Foul Play
Published by Devolver Digital
Developed by Mediatonic
Played on PS Vita

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The Skinny: A clever little belt-scrolling brawler disguised as a stage play.

“Foul Play” is an innovative and clever brawler for one or two players that does a lot with limited resources. You play as Baron Dashforth, a British gentleman and daemonologist. But the game doesn’t have you delving tombs and fighting monsters directly. Instead, it is set as a play, with Dashforth recounting his adventures to an audience. This is the key mechanic of the game, as the audience acts as your life bar. If you don’t keep them happy, it’s curtains.
Dashforth, and his 2p sidekick Scrapwick, don’t have life bars at all. Instead, the audience excitement meter hangs at the top of the screen. You keep them interested by racking up combos and executing advanced moves, which are unlocked as ‘acts’ of the play are completed. This leads to a fairly forgiving system. The player doesn’t have to worry about finding food or other power-ups in the environment. If they are flagging, all they need to do is get back in the fight and keep hitting square to build your meter back up.
The combat itself is rather button-mashy and the bosses especially are rather healthy, so it takes a good many wallops with your can to bring them down. But the game’s visual flair carries the day. Sets fly in and out on pulleys, actors’ faces are visible beneath monstrous costumes, and we regularly see extras attempting to stealthily exit after they’ve been ‘defeated,’ not to mention the occasional stage crew taking their break next to the wrong backdrop. It keeps the game light and engaging.
“Foul Play” leans in to Cosmic Horror but tries to keep things lighthearted. I haven’t finished the game, but so far it lampoons but steers clear of most of the unfortunate pitfalls of the genre. I’m looking at you here, Lovecraft. Dashforth present themselves as heroic experts in the dark corners of the world, but there isn’t much lionizing of the British Empire, and we’re constantly reminded that we only have the baron’s word for it.
If you’re looking for an old-school button masher that does something a bit more than ‘punch all the dudes to the right of you until your girlfriend falls out’ “Foul Play” is a good place to start. Also, for the rest of September, Playstation Plus subscribers can download it for PS4 and PS Vita for free. You can’t beat a deal like that.

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