SO MUCH PUNCHING
Developer Ninja Theory has a short but sweet track record of quality console games, the last being January’s DmC: Devil May Cry. So when asked to check out their newest title, Fightback on iOS, I was intrigued. This is the company’s first venture into the world of mobile games, but I was confident that the company’s prior success would be able to make the transition into the mobile market. Then, I looked at the game and I started to get nervous.
It’s easy to take one look at Fightback and start to judge it. It’s a two-dimensional beat’em up with a protagonist that looks like a dark-haired Duke Nukem and plenty of dark and unimaginative stages. There’s little about the presentation that’s worth applauding, but I’d like to think that Ninja Theory realized this after jumping into development. Even though the presentation is often laughable, it gets to the point where it starts to feel like a cheesy “B” movie. I found myself chuckling at the giant muscle man storming into a room, beating people, and checking behind him before leaving.
Unlike movies, cheese means nothing if gameplay doesn’t back it up. Fortunately, Fightback‘s play is often as solid as the protagonist’s abs. Right away, I started to pick up on some Mortal Kombat (2009) vibes. Those who played that reboot are likely to pick up on some of the similarities. While there’s no super-exaggerated uppercut or gratuitous gore, you’ll be able to punch, kick, and juggle enemies in the air until they’re finished.
The problem is that battles become somewhat formulaic. The entirety of the game’s controls are tapping and swiping. You can frequently wait for an opponent to run at you, then swipe down to avoid the strike, and begin your counterattack. Fightback combats this strategy by imposing an often-difficult time limit on each stage, making it important to stay on the offensive, while not taking too much damage and dying. Even then. I found myself with a time-saving trump card: Guns. Once you buy a gun, you’ll always have it on you. Ammunition is limited, but if you need to quickly take out that last enemy, a bullet is a good way to do it.
Outside of battle, there’s not much that makes Fightback feel any more unique. The levels of customization are standard for most free-to-play games. You can up your stats, buy new equipment, change your character’s appearance (to an extent), and purchase premium currency that unlocks better stuff. There’s an experience system that unlocks the opportunity to purchase stuff as you level up. There’s a map system that lets you navigate between levels, and it gives you recommendations for upgrades before entering a difficult stage. This is a nice feature, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary.
Fightback also uses a stamina system to keep you from playing too often for free. Even though I had fun with the game, stamina rarely came into play since I never felt compelled to play more than one or two fights in a sitting.
That’s really Fightback in a nutshell. It’s a fun game, it’s an amusing game, but it never leaves me craving more. Like a cheesy “B” movie, certain people will have a good time laughing at (or with?) it, but experiencing it once will be more than enough for most. At first glance, I thought it was going to be shallow and laughable. I was right. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Ninja Theory’s first mobile game misses just enough punches to fall well short of greatness.