Blending an outlandish comic book setting with the already bombastic nature of Mexican wrestling has a lot of potential to yield high-octane fun, but Lucha Fury squanders its cool premise and artistic beauty on some of the most poorly crafted side-scrolling brawler gameplay in recent memory. While the genre isn't known for its forgiving nature, Lucha Fury sports a string of truly asinine design decisions that will push your patience into the red and kill the experience early on in the game. Overly sluggish combatants, boring attack combos, and droves of insipid foes are just a few of the many glaring issues that mar what could have been one sweet game.
Starring a quartet of colorfully costumed Mexican wrestlers, Lucha Fury sends up to four players battling together through a gauntlet of spandex-clad weirdos with a strange chicken fetish. You and your teammates pick your heroes of choice, select a costume, and pummel your way through one stage after the next. Most levels are well designed, featuring lots of visual flourish and some interactive elements to aid you in your foe-bludgeoning pursuits. A few of the more chaotic battles play out on busy city streets, atop a convoy of rolling semitrucks, and through the guts of a half-finished steel structure. Indeed, the cel-shaded presentation is bursting with color and creativity. It's easily the highlight of the game, which makes the hard-to-stomach fighting action itself such a crushing disappointment.
None of the four cliched combatants you can pick from are particularly interesting or effective in battle, though a few of them feel weaker and more sluggish than the others. Regardless of your choice, you clobber the throng of irritating thugs that come swarming at you in each stage with very similar attack moves. Earning points for dealing combat damage unlocks a new combo that can be equipped every few stages, but many of the more elaborate moves aren't that impressive or easy to pull off well. It's actually more effective to mash the punch and kick buttons while throwing a good jump kick or two in for good measure. Weaker enemies often run right into your swinging fists and provide little challenge until the game ramps up by introducing squirmy grenade throwers, guys armed with chicken lasers, and hulking brutes that take a lot of damage before they go down.
Lucha Fury should be awarded a medal for the insidiousness of one of its most annoying common foes: a pair of deadly efficient fighters that can only be hit from behind but never give you enough time to circle around and land a blow. Any time you're lucky enough to get behind one to make a jab, his bro will take the opportunity to clobber you from behind, and then they'll gang up and beat you while you're down. Battling these two foes whenever they appear is so awkward that it can actually hold up the stage for minutes on end as you dance around them frantically trying to dodge and stay alive. It gets to the point where the sight of them alone is enough to spur torrents of cursing and a desire to throw the controller through the screen. And that's before they even make an appearance alongside a tougher boss you have to fight simultaneously.
Irksome opponents are a minor offense when compared to other egregious problems that arise. Moving around and executing attacks feel unnecessarily sluggish, and the unresponsive controls can get you killed quickly when you're stuck in the middle of a crowd of angry baddies. That's not as bad as having to readjust your grip to wrestle with the right thumbstick. Every time you're stunned, cursed, grappled, or hit with a heavy attack, you have to rapidly swipe the right thumbstick back and forth for a few seconds to regain control of your fighter. Meanwhile, you're prone to getting steamrolled by any other nearby foes. It's a baffling design decision; the maneuver is pointless, awkward to pull off, and kills the flow of battle. Even death itself is a mucked-up mess. Losing all of your health triggers a 10-second countdown timer, and you must track down a health power-up before time runs out or the game ends. You're cursed when this happens, forcing you to randomly become stunned and contend with the thumbstick wiggling while hunting for a shred of health to negate the condition. It's best to give up and let death come. There are checkpoints right before boss battles, but dying elsewhere forces you to restart the level from the very beginning. Considering how miserable the gameplay is, retrying the offending stage rarely feels worth the effort.
With so many excellent beat-'em-ups out there to draw inspiration and design knowledge from, it's appalling that Lucha Fury's gameplay is this bad. If anything, it's a perfect example of how not to make a beat-'em-up. The real shame is that all the attention poured into the great artistic direction is wasted on such an awful game. This is one sexy-looking brawler to be sure, but you don't even want to hit it with an electrified cattle prod much less share it with friends.