For several months I've been patiently awaiting the release of Silver Dollar Games'latest XBLIG masterpiece, One Finger Death Punch. I've followed the development of the game from it's simple beginnings, to it's more recent moments of grandeur. It's probably obvious to anyone who has read my blog reviews in the past that I'm a diehard fan of Jon Flook's & David Flook's unique indie creations. I've often times tweeted video links to the brother's indies, and have even tried my hardest to get gamers to give them a chance, sometimes with no success. As such my hyped anticipation should not come as a surprise to those who follow me on the various social media outlets of the internet.
For those of you like me who have followed the progress of "One Finger Death Punch" you'll know that it started off as a humble idea from a pair of developers who were intensely passionate about the Kung Fu theme that they were using as the basis for their game. Through dedication, and many gradual transformations Jon Flook, and David Flook of Silver Dollar Games have managed to create a simple yet perfect tribute to the classic Kung Fu films of old. Whether your your a modern day action film enthusiast who enjoys the masterful works of martial artists like Jet-Li, or a more traditional Kung Fu film fanatic who loves the classic martial arts masters of old there is something here for all fans of kick assery. The long unrealized, and child-like dreams of becoming an all encompassing bojo badass are now a thing of the past as the developers at Silver Dollar Games have made fantasy a reality for all gamers who wish to take on the challenge, and master the techniques offered in the digital dojo of "One Finger Death Punch"!!!
One Finger Death Punch is a game of epic proportions. While it has no real story the idea of it alone is driven forward by the gamers' passion to master all of the offerings at hand. The campaign which takes place on a huge map filled with over 250 stages will have you perfecting your single button pressing skills in three different difficulty settings (Master, Grand Master, ...). Initially your first run through will be on the "Master" difficulty setting, and as ominous as that title may sound it is definitely fitting of the many challenges ahead of you. Often times you will find yourself repeating stages even on the lowest difficulty setting. Within the larger than life map of the campaign mode you'll find a variety of different stage types/modes (Speed, Smash, Light Sword, Nun-Chucks, Retro Film, Lighting, Boss ...) that each have varying types of requirements necessary for individual stage completion.
Being the proper game that it is "One Finger Death Punch" eases the player into the mechanics of the game through extensive tutorial stages that are each accented by excellent Asian inspired voice-overs. You will start off learning the basics of "X", and "B" button pressing, and gradually move into explanations of how to defeat certain enemy types as well as how to utilize the combat features at your disposal. As the title suggests you will be pressing one button at a time, but will alternate between "X", and "B" as enemy combatants enter either of the marked zones located to your left, and right. Whenever an enemy crosses in to either zone that is located to the right (B), or left (X) of your Kung Fu hero you will need to press the corresponding button before that enemy has the chance to deal damage to your character. If you press a button early you will more than likely receive damage, because of your mistake, but can outlast the inflicted wounds as long as you have life in your health meter.
Each stage found within the world map of "One Finger Death Punch" can ultimately be completed to perfection if you are willing to give it your all. This simply means that if you manage to meet the requirements for a stage (beat the time, kill a certain amount of enemies ...) through perseverance, and mastery you will be awarded a medal accordingly. It's most certainly a nice feature for all those achievement hounds out there who are looking for bragging rights. As far as the obtainable medals found within the game go they range from 10+ Misses (the lowest) to Platinum (the highest). As you can likely figure out from my description you are graded by your misses. It is possible to achieve a perfect score as well as a Platinum medal in each stage, but in order to do so you'll have to maintain a close watch on the action playing out on your television screen. As Jon Flook (the developer) so rightfully put it, you will not make it far by merely button mashing.
Aside from the 250 stage offering you'll find that there are a unique variety of mode types. In fact there are 13 different mode types to be exact, each of which get increasingly harder as you advance further across the map's terrain. The "Mob" mode, for example will have you killing off a certain amount of martial arts masters with with collectible array of Kung Fu weaponry as well as your hands, and feet. The baddies in these stage/mode types will vary in strength from one hit wonders (one hit to kill) to crown wearing gurus who require a sequence of button presses to dispatch. The martial arts foes found in each stage/mode type are basically the same, but as I said earlier the further you travel along the map the more intricate the button pressing techniques are that you'll have to apply. There are of course other mode types available such as the "Light Sword" mini-game mode in which you must slay the opposition as if you were a seasoned light sabre weilding Jedi master. The opponents in this mode charge at full speed, and are relentless in nature. Like "Mob" mode you will have to defeat a set amount of opponents, but the final enemy will play out as a boss battle ending the stage on a truly epic note.
Other mode types include stages such as the "Retro Film" challenge in which the screen looks as if it were a black & white/sepia toned classic Kung-fu film. As you can imagine the difficulty in this mode type lies with the fact that the enemies are no longer assigned colors according to their fight patterns. You'll have to pay close attention to sequence bars which are located underneath each attacking stick figure combatant, and apply button presses in sync with what the blue (X), and red (B) sequence bars show. Similar to these Retro stages there are "Lightning" rounds in which the visuals take on yet another handicap. In the Lightning rounds the stages, and characters found within are all darkened by the night's stormy sky. Only the lightning flashes reveal the sequence bars that accompany each incoming assailant.
There are definitely plenty of modes to tackle as you venture across the map of "One Finger Death Punch", but it's not the only source of martial arts action to be found within the game. Staying true to the games of the past Silver Dollar Games' development staff have also added an unlockable set of "Survival" modes (XP Survival, Blind Survival ...) in which you can use all of the 21 skills that you've earned throughout the main campaign to survive insurmountable odds. Like any of the stages found on the map the "Survival" modes must be unlocked through a successful completion of the appropriate stage. Stages on each branching path of the map are all initially locked until you complete the stage located in front of it. In that way gradual progression is a must, and jumping head first into the more difficult areas is not an option.
Survival mode plays out just like it's main campaign counterpart except without any limitations, or requirements. You will need to apply all of the button pressing techniques you've learned through your initial playthrough of the campaign mode as well as choose three of your acquired "skills" to aid you you in your attempt at ultimate survival mastery. I know I probably caught your attention with the mention of "Skills", so I'll gladly explain. One Finger Death Punch not only requires precision timing, and accurate button presses, but it also requires the use of obtainable special skills that enhance certain features found within the game. For example you'll find that some skills such as the "Triple Dagger", or the "Triple Arrow" enhance the use of weapons that you pick up from fallen foes. If you happen to gain possession of a dagger for example, and have the "Triple Dagger" skill active you will be able to throw three daggers instead of one. Daggers, being the one hit kill type of weapon that they are are an invaluable resource when trying to last for the long haul. Other "Skills" include things that enhance attack/zone range as well as special attacks that will wipe out multiple enemies at once. All of the skills acquired can be used in both the mastery of the campaign mode as well as the survival mode counterparts.
One thing that separates "Survival" from the standard mode of play is that it incorporates not only the core game type, but also the mini game intermissions such as those offered in the "Nun-Chuck Mode", and "Light Sword" modes. During this mini game intermissions it is possible to regain health if you successfully kill the white enemies. Unlike the standard/campaign mode though you will not find the usual boss battles, but instead only the crown wielding masters who require button sequence completions to defeat. Before I go any further I probably need to include some info on the boss battles, so let's get to it. Boss battles in the campaign mode of "One Finger Death Punch" basically place you up against a martial arts guru/stick guy who is an evolved form of the standard enemy types. Instead of simply requiring a sequence of only a few button presses to defeat though you will have to attentively press buttons according to the bosses ever-changing color sequence icon located beneath your adversary. Like you, this end level bad guy also possesses a certain amount of life that is measured in a meter of sorts. It is your job to whittle his/her life away to nothing before they can do the same to you.
Now onto the Graphics Audio, and Such ...
Visually "One Finger Death Punch" is a stunning masterpiece, the likes of which I've rarely seen in the XBLIG marketplace. The guys a Silver Dollar Games incorporated all sorts of graphic details that stay true to the Kung-fu oriented vision they had obviously sought to achieve. Sure the stick figures in essence are simple, but everything from their fighting style stances (Crane, Eagle Claw ...) to their weapon, and non-weapon oriented combat are all expertly applied in a visually captivating manner. While there are hints of over-the top gore (fatalities & x-ray finishes), and fantasy based back drops/locales the game stays consistently true to the traditional martial arts theme throughout. You'll even find that the game's start menu is adorned with depictions of classic hand painted Kung-fu martial artists.
Graphics are not the only thing to help this game achieve greatness though. With added features like the Asian voice-overs (which seem 100% genuine), and music fitting of the onscreen action this game takes the gamers' mastery of mechanics, and creates an overall experience that is truly epic in nature. I greatly enjoyed the visceral bloodletting, bone breaking, and dismemberment that came along with my mastery of the game. As a fan of ultra violent action, and Kung-fu films of the past I found myself right at home with the excellent presentation offered by Silver Dollar Games. The combined in-game mechanics as well as the overall visual, and audio presentation of the game came together in perfect harmony making me feel like I was a part of the epic battles that were taking place onscreen. The single button presses being in sync with the onscreen action truly made each impact feel significant. In a word, this game is "Brilliant!". For one dollar (80 msp) you will not find a finer quality game. If you love classic Kung-fu action, or even modern-day fighting games this is a must buy! I highly suggest you buying it, but if you are skeptical there is a lengthy demo that will enlighten you on just how great the game really is.