What goes through the mind of a martial artist when they find themselves in a crowd of ten opponents? Their brain must be going at a thousand miles per hour, dodging incoming fists while landing blows and sending enemies flying. Now imagine you are that martial artist, able to perceive everything around you as though it were frozen in time and react like a new age Bruce Lee. That is what Fights in Tight Spaces brings to the table – the ability to be badass!
You take on the role of “Agent”, a well-dressed chap that must work his way through a series of criminal organisations, taking out minions and eventually the gang boss. Each level takes place in a small grid-based arena with limited space – hence the name Fights in Tight Spaces. Enemies spawn in and the shortest path to victory is to just kill everything in sight, but you have to carefully plan your movements so as to not get yourself trapped in a bad spot. One wrong move can be a run killer.
That’s the beauty of this game, however. You have perfect information at all times. Hovering over an enemy tells you everything. The distance they can hit, the damage they will deal, if they have any special quirks like turning to face you when you move next to them or if they can counter attack. Everything is on the table so if you are in a bad spot, it’s because you’ve put yourself there.
There are no time limits so you have as much time you need to make your moves and can choose to go for certain bonus objectives or simply try to finish the fight as quickly as possible. Sometimes, you will be stiffed by the cards that are drawn, but then it’s down to you to make the best of a bad situation. Even then, if you construct your deck correctly, you should lessen the chances of having a bad draw. Much like real life deck construction, there’s a skill to building.
Each turn, you have a set amount of action points to spend on playing cards called momentum. Momentum can be increased as you build your deck and complete challenges through a run, meaning you can go on some truly terrifying turns later on. For example, in one turn you can play a free movement card to get in position, perform a quick kick on one enemy costing one momentum, a long strike punch on another enemy costing another momentum, and finally a shift card to then move out of harm’s way.
What’s even more satisfying, is using grab cards to move enemies into the firing line of incoming enemy attacks. If an enemy is poised to hit you and you manage to swap places with another foe, they will take the attack on the next turn. It’s the truest Jackie Chan tomfoolery you have ever seen in a video game and it’s brilliant.
You also have a combo system built in, where the more attack cards you play without using a movement card, the higher your combo goes. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, certain cards are played based on your combo level and not using momentum – for instance, a Stagger can only be played if you have a combo of three or higher, costing no momentum and helping you to extend some attacks – and secondly, certain attacks have their damage boosted based on how high your combo is, so a well timed head smash will deal big damage.
I love the way FITS makes you think about every small detail. Because you are in a small space that’s packed with enemies, you have to think several turns ahead in order to stay alive. Even on classic difficulty, you will be tested. If you lose a match, you’re done. No take backs.
On the easier difficulties, you do get rollbacks and level retries, which have been added since the start of the game’s tenure in Early Access. It’s nice that they’ve put this in though so new players can get used to the punishing system. You get less player points, but it’s a good addition.
Getting good scores unlocks more themed decks to try, with the Slasher deck being the latest addition. There’s also the option when you start runs to go with a full custom, selecting Deck Draft Mode. This lets you select everything from scratch without a preset. You still get the ability to unlock and add new cards as you go though, so there’s no change there.
As you progress through runs, you also get the ability to spend your hard earned cash on upgrading existing cards in your deck, buying new ones or removing cards altogether. It’s another form of customisation which gives you more control over your experience. You can also visit the clinic in order to boost your base health or just heal up in general. Finally, there are random events that can grant you bonus health, money and extra cards. Or they can just hurt you. That’s the risk you take from random events.
I need to take a moment to mention how banging the soundtrack is. A variety of funky electro techno tracks accompany the fighting in a way that really manages to immerse you in the experience. Plus, the game’s art style is strikingly stunning with it’s simplistic elegance. Characters are represented as colored shadows, the agent in a sharp black suit and silhouette and the bad guys a variety of other colours.