It has been a pretty good year when it comes to side-scrolling brawlers – and I never thought I’d say that again. We’ve seen a number of entries, from Castle Crashers Remastered to Capcom Beat-Em-Up Bundle, that celebrate the games of old, while giving something slightly fresh to enjoy. Well, leave it to Blitworks to give us yet another to savor, with an old-school resemblance but something new to bring to the table as well.
The game is called Fight’n Rage; and right off the bat, when you start it up, you start getting those retro arcade vibes. That’s because the screen emulates the classic beginning sequence, complete with company introduction and the logo screen. Then you jump into the action, and the fun begins.
Originally put together by one guy – Sebastian Garcia – Fight’n Rage was an impressive enough feat on the Steam front. But now, Blitworks has managed to give it the port it deserves on consoles. It’s too much fun to pass up, even if the difficulty can be mounting at times.
The game has you select from one of three characters- Ricardo the Bull, the older F. Norris and the voluptuous Gal – as you take on an evil animal general and his army. There’s no real word as to why this is happening, but do you really need plot when it comes to taking someone to pound town? Nope.
As you make your way through arcade mode, you can actually unlock a tutorial mode and learn even more moves from your character, including a secret one that can blow most enemies away. It’s a little strange you have to go through arcade mode to unlock a tutorial – usually it’s the opposite – but a neat idea nevertheless.
From there, you’ll learn everything from dash moves to supercharged techniques (which can sap your life energy, so be careful when you utilize them) to combos that can really put the hurt on someone. What’s more, you can create combos that, when hitting an enemy enough, practically turns them into a pile of bones. And, of course, you have weapons, from lead pipes to knives to other neat little things. Food, too, if you feel the need to restore lost health.
The gameplay in Fight’n Rage goes deeper than expected, and the more techniques you learn with the game’s tutorial mode, the better you become at it. And you can take on the enemy with local buddies, as the game wonderfully supports couch co-op. Up to three can join in the fun at once.
Some of these enemies are smart, though. For instance, whip carrying ladies will keep a certain distance from you before they attack. There are also charging bulls, bodyguard dogs with crushing dash moves, and even dangerous pigs that want to bellyflop you straight to hell. And this is just from the first ones we encountered on our first trip in.
There are times that the enemies can gang up on you a bit much. But, fortunately, even if you run out of lives, you can jump back into the level (at its start) and try again. And, again, this is a nice way to introduce you to your special meter. Once filled, you can unleash a special attack without taking damage to your life. It’s only if you feel the need to do it again right after that you take the hit. That’s fair.
Throw in a few boss battles, a few awesome alternate routes and other hidden nods to other video games, and you’ve got a winner.
But Fight’n Rage goes deeper than that. The visuals really pop to life like the best of 16-bit platformers, with great animation and backdrops that represent the classic era almost to a tee. It’s really smooth, especially on Xbox One X. (The Switch version isn’t too shabby either.) And dare I say I love the CRT TV-style effect? It’s perfect.
And Gonzalo Valera threw together a fun soundtrack that keeps things nice and vibrant. But, just as important, you can listen for audio cues when some enemies are about to attack – and react accordingly. So maybe don’t get too lost in the soundtrack.
Fight’n Rage also features a ton of content to unlock. This includes alternate costumes, a speed-run mode that’s perfect for Games Done Quick, a battle mode for two players, unlockable cards and more. Not bad for an indie brawler.
Some frustrations aside (looking at you, sewer level), Fight’n Rage is an exquisite addition to a genre that continues to be celebrated. It’s just retro enough to fit in with the competition, and offers an even deeper layer to its gameplay that fans will really get into. And, hey, the mountain of unlockable stuff doesn’t hurt either. Kudos to Garcia and Blitworks for making this Fight still feel like a knockout.