabs on it in hopes of future updates either.