Fist Puncher Review

Fist Puncher is a welcome and extended return to the heyday of brawlers.


A doctor, a derby girl, a beekeeper, and a boy with a slingshot walk into a bar, but they're not the setup for a tired joke. Instead, they're members of a squad of vigilantes who have come to the location for the express purpose of kicking butt. As swastika-bearing banners flutter in the background and candles burn on a birthday cake, the four heroes knock the wicked out of a group of thugs in Nazi uniforms. It's all part of a day's work in Fist Puncher.

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Fist Puncher is a brawler in the same vein as Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, and others from this neglected genre. It offers the same sort of experience you enjoyed back in the day, but with just enough modern refinements--including a thumping soundtrack that should get you totally amped to punch or kick anything that moves--to delight a contemporary audience.

You begin the adventure by completing a simple introductory stage, where you're walked through the basics. Characters can punch, kick, grapple, block, jump, or execute special moves, and they're also able to pick up objects and fallen gangsters and toss them across the screen as makeshift projectile weapons. Every move is easily accessed and perfectly suited for a gamepad such as the Xbox 360 controller, which is actually recommended with a graphic that appears on the intro screen. One good reason you should use such a device is because Fist Puncher maps a defensive roll to the right analog stick. You can spam that move as your character dodges out of the way of any attack or bad situation that might come his or her way.

It's nearly impossible to overstate the importance of rolling, which lets you easily duck into and out of combat. However, when it's time to get physical, that's when you need "rage." This temporary power boost is earned by collecting the letters that spell out the word and causes your character to deal significant damage. It's too bad rage doesn't factor in more often since so many of the letters that you collect from your enemies are just duplicates.

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Once you've had time to familiarize yourself with the moves at your disposal, you leave the island where the game begins and travel east to the city shore. There, a map offers multiple routes, which you can follow to find kidnapped beauty pageant winners who hail from a number of different countries. Your goal is to rescue each of these damsels in distress before finally reclaiming the terrorized city from the clutches of the Milkman, a well-coiffed man in an off-white tuxedo who controls the local crime syndicate. Eventually, you can access a total of 50 stages, and you're allowed to revisit areas you've already cleared as often as you like in order to seek out Easter eggs, collectible cards, unlockable characters, and so forth.

You might also opt to return to familiar areas because characters gain experience points by defeating the ne'er-do-wells and thugs who seem to make up the bulk of the city's population. Heroes level up individually, and you can assign points toward their attack strength, defensive power, speed, and so forth. Each character's special ability also requires some attention, since you must assign stat points and perks to make your chosen vigilante's ability more useful. Dr. Karate has a powerful dash kick that allows him to dart all over the screen like a man possessed, for instance, while the lovely Hella Fistgerald kisses enemies that she has grappled and might even persuade one of them at a time to join her cause and fight other goons. Because all of the heroes have unique abilities and are enhanced individually, you and as many as three other friends who might wish to play by your side have to sink a lot of time into the game if you want to grow comfortable and adept with each character available.

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Prudent character upgrades are recommended, even though you're not likely to ever have to wait all that long to gain another level. There are multiple mission types, so spending all of your points on attack power might leave you in a lurch when, for example, you suddenly have to speed through a toxic subway car on your way to defeat a cultist before the surrounding fumes overcome you. Ignoring the meter that allows you to more quickly recharge your special attack gauge could also come back to bite you when you head into a stage where you are riding a motorcycle that you can use to ram gangsters (but only if there's energy left on your gauge). These differing stage objectives add some welcome variety to your progression, given that most of the time you just need to point your character toward the nearest thug and punch the stuffing out of him.

One of Fist Puncher's strengths is at the same time its most obvious flaw. Since you need to complete so many stages to reach the closing credits, you're going to be trading blows with an awful lot of goons. That's something that can't help but eventually feel repetitive, particularly since the best strategy when you're facing bosses without support from other players is to swoop in and punch or kick a few times, then quickly retreat so that you can lick your wounds (with assistance from a special healing ability that you unlock almost immediately) before returning to the fray. Over the course of several hours, you'll probably find that you spend far too much time rolling around to avoid attacks while you wait for your strength to return. Thankfully, the game keeps things interesting by leading you through a number of ridiculous locations that include a nude beach, a strip club with sex-starved nuns, a hospital operated by a maniacal nurse, and so forth. There's really no telling what you'll find next.

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The variety of thugs that you face is quite impressive. As you explore the aforementioned environments, you battle flocks of angry birds, homicidal scientists, exploding suicide bombers, and much more. The only real disappointment is that boss characters do repeat a few times throughout the adventure, plus a lot of them just look like larger versions of the more vanilla foes you battle elsewhere. You still run into new adversaries even in the last few areas, though, so the repetition never becomes as noticeable as it so easily could have.

Thanks to a lengthy campaign, a team of 15 unique characters--each with unique special moves--and four-player local cooperative play, not to mention the slew of creative surprises along the way, the game is able to serve as a meaningful throwback to an era when brawling mayors and martial artists cleaned up the streets of ailing cities. There may be plenty to laugh at, but Fist Puncher is certainly no joke.

The Good
Long and surprising campaign
Many capable and unique characters
Varied mission objectives
Thumping soundtrack
The Bad
Occasionally repetitive
Sometimes tacky humor
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Avatar image for PesmergaYuber

A niche market to be sure but for ten bucks the price is right

Avatar image for PowerDingALing

You gotta be kidding... This is garbage! If I want to play games like this I download an emuator! Even compared to 80's games this piece of crap sucks. Cadillacs and Dinossaurs beats this game eveyday, and it's 20 years old. 7.5 my hairy ass.

Avatar image for KaSeRRoR

@PowerDingALing BAHAHA! Cadillacs & Dinosaurs!?!? What has 2 thumbs and owned it on Sega CD!? THIS GUY RIGHT HERE! ;) I agree with EVERYTHING you said! LoL!


Avatar image for MrS8tan

@PowerDingALing its a good type of style.

Avatar image for abcdefgabcdefgz

Im not buying anymore retro games with terrible 2d art like this. Get some artists and give us 16 bit or better 2d art there is just no excuse for this anymore on modern systems.

Avatar image for abcdefgabcdefgz

My 20 year old snes had much better graphics then this and that is retro. Modern systems have virtually no limits on 2d graphics.

Avatar image for Dogswithguns

Looks fun, it's like from my old Genesis.. I can see myself addicting to that.

Avatar image for Waldospeople

Love the old school style! Reminds me of my SNES days

Avatar image for Dirty_Window

And so forth.

Avatar image for ANIMAL001


Avatar image for hugoadan

hehee, i liked the nun joke :)

Avatar image for Wensea10

The best thing about this game seems like the massive amount of levels.

Avatar image for Chaos_Dante_456

Can't really say I care for the sprite style. I guess the game still get's the job done...but still... Don't get me wrong I love 2D sprites but the sprite style just seems a little shabby. Perhaps I'll check out the game and change my mind. And I do realize how much work goes into making multiple 2D sprites even simple ones. But then again maybe it's that crude style than helps to enforce this game's charm

Avatar image for eBunny7

Quite the opposite of Totalbiscuit's video on this game. Either way I'm not a fan of the art style at all, even if it's like that on purpose.

Avatar image for DarkE0n

"Fist Puncher". How come nobody has thought of that name for a beat 'em up game until now?

Avatar image for Hurvl

@brande77 @DarkE0n It's like when someone decided to name the next Medal of Honor game "Warfighter", because that's what they do - fight wars. It was a parodically bad choice of name, but the humor was entirely unintentional, since the ones who came up with it couldn't see how it wasn't a cool choice.

Avatar image for nate1222

I'm hoping for a DRM-free release on GOG, GamersGate, or DotEmu. Fingers crossed.

Avatar image for deactivated-5ca4fa9105c25

@nate1222 just purchased Retro City Rampage on GOG.... I hope to see this on there soon. I won't buy a pc game unless it's DRM free.

Avatar image for lorider25

Saw the playthrough, looks like utter crap. This is nowhere near the beat'em ups of the golden age.

Avatar image for santinegrete

... nun of your business, lol great one!

Avatar image for acelogan1989

good game

Avatar image for edpeterson

What's this, a review I actually agree with on GS? Crazy!

Avatar image for Hurvl

@edpeterson Yes, sometime in a blue moon, your opinion of a game and that of a Gamespot reviewer mysteriously align. It's a rare thing to witness and even rarer to understand why it happens (because reviews are opinions and they tend to be different from person to person).

Avatar image for jmford_1

I want to know why this is in the news feed but it says it came out August 2012??? I don't see it on XBLA either.

Avatar image for GSGuy321

@jmford_1 Mistake.

Released on Steam June 21, 2013. Later this year on XBLA.

Avatar image for digits52

@jmford_1 good question brah? i need a cigarette .. smh

Avatar image for GSGuy321

Reminds me of Double Dragon

Avatar image for digits52

@GSGuy321 sure does.. but without the awesomeness

Avatar image for edpeterson

@digits52 @GSGuy321 Nah, this one is better ;P And Fist Puncher is more River City Ransom and the games like that (Scott Pilgrim vs The World The Game).

Avatar image for Super_Tramp

@digits52 @GSGuy321 so you are saying not to get it? reminds me of Renegade and River City Ransom.

Avatar image for Caldrin

@Super_Tramp @digits52 @GSGuy321 those naems are a blast from the past :)

Avatar image for wasakawaka

Loved river city, I've got to track that game down one day.

Avatar image for digits52

@Super_Tramp @digits52 @GSGuy321 no, both those were great btw. i just put double dragon on a pedestal for sum reason

Fist Puncher More Info

  • First Released Jun 21, 2013
    • Linux
    • Macintosh
    • + 3 more
    • Ouya
    • PC
    • Xbox 360
    Fist Puncher is a retro-styled, side scrolling beat em up that follows a team of vigilantes led by Dr. Karate as they perform unnecessary surgery on the crime lords that hold a lawless city in their brutal grip.
    Average Rating19 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Fist Puncher
    Developed by:
    Published by:
    Adult Swim, Team2Bit
    2D, Action, Beat-'Em-Up