Foul Play Xbox 360 Review
Publisher: Mastertronic Developer: Mediatonic Genre: Action Players: 1-2 Age Rating: 12+
Other console/handheld formats: N/A
Xbox Live has played host to some interesting side-scrolling beat ‘em ups, and Foul Play stands out thanks to its unusual style and clever theme.
The central idea is that an audience is watching the hero Baron Dashforth (daemon hunter) and his sidekick Scampwick (chimney sweep) recreate epic plays based on their lives, recalling the fate of the Baron’s father. Each play is split into a number of acts, with the scenery changing and new hordes of enemies running into view. The aim is to keep the crowd entertained by beating up the bad guys, with large combos increasing the excitement to score more.
There is no energy meter or a lives counter to worry about – but getting hit and playing badly will send the mood of the crowd dropping. If it falls too low, the Baron will be booed off stage. So the key is to chain attacks, learning how to parry incoming blows and increase the mood to earn a higher score multiplier. Filling the character’s bar allows a Showstopper move to be performed, earning combos faster and doing more damage. As the game progresses new moves and skills are learned – from the pile driver to the human cannonball. Boss characters at the end of each act have a large power bar to drain and are escorted by more enemies to make things trickier.
Each act is split into scenes, and performing well (by earning high scores and levelling up the character) earns up to five stars. Bonus points are available for bashing as many enemies as possible during the encore. Performance is boosted by clearing three challenges, such as completing a perfect scene (one long combo clearing an attack wave without being hit or the combo ending) or beating a section within a time limit. Clear all three challenges in an act to earn a charm. Two different charms can be equipped at the same time to offer various enhanced abilities.
The Victorian theatre setting is beautifully portrayed by the graphics, from the super cute characters to the scenery moving in and out as if on some unseen stage machinery. Although there is no speech, the text bubbles and sighs and cheers work well to help the mood. Quirky touches like the stagehand prompting an enemy with a forgotten line will have you laughing as you play. “Dead” enemies creep off stage or are dragged off by a large shepherd’s crook. As the game progresses, there is variety in the backgrounds and enemies as the heroes travel the globe – Egypt, Somerset, Atlantis and a famous clock in London are all featured. The music changes for each location and adds to the overall polish with some decent sound effects. Graphical cues are also there to help the player time attacks and parry effectively.
The difficulty curve is smooth and well rounded, with the new moves being opened up to help with tougher sections. The urge to replay levels is strong with the incentive of extra charms, stars and pages from the daemon diary being unlocked (it is worth reading through this, as it gives advice on beating enemies, recaps the new moves and fills in more of the back story). The Achievements are worth persevering with, again nicely graded to open up gradually and draw the player back. With 22 acts spread over 5 plays, there is a good amount of game to get your teeth into. Co-operative play offline as well as online is a good addition.
There is a very British charm and sense of humour throughout the game and it is a fun take on the genre. Because there is more to it than just button bashing, this comes recommended for any Xbox 360 owner who enjoys a spot of fisticuffs.