Foul Play review for XBLA, PC

Platform: XBLA for Xbox 360
Also On: PC
Publisher: Mastertronic
Developer: Mediatonic
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: Yes
ESRB: E10+

When I first started up Foul Play, I didn’t know what to expect. I was presented with a stage and an old man telling stories, and I immediately thought this was going to be an awkward experience. Then I realized this little old man and his Ninja like sidekick have fists of fury, and have spent their lives kicking the butts of evil men all over the world. Yes, Foul Play surprises players with it’s non stop beat ’em up action and some really clever humor, but not much else.

Once you get into the gameplay of Foul Play, you will be reminded of the great game Castle Crashers. The animation, character design and even the combo system (to a degree) are all reminiscent of Crashers, but with a bit of added flare. The entire game is presented on a stage, and Baron Dashforth is recalling all of his past adventures through a series of plays. After a few amusing exchanges between the Baron and his sidekick Mr. Scampwick, the two race off to fight evil with their bare hands. Even though he’s an old fella, Baron can hold his own in a fight, and bad guys everywhere are filled with fear with the mention of his name (Baron’s own words). Baron and Scampwick don’t have lives or life bars, but rather a popularity meter. This meter measures how entertained the crowd watching you is during your battles. If you let the bad guys beat you up to badly, or don’t wow the audience with big combos, the curtain will fall on your performance and it’s game over. Building up combos and completing challenges can get your popularity high enough to unleash the Showstopper. With this you can unleash a barrage of attacks to really build up the combo count.

Foul Play 1

As you progress through a level, the background scenery changes with sandbags and pull ropes, janitors get caught in the spotlight as they are sweeping up, and some “actors” portraying the enemies slowly crawl off backstage. It’s this kind of attention to detail that makes you want to see what happens next. Unfortunately, once you’ve seen these little touches a few times, they tend to get stale and you are left with nothing much but a mindless brawler. After the first act of the second play, I was left wanting more. Playing with a friend locally or online can spice things up a little bit, but even with a friend can get just as monotonous as playing alone.

Graphics are very stylized and fit together well. Everything from the scenery changes, to the animations of the characters is well done, but can be somewhat distracting. Sometimes I found myself trying to fight a bad guy that was trying to exit the scene in a funny way, and I thought he was still active. Sometimes the little animations of the audience can also distract you from time to time, leaving you taking some cheap hits that can lower your popularity. On the bright side, visually everything looks great and does keep you entertained for a while. Sound is your typical punch and grunt sounds with some interesting music tracks that sound like they were pulled from an Indiana Jones movie. Strangely, there are no voices (other than the aforementioned grunts) and all of the interactions are played out through text boxes. I would of loved to hear Baron’s quips and cheesy action lines instead of reading them, as the interactions can really take you out of the action.

Foul Play 3

Foul Play is fun for a short while, but its charm wears off quickly. Once you perform a 52 hit combo on a group of enemies for the 20th time, you tend to just want to stop playing and move on. While not a terrible game by any means, it just doesn’t have lasting appeal. The popularity meter and showstopper attacks are neat twists, but not enough to hide the on going monotony of each stage.

Foul Play is a very stylized, quirky little title that could be good for a quick play session alone or with a friend. If you take away it’s unique presentation, and little chunks of flare, you are left with an average beat ’em up with very little to offer. Try out the demo before buying, as it is somewhat pricey, so proceed with caution.

Grade: C+