As I entered the indie game arcade at Eurogamer, I noticed a game that had the Monopoly Man standing there, a monocle on his face, staring at me, daring me to go and investigate what was going on. When I got over to the stand, I realised that it wasn’t a monopoly game (thank God), but a game called Foul Play, one that I’d heard of, but not really looked into. I introduced myself to the developers, said that I was gaming press, and they offered two seats, where me and my con-partner, Darylynm (@noleftsock), were handed a pair of X-box controllers.
After sitting down, we were told us the back-story of the game. Essentially, the game is a play. The main character ( Baron Dashforth ) is a retired demon hunter, and he wants is putting on a play that describes his life hunting demons. He does so in a vaudeville format, with his sidekick Mr. Scampwick. This vaudeville format is what decides the theme of the game, which is 100% theatre. The enemies are all actors dressed to look like monsters, what starts the next part of the stage is standing in spotlights, and occasionally the characters have to be reminded of their lines, but my favourite part of the theme is the style of health bar. Because the game is set as a play, it’s unlikely that there will be an “actual” combat. So the health bar is in fact an audience entertainment bar. As you get hit, the audience has less fun, and if they stop having fun, you fail the stage. It’s an interesting spin on the health bar, and lends itself to the theme of the game well.
We started to play the game then, and I immediately noticed that the gameplay is very similar to Castle Crashers. It’s a side-scrolling beat-em-up, with heavy emphasis on combos and reactive combat. In most beat-em-ups, you have dodging and blocking as your only ways of defending yourself. Foul Play takes a key from fighting games such as Batman Arkham City and provides the ability to counter an attack, if you hit a button at the right time. It makes combat that little bit more than generic beat-em-up combat, and something that I really loved about the game.
We played through a level, and it turns out that the game has a star power ability. As you score points, you gain audience cheer, and as they cheer, your character gains the ability to double his score. It’s a nice little system that helps to provide a bonus if you’re in a tough spot, and to improve your score if you are doing exceptionally well. During the level, you are given challenges to do, such as killing the biggest enemy last. These are given to you by members of the audience, which again lends itself to the theme of a vaudeville theatre play. Co-op works very well, in that it plays the exact same way, and I believe even makes the game faster. Players can co-operate in a block, allowing them to do even more damage, which adds to the co-op experience, too. It has both local and online co-op, but I have only tried the local co-op so far
The controls are tight, and easily decipherable. Darylynn hadn’t used an Xbox controller before, and she didn’t have much trouble picking up the game, which is a great sign of intuitive controls. That said, most beat-em-ups have simple controls, so it’s not much of a surprise that it was easily picked up.
Art style and music are both great, and really get across the feeling that this is a theatre play. Both are masterfully done, and really add to the games charm.
Foul Play is my game of the show from Eurogamer, and I thoroughly believe that it is my favourite beat-em-up game of all time.