Fist of Awesome is a fun reminder that games don’t need to make sense.

Everything about it is exceptionally polished. It’s hard to see any faults at first, but as I got further issues with repetition and shallow gameplay presented themselves. Fist of Awesome’s refined and odd sense of humor often made up for its mistakes.

fist of awesome screen 2The story follows the punny-named lumberjack Tim Burr, who is the only free human left in the world following a rewrite of history via time travel where bears are the dominant species. Joining him is the Fist of Awesome: the talking fist who appears instead of Burr’s own hand. In order to return history back to normal – and so Burr can get back to his party that was interrupted – they must find what disrupted history’s timeline. And punch bears.

Right after the short intro showing all that, Fist of Awesome gets straight to the action with a well-integrated tutorial that teaches you how to beat on wildlife with a variety of methods.

The most surprising thing about Fist of Awesome is that its iOS controls don’t suck. They’re actually very good. I can only speak for the iOS version of the game, but Fist of Awesome is available on other platforms without a touch screen. I see no reason why it would perform differently with physical buttons, though.

Combos are easy to perform, and movement is done via a clever workaround to the infamous digital thumbstick that gives users much more freedom over where their thumb goes. I never expected to play a beat ’em up game on iOS using only the touch screen, but here I am.

fist of awesome screen 3Occasionally, the touch screen shows its limitations, and you get turned around while fighting, resulting in punching the air. Similarly, there were times when I would get caught between two enemies and quickly die. Perhaps I could position myself better, but this happened so often that it felt more like a technical issue with the game itself.

To be honest, Fist of Awesome’s gameplay didn’t really sit well with me. Yeah, the controls are easy to pick up and combos are simple to perform, but the actual fighting is tedious. It gets into a cycle of: fill the screen with enemies, perform the same combo, walk to the right and repeat. There’s very little variation between enemy types, besides looks, and even boss fights are more or less indistinguishable.

It’s very similar to games like Scott Pilgrim vs the World, but slower paced; probably due to being on the iOS platform. Still, Fist of Awesome doesn’t have that thrilling action that other games in its genre rely on. Simply, the fighting is kind of boring – which would usually be pretty damning for a beat ’em up game. I say usually because a portion of me just didn’t care. There’s a lot of charm in Fist of Awesome. You get to punch bears. That’s pretty novel.

fist of awesome screen 1

Comedy is very much the main selling point of Fist of Awesome, and this is easily what it does best. The story and jokes are completely nonsensical, and are tied together quite frequently with quotes like “What the Hall & Oats?!” during completely nonsensical situations. To say the least, it goes pretty well with a game about punching bears in the mouth. Humor is inserted at any and every possible opportunity – such as having “What would Rocky do?” prompting the retry/quit screen, or fighting in the Bare Bears strip club. The visuals are about as horrifying as you can imagine. But, to be fair, there is a warning at the beginning of Fist of Awesome for gratuitous bear nudity.

The dialogue itself is mostly banter between Burr and his talking hand that somehow lands on bear puns and odd references to musicians of the 80’s an exceptional amount of times. It’s kept fresh through a combination of jokes not repeating and dialogue being separated by fights.

Wrap Up

Fist of Awesome’s short 10-or-so minute levels seem better fit for playing during a commute or while sitting in a waiting room. Playing through it in just a couple sittings just intensifies issues with repetitive gameplay, and dampens the experience. My recommendation is to take your time with this one.

score of 7

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