Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Indie Impressions - Iron Fisticle

Iron Fisticle

Now Available on Steam

Developed by Curve Studios

Long before the likes of Geometry Wars or Waves, twin stick shooting gameplay has been re-imagined countless times since the 80's first gave us classics like Robotron or Berzerk. Introducing the directional shooting and arena based challenges was the start of a new genre, and soon we saw deeper level progression in the form of dungeon crawlers like Gauntlet or SMASH T.V. Iron Fisticle seeks to bring modern twin-stick action and 80's arcade arena shooting into a classic RPG setting of medieval madness.

Iron Fisticle stays true to the classic formula with the original 8-directional shooting we remember from the best of arcade classics while adding its own brand of modern flashiness through crisp and highly stylized pixel art provided by the ever talented Tikipod of Aqua Kitty fame. The game spices up the basic high-score arena shooting gameplay with a few elements of randomization and persistence giving roguelike depth to a generally simple arcade concept.

The dungeons are laid out in a grid starting you in one corner and the boss in the other, with layouts being randomized each trip. Defeating any given room leaves you faced with the decision of which direction to travel in, taking into consideration upgrades and power-ups needed along the way to properly defeat the bullet-hell action of each of the four floor bosses. Different routes will provide you with either a shop for upgrades or a platforming mini game for earning coins, and sufficiently powering up your character along the way is vital before facing any of the floors bosses.

Even though the game stays mostly true to the shoot-'em-up roots of SMASH T.V. it includes the addictive properties of an RPG or roguelike. You also occasionally come across permanent upgrades that carry over on consecutive play throughs, which raise any particular stat and is where the persistence comes from. These are very valuable, making future trips into the dungeon much more manageable and high scores more obtainable for diligent explorers who are keen to find and collect a good amount of upgrades.

Aside from the stat modifying upgrades you find are weapons you can gain from leveling up, and the selection is impressive. From walls of throwing daggers, streams of blue flamethrowers, to rows of area effecting bombs there's plenty reason to keep playing and discover all of the devastating ways you can end your foes and rush through the levels even faster than before. Despite having beat the game, I still find new tools to play around with each time that make me re-evaluate how I could tackle it again.

Iron Fisticle is retro done right and a dream come true for score chasers. The adrenaline gives you an arcade high as you make a mad dash around each room collecting the pixelated food that drops to keep your multiplier going and test your skill against the world on the leaderboards. Even though a single play through can be experienced in one sitting, its the kind of game you'll want to visit often just to see how much better you can do the same way many of us revisit our favorite arcade classics.

With a solid brand of arcade-y twin-stick chaos chock-full of addictive RPG properties that push you towards multiple plays, excellent couch co-op, a heavy and groovy chiptune soundtrack complimenting crisp and attractive pixel art visuals all rolled into one package Iron Fisticle is one nostalgic experience that is hard to pass up.

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