Pixels. Chiptunes. Beards. Plaid. It's as if Fist of Awesome took a bunch of different hipster recipes and Vitamixed them all together into one package. On paper, the formula sounds kind of insufferable. But with quirky humor and some slick presentation, this new beat 'em up homage blends things together and tries to celebrate and satirize all of its ingredients at the same time.
In Fist of Awesome the bears have somehow managed to take over the world. The only thing that stands in their way is a lumberjack named Tim and his giant hand. Well, to be more accurate, it's really a possessed, time-travelling fist. When Fist of Awesome starts out, you meet this simple woodsman enjoying life with his friends and family.
But it's not long before things go horrible wrong and the timeline is mysteriously and violently altered, leaving bears as the rulers of the world. Tim the lumberjack is left with a talking fist, the Fist of Awesome, that takes him on a quest through different points in history to return normalcy to the present. And the best way to do this? By punching the hell out of any animals that get in your way.
Fist of Awesome is a retro, arty, and dumb homage to the beat 'em up classics of the past. The touchscreen controls are pretty simple and do a decent job of replacing the controller that you should have in your hand for this type of game. Tap to punch, hold for a super fist, swipe forward to kick and up to jump... you get the idea. The responsiveness is pretty tight, though I found that it didn't lend itself to anything more complicated than a tendency to "swipe mash" your way through enemies.
Beyond a few basic attacks, there's not a lot of variety in Tim's toolkit. The same can be said for the enemies he must take on. While every bear you encounter at the end of a level has its own personality and look, you must punch your way through tons and tons of the same kind of enemy in order to get there. It's rare that the screen would be taken up by more than one character type.
That's not to say this indie has done wrong by its Kickstarter roots. It's definitely a product of a one-man development team, full of both the good and the bad that come along with that reality. All of the silly jokes and retro love on display, there's an equal amount of rough-around-the-edges elements and frustration that comes from the wonky controls and limitations. Does all of this add up to Fist of Awesome's price tag? It depends on what you're looking for. Especially if what you're looking for is a game that gives you the opportunity to kick a bear right in the pills.
I had fun with this, but I could also see how it could get under the skin of some who are growing tired with hipster pixel art games. Case in point: developer I Fight Bears makes "Games For People With Beards." Granted, that's a joke. But I can't tell whether or not there's a line in Fist of Awesome that divides between satire or pandering. All that said, there's one glaring omission that Fist of Awesome could really use: Stephen Colbert. Who better to fight against a horrible future dominated by tyrannical talking bears than America's #1 anti-bear crusader? As far as I know, bears are still on notice.