Photo courtesy of Silver Dollar Games
By Kevin Matyi
Among the most surprisingly entertaining games on Steam is “One Finger Death Punch,” made by Silver Dollar Games in early 2014, where the player feels like an unstoppable action hero in the middle of a Kung Fu movie.
By attacking flawlessly, you can slow down time, kill enemies with one hit, break the background of the 2D plane and occasionally get in prolonged fights where you need to execute the correct controls quickly and perfectly or get hit. However, the better you are, the faster the game becomes.
There are three basic kinds of enemies to fight in the game; the Greys, the basic enemy type that will die in one hit and simply walk toward you until they are in attack range, the Colored Enemies, the same stickman model as the Greys, but with some color to differentiate them, and the Brawler, which is a Colored Enemy with a crown above it. These enemies are what cause more of the challenge in the game. They take multiple hits, often switching sides, and thus what direction you need to attack. Meanwhile, the other enemies continue advancing while you try to kill the Colored Enemy.
When you first attack a Brawler, the screen zooms in and all other enemies are pushed back and stop moving for the duration of the fight. The difficulty and longevity of the fight depends on the Brawler. Some will die after three or four hits, while others will require upwards of 20 hits to kill. In general, for both Colored Enemies and Brawler, the longer you fight, the more difficult they will be to defeat.
Luckily, the controls of the game are easy to understand. “Fight using only the left and right mouse buttons,” as the announcer for the game says in the initial loading screen, although the game supports several different control schemes. This is made only slightly complicated by the Colored Enemies and Brawlers who require use of both buttons, but only one at a time.
The only system in the game that complicates the controls is the addition of skills. Before the level begins, the player is prompted to choose up to three of the 21 possible unlockable skills. As the player progresses through the surprisingly expansive campaign mode, they can unlock skills with effects ranging from using weapons (which increase the player’s attack range) for longer periods of time to killing every enemy on the screen by playing optional challenge levels. The skills are usable in most campaign missions and the survival modes, and are activated by killing a certain number of enemies.
The main thing that makes “One Finger Death Punch” so enjoyable is not the enemies or controls–it is the energy. When two or more enemies are in your attack zones, time will slow down so that you can react to them in time. When you hit an enemy, there is also a chance of performing a special attack that will slow down time as well. These attacks normally do not do any more damage or have any benefit, they just look cool, and that perfectly encapsulates the game as a whole. It is not supposed to be an intellectual journey, a commentary on the human condition or any other kind of complex narrative. It is supposed to be fast-paced high energy fun that makes the player feel cool, and that is one area it excels in.