Way of the Passive Fist is a 2D beat’em up with an interesting twist to it. Developed by Household Games, Way of the Passive Fist separates itself from other games in the genre by being completely focused on countering enemy attacks instead of directly attacking them. Despite a fairly simple control scheme, Household Games manages to make it work well enough to keep players invested throughout the whole experience. This, combined with a style that mixes sci-fi and Fist of the North Star, all come together to create a solid arcade beat’em up.
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The story of Passive Fist is fairly simple, being more of a background element than a prominent part of it. The game takes place on the planet of Zircon V. Once a thriving mining community, the planet is now a shadow of its former self, facing destruction by its dying sun. The player takes on the role of a mysterious warrior known as the Wanderer. The Wanderer has become a master of the titular Way of the Passive Fist, a fighting style based on wearing opponents out and then defeating them. After years of isolation, the Wanderer has moved out to deal with raiders terrorizing the remaining colonies.
Taking elements from Fist of the North Star, the story bits of the game are very minimal, being presented in a quick screen scroll in between chapters. The story progresses at a fairly even pace, without any surprises or twists. There isn’t really anything it does that’s astounding or game changing, but it manages to be competent enough to work.
The bread and butter of Way of the Passive Fist are its gameplay. As mentioned before, the game is essentially a 2D beat’em up game with a twist. Unlike other games in the genre, the player has no form of basic attack and must rely almost exclusively on parries, dodges, and counters. As such, a large part of the game comes down to learning the timing of various enemies and bosses attacks.
The game's controls are fairly simple. You move around using the WASD keys, as well as using the space key to dash. The three main buttons you’ll use are the parry, shove, and dodge buttons, which are J, K, and L respectively. The player will also have access to a super move through the use of the I button after building enough meter. The basic control scheme is fine, but it should be mentioned that the game has fully remappable controls.
As mentioned before, the player does not have a basic attack. As such, the only way to defeat enemies is to parry and dodge their attacks until they run out of stamina, and the counter with a shove. Basic punches and kicks can be parried and dodged, while grab attacks must be dodged and are unparryable. There are also projectile attacks, which can also be dodged or parried. As the player does this in succession, without being interrupted, they will build up a meter to activate a super attack. This attack is the only direct attack the player can perform, and when used wisely can help them out of tough situations.
The game is divided into chapters, which are themselves divided into scenes. Essentially, the player will walk forward until a new scene starts, beat the enemies that show up, and move on to the next scene, repeating this until they beat the chapter. In between scenes the player will have the chance to pick up health drops and to activate checkpoints. The player will also have to deal with landmines as the progress farther into the game.
Way of the Passive Fist also has a level up system in it. When the player completes a scene, they are given a score based on their performance. Parrying, dodging, and other methods build up this score, and doing so uninterrupted builds up a combo. As the combo gets higher and higher, the score given will also multiply (ex a combo of 10 will add a 2x multiplier to your moves). The higher your score is the better medal you’ll get at the end of the scene. The medals, bronze, silver, and gold, will give increasingly more exp. These, combined with a bonus you can get by beating enemies in a timely matter, will level the Wanderer up, giving increases in health and new super moves. While it’s nice to have some different mechanics going on, overall the level up system is very bare bones, only going up to level 5.
A strong point of the game is its shockingly large variety of enemies. Though some of them may serve the same purpose, (i.e. a projectile type enemy, a heavy type.) The different attack patterns help separate them. Some enemies will unload a volley of fast strikes, while others will throw slower but more powerful attacks. This, combined with the games main combat mechanic, makes it so that even enemies that are just reskins still able to stand out more than just having different stats from each other.
While the overall gameplay is solid, there are still a few problems that plague Way of the Passive Fist. For one thing, the stop and start nature of the scene mechanic tends to break up gameplay flow, leaving tracts of time where the player is just walking. This is aggravated by the mines that appear in between scenes. These seem to have no purpose other than punishing the player for trying to rush to the main gameplay, dealing significant damage to the player, even at higher levels. Another issue is the dash mechanic. To be quite frank, it usually leads to you taking more damage than if you just walked out of the way of some attacks, especially projectiles.
Graphics and Sound
The game makes use of well-animated pixel graphics in order to get the feel of classic arcades games. Enemies look right out of a Mad Max movie, with enough stylization to stand out a bit. There’s a decent variety in enemy designs, though there is still a bit more pallet swapped enemies than there needs to be. Levels are also fairly diverse, ranging from scorching deserts to vibrant forests.
Sound wise the game is more than competent. All enemies have an audio que for their attacks, as well as death and damage sounds. The player's actions are also backed by nice effects, differing based on how well they are performed. The game's music is a mix of techno and guitar. Its fine for what it is, if not a bit generic.
The main gameplay of Way of the Passive Fist is solid, providing a challenge for players while also giving them a nice sense of satisfaction the better they play. While the stop and start nature of the levels are a bit annoying, the overall gameplay, along with great animation and an interesting concept, is more than enough to raise the game above a lot of its peers. For anyone looking for a good beat’em up game, Way of the Passive Fist is a definite recommendation.
|+ Good animations||-- Start and stop sequences hurt flow|
|+ Level variety||-- Too many palet swaps|
|+ Neat concept|