The lasting impression that Foul Play leaves on you is its humour. It’s a relentlessly tongue-in-cheek beat-’em-up that has you, Baron Dashforth, taking to the stage to recount and act out your adventures as a daemon hunter. This features, among other things, Dashforth’s faithful sidekick, Scampwick, and a crowd of people who desperately need to see some ass-kickery.
As is well known in the theatre industry, the way to please your audience is by combo-ing – the bigger the combo, the more ecstatic the crowd. The Mood-o-meter at the top of the screen keeps track of how well you’re doing. As you land more hits without taking any yourself, the arrow will move up the meter, turning changing the meter’s colour as it goes. Once you take a hit, the arrow moves back to the start and a chunk of the meter comes off. Continue to take damage and you’ll find yourself with a boo-ing crowd, an empty Mood-o-meter, and a retry.
Thankfully, Dashforth, and Scampwick if you’re playing in coop, have a remarkable gift: they kick serious ass. You can counter enemy attacks almost Assassin’s Creed-style, but rather than stabbing them into Swiss cheese you instead float slightly off the ground with the enemy due to the magic of theatre – maybe. This allows you to then hit them various times before launching them across the screen – through any enemies/props in their way. They have a gun? Excellent, just counter the bullet and send it right back at them. You can also dodge, though you will want to get back to hitting before you lose your combo.
Combat is a lot of fun and it is satisfying to avoid all hits to get that perfect scene. Perhaps all the more so due to the crowd throwing hats into the air and applauding as they get just as excited as you are that you got a 75 hit combo somehow. You will be outnumbered and outgunned – some of them have guns – but the game is forgiving enough that taking a few hits isn’t the end of the world, but it is your fault and you could have done better – oh may as well restart.
Foul Play is a great brawler, but what escalates it above that is its aesthetic. As mentioned, this is Dashforth the daemon-hunter recounting his tales of heroism on stage, which allows for all sorts of theatre-based hilarity. Whether it’s the witty dialogue (early example is calling a good old murder-and-loot the “Whitechapel Tourist Trap”) or the surroundings, there’s a lot of laugh at. Being a play, the backgrounds and props all move around you when you move to the next scene – so for example, a piece of backdrop will apparently grow legs and scamper off stage as the stage hands move things around.
Even further, the ‘acting’, if that is what it could be called, of other characters in the play is excellent. From the visibly shaking British Soldiers who have discovered a daemon and are therefore petrified, to the guy who just died seriously hamming up his death, before conspicuously looking around at the end of the scene and crawling off to make way for the next. Occasionally, you’ll notice an enemy you’ve defeated be pulled off the stage by a large wooden hook, or you’ll advance to the next scene only for a janitor to look at the audience shocked and awkwardly shuffle off stage. The game is packed with character that is charming and hilarious in equal measure.
Foul Play is a game I am a little upset slipped me by somehow, especially considering it has four different release dates depending on what system you’re getting it on. Cooperative lets a friend play as your sidekick Scampwick both online and offline for some extra chaos, while the Daemon Diary on the main menu lets you read background information. There is a lot of care and attention to detail put into Foul Play and if brawling is your thing, or if funny is, it’s definitely worth a look.