Review: Way of the Passive Fist (PS4)

Review: Way of the Passive Fist (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC, Mac

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Way of the Passive Fist
Format: PSN (189.9 MB)
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Publisher: Household Games
Developer: Household Games
Original MSRP: $14.99 (US), £10.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
In the Batman Arkham series, one of Batman’s abilities is to counter incoming attacks with a well timed parry. I remember enjoying this mechanic, sometimes even using it to get through most or all of a fight. That’s basically what Way of the Passive Fist is. It takes that mechanic and makes it the key part of the game.

On its surface, Way of the Passive Fist is a 2D brawler like Streets of Rage. However, in in this game you cannot directly attack enemies* and instead must take down groups of enemies almost entirely by parrying or dodging their attacks. Missing attacks will tire them out and once they get worn out, you can give them a shove to defeat them.

*At least initially. Later in the game, you’ll get access to super moves that charge with a successful combo of parries which can be unleashed to take down an enemy or multiple enemies without needing to tire them out first.

It’s a very interesting twist on a common game mechanic and taking it to a logical extreme informs other aspects of the game’s design. For example enemies attack one at a time, for the most part, and early levels consist mostly of standing in place and parrying foes as they swap in and out until you can KO them and whittle down their numbers.

In fact, because you can stand in one place and simply continue to parry, parry, parry, kill, I thought I was starting to see a counter to the formula during the first level of the game. Fortunately, the game designers realized this and later levels start to add elements to force the player to interact more, like mortars or lasers hitting from off-screen. This makes you move around a little more and you have to be cognizant the extra hazards.

Still, the game does feel like it ends up coming down to rote memorization after a while. Each enemy has only one attack pattern and you’ll quickly learn the pattern or timing you need for each one until the game throws a new foe at you for you to learn.

Some elements like bosses or the aforementioned mortars keep the game from getting too stale but I still felt like I’d get through a level by memorizing the enemies and their waves and patterns more than I felt like I was getting better.

It’s a little on the short side, though that’s to be expected from a lower price game like this. The main campaign’s length probably depends on player skill but it could easily be knocked out in a sitting or two. There’s not a whole lot left after that, besides playing arcade mode or bumping up the difficulty.

One thing I really like is the difficulty selection. Rather than simply pick “Easy” you can adjust a series of sliders to determine what parts are easier: the number of enemies to fight, how much damage you take, how much damage enemies take, or how many checkpoints and health drops there are. These can also be made harder, though the default settings get pretty tough after a couple levels.

Visuals:
Way of the Passive Fist uses pretty simple retro graphics. They definitely harken back to classic 2D brawlers from the arcade days but with just enough color and depth to identify it as a modern title. It’s a solid look for the game, with the characters looking good and being easy to differentiate from the backgrounds for gameplay.

The backgrounds start out a little samey and uninteresting, though later levels do switch things up. And the game likes to change up enemies with just a palate swap. This is both good and bad, as it gives the player an idea of a ‘new’ enemy’s moves when they’re first introduced (i.e. this character will probably throw knives or do grabs) but it also means memorizing attack patterns to color variants which can get confusing.

Audio:
The audio is simple but generally pretty effective. There’s very little voice work in the game, save for a line during some of the boss intros – which can honestly get a little annoying if you get stuck on said boss.

The music sets a good mood but it didn’t stand out very much to me. Sound effects are well implemented though, often giving an additional clue to help the player parry enemy attacks.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Way of the Passive Fist is a pretty cool implementation of what has become an increasingly common game mechanic. By focusing almost solely on what is just a part of other games, this ends up being a unique experience that’s worth checking out. It also comes with some holes as a result, but the developers have done a decent job of plugging those holes to smooth out the experience.

Fans of parrying mechanics in games should definitely give this one a shot and players who like old school 2D brawlers might also find something to enjoy. The overall experience is a little short and there’s not a lot to really pad it out besides replaying levels at harder difficulties but this game is still good for an afternoon or two’s worth of entertainment.

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Andy Richardson

Andy Richardson

A longtime PlayStation fan who enjoys JRPGs and rhythm games when he’s not tweeting about his parrot.

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