Stickmen, eh? They are often the first thing that everyone draws at school, but what if they were to become sentient, learn all of the martial arts in the world and star in a game? Have you ever wondered what that would be like? Well, wonder no more, because the fine folk over at Silver Dollar Games have got the answer. One Finger Death Punch 2, the sequel to One Finger Death Punch, in case you were wondering, is here and ready to bring martial arts mayhem to an Xbox One near you. So limber up, stretch out properly and come with me to a fighting world!
One Finger Death Punch 2 (or OFDP2, as it is called on the recently played games list and is also how I shall refer to it from here on out) makes a virtue of its simplicity. It has been designed deliberately without a story, and has one of the simplest gaming systems ever. You use two buttons in the entirety of the game. Yes, you read that right, two buttons. The X button performs an attack to the right, and the B Button performs an attack to the left. As enemies rush in from both sides, you have to use your timing and natural sense of rhythm to defeat them. And this is the entire premise of the game. However, the devil is in the detail, and that is true here.
There are many ways to tackle OFDP2. After completing the tutorial, the game opens up, and from the main menu you have a choice of levels which see you exploring a series of maps, with different stages on them, all of which open up when you complete the previous stage. You can also choose Survival, where you have to do exactly what it says on the tin – survive. This takes things in the form of a Tower, with a set number of enemies to defeat before the next stage opens up. For instance, to go from Tier 2 to Tier 3, you have to defeat 400 enemies without dying – and this is a lot harder than it sounds. The advantage to completing Tiers is that you can start at the highest level you have beaten, and as you can imagine, starting higher up makes the game harder, but also increases the score that you can earn. It’s all worth the risk though.
There are also some weird and wonderful modes to try out, including co-op survival, which is interesting, and my personal favourite, a mode called “No, Luca, no!”, in which Luca is a cat who keeps standing in front of the action, making it a little difficult to see what’s going on.
The enemies in OFDP2 are a varied bunch, in so far as it’s possible for stickmen to look different. The bog standard enemies are grey, and they die in one hit, no matter what you hit them with. From there on out, it gets a little more tricky. Blue enemies will swap sides when you try to hit them, yellow enemies will swap sides after trying to strike them twice, and light green ones will swap sides three times before succumbing to your superior kung fu. Then there are those who can handle multiple hits: dark green take two, red ones three, a kind of sage colour take four hits and so on. But further to that, enemies with bandanas are known as Brawlers, and attacking them starts a kind of minigame where you have to match the button inputs on the screen in order to defeat them. These hit chains can be pretty long and involved, and the timing can be very tight. And then bosses are identified by their purple aura, and are a mixture of regular enemies and Brawlers, requiring you to look at the markers under their feet to see what they are going to do before hitting them and then going through the QTE to take them out. Mix in some ranged enemies whose projectiles have to be blocked, caught or deflected and you can see that there’s a lot to remember for such an initially simple game. When the enemies are four deep on each side of the screen, remembering what colour enemy is going to do what is absolutely vital.
Luckily, as you progress through the stages, you will earn skill points, which can be put into a number of categories to make your life easier. The first categories I maxed out (each category requires three skill points in order to do so) were the insta kill on bosses and the same one for Brawlers. It doesn’t happen all the time, but having fought through a long level, and left on your last HP, only to see a boss sail onto the screen and take you out in one hit is no fun and so this has saved my bacon more times than I care to remember. Other categories of skill include a flamethrower attack that clears all the enemies from one side of the screen, and an earthquake that kills all enemies on screen at the time it is triggered. These are activated at random times, and you have no control, but whenever they do happen they are certainly welcome.
Graphically, OFDP2 is pretty simple, but the animation of the martial arts stickmen is absolutely bang on, and it is all helped massively by the fact that the game runs silky smooth even when there are seemingly a million stickmen wanting to terminate your existence. The way that weapons are handled looks brilliant too, with them ranging from a massive club to a “power sword” and nunchucks that put you in mind of Bruce Lee at his finest; the whole presentation is just first class. It has to be said though that this is a game that has been designed to be played in short bursts, and I haven’t had this much much fun with such a simple game since Snake on the Nokia 3310.
For a real challenge, and for a quick blast when you have a few moments to kill, One Finger Death Punch 2 on Xbox One is perfection. It’s not the deepest game ever, but it’s not trying to be: it’s been designed to deliver fast, fun, furious martial arts mayhem, and as such it’s a success.