Action Fist!

By: Guest Reviewer

On: April 14th, 2010

[This is a guest review by Cellulose Man. If you’re interested in writing an article for TIGSource, please go here.]

Beau Blyth, of Fish Face fame, recently released his largest work to date. Action Fist! is a side-scrolling shoot ’em up modeled in the style of (and as a tribute to) classic games like Gunstar Heroes.

The basic premise is thus: Domingus, a man of action, has had everything he loves stolen from him by an insidious villain known only as The Madman. He and his monocle-wearing platonic lady friend Ina are armed to the teeth and will fight their way through countless dangers and hordes of robot guards to take back what’s theirs. (Well, what’s Domingus’s, but you get the point.)

The game sports two-player co-op mode, several unlockables, fabulous music by the creator’s brother, and a weapon upgrading mechanic that keeps gameplay feeling very dynamic. It spans several stages, each split into two acts with a boss fight at the end. The stages are gorgeous and the boss battles polish them off expertly. The alternate characters have different mechanics (which I won’t spoil) and the difficulty modes range from relatively easy to near-impossible. It took some effort on my part to beat normal mode but I’m a crappy gamer. Replay value is quite present though – I’ve had three or four play throughs and I’m not done yet!

Of special note to the game designers out there is the detailed polish that went into every corner of the game. You might not notice while playing, but every enemy gives a warning prior to firing its weapon. Sounds are used extensively. Enemy bullets are easy to see. The player characters flash visibly when hurt. It’s clear when you’ve defeated an enemy. At times the game goes to lengths to sacrifice realism for player intuitiveness. (See: in the highway level you can jump to shoot enemies behind you.) Effort to this effect – gameplay tuning – has dramatically improved the feel of the game from its early versions.

My criticisms of the final cut are as follows: The color-matching mechanic (wherein the player can do additional damage to enemies with like-colored bullets) seems ill-explained, and many of my friends didn’t pick up on it. The game’s second level has no way to get power-ups. The second-to-last boss is a pushover, especially compared to the ones preceding it, and you can’t wall jump until you double-jump. The final fight is dramatically harder than the rest of the game, though I’m not certain if I really mind. Lastly, the fun of massacring enemies with an upgraded weapon tends to be lost on less skilled players who die frequently, losing said upgrades. Additionally, many of the weapon crates are well-hidden.

All that said, the ending deserves some kind of goddamned award. The game’s well worth the zero dollars you’ll pay for it, so give it a try.

TIGdb: Entry for Action Fist!

  • Derek

    Disclaimer: Cellulose Man is a friend of Beau’s. I let it slide because Action Fist! is a pretty sweet game and it wouldn’t hit the front page for a while otherwise.

  • ChevyRay

    Cool, because this should definitely be on the frontpage — amazing game 0__o

  • Gainsworthy

    I’m really digging this one! Nothing like shootin’ robots and colour matching.

    HOWEVER: Is there a more efficient alternative to Alt-Ctrl-Del as an escape button? They usuals don’t work for me.

  • Dodger

    What a great platformer. So far I’ve been loving everything about this game, lots of nostalgia. I love the co-op in this game! Haven’t had that much fun in a co-op side scroller in a long time. I seriously hope this gets the WiiWare treatment! Hell, it would be great if this made it to the PSN as well! It would be nice to see online co-op over either of those networks.

  • celluloseman

    -A madman, they call me-
    -no better man to guest review than I-

    As for quitting, hitting escape will send you back to the main menu. From there you can quit or jump back into the game as though you’d died.

  • Dinsdale

    this is probably the first truly great thing that has hit the front page all year!

    which isn’t really saying much considering that mostly everything else is pictures and videos of hipsters giving speeches.

    okay steambirds and digital were great too, but this is just awesome!

  • Hardcore

    Cave Story ripped this off.

  • Barold

    I’ve bean waiting for this game,

  • Cynic

    Monocled protagonist…?

    Only thing it needs is a raptor attached to a grappling hook! I dunno why, but I’m tired of the gentleman meme, and every game having double/wall-jump + RPG elements ala Cave Story.

    It does look like a super-polished Contra-style shooter, and the gameplay looks fluid and fun… If it wasn’t for the amount of similar games, I’d be well excited.

  • Anonymouse

    It looks like a pretty cool homage to late 80’s/early 90’s console action/platformers games.

  • dfs

    I was immediately annoyed that the bullets appear to be shooting from the protagonist’s neck/shoulder rather than from their gun.

  • undertech


  • UltimateWalrus

    final boss was absurdly awesome

  • Ted

    I like the bosses a lot. I think the flying dragon-snake one is my favorite.

  • Jotaf

    “Locale settings that use commas as decimal points muck up the save files, new version may fix this ”

    Please fix; you mean half the world must play in the “hardcore, no-save” setting? :)

  • MisterX

    The problem already seems to be fixed for me.
    If you still get the “Error reading real.” when starting the game, delete the and files in the game’s folder. Without those I could start Action Fist! just fine, but they are automatically created again every time, and you lose the (control) settings when you delete them. But, apart from that I could play it and didn’t lose any progress.
    Though, since I downloaded and extracted the game again I didn’t get the error anymore.

  • Fuck Yeah


  • ortoslon

    “The game’s well worth the zero dollars you’ll pay for it” – i don’t like this cliche phrase. when the game is free, costs are in time, effort, attention etc.

  • mots

    it’s great but I’m not sure I like the weapons system… switching and picking up upgrades.. I wasn’t too thrilled about that

    great game though

  • celluloseman

    ortoslon – It’s well worth the hours you’ll sink into it, then. ;)

  • paul eres

    i noticed the sound effects were made by a program called ‘Visual Orangator’ — despite it being freeware, it’s old, so it took me forever to find online, but finally found a copy and look forward to seeing what effects i can make with it.

    anyway, not much to say about the game, it’s nice, but wish its multiplayer were online as well as the two players one computer variety.

  • Sildra

    This game has great music and graphics but my main gripes are with the gameplay itself. The switching powers mechanic is difficult to use with some of the more hectic bosses/enemies (there are a LOT of hectic fights) and there’s no way to know without playing through the level to know what color the boss will be. Losing both powerups on death is pretty harsh as well. Enemies tend to jump directly on you so if you’re platforming and have little time to deal with them they’ll kill you mid jump as they often jump just as fast as you do.

  • Marcus

    I think this is a very generic game. Not that there’s anything wrong with generic games, but I don’t think that’s the kind of game that deserves to be featured here. I did like the music and it’s obviously not knocked together in an afternoon, but the switching weapons thing was no fun at all and ruined it for me. Also, is there a green weapon as well, if so why didn’t it ever appear?

  • Dinsdale

    @Marcus – so what kind of games do you think deserve to be featured here?

    and yes, there is a green weapon. never got a red weapon myself on the first run, though…

  • paul eres

    i’m kinda against the idea that we should only feature certain types of games here — retro games that don’t try much new are a big part of the indie community, and it’d be as stupid to not review those as it would be to never review art games, interactive fiction, rom hacks, jrpgs made in rpgmaker, or whatever. well, i agree that only good or interesting games should be featured, and this game is good and interesting to many people (check out the comment who thought it was the first good game posted on here all year for example.)

  • Dodger

    This game keeps me coming back for more. This seriously is great. I really hope a console port sees the light of day because this would be an awesome co-op game on a console and with online co-op this would seriously kick the snot out of many other co-op games out there. Let’s put it this way, I’d rather play this over and over than play through Army of Two (and I have finished the first one, grew extremely bored with the second since it – both rentals, both boring). These are the co-op games that we need and even though I’d like online co-op I think the single player romp is still a heck-uva-lot-uv-fun.

  • Anthony Flack

    I’ve played many, many run-and-gun games over the years. And with any luck, I’ll be playing many, many more in the years to come.

    It doesn’t need a gimmick mechanic to be fun. Platforming+shooting, what’s not to like?

  • Marcus

    I can understand why people are allergic to the “this shouldn’t be on the frontpage” kind of comments but I think it’s a form of valid criticism, just like “first good game on the frontpage in a year” is.

    I definitely agree with Paul that one more type of game should be featured here, but to me the problem is that I think this type of game is featured very often, while lots of other types of games are ignored.

    Take flash games, for example. I know many flash games which I think are much more interesting than this but seem unlikely to ever make it to the TIGSource frontpage because they don’t feature any indie memes, don’t have pixel graphics, aren’t made by one of the “certified TIG” indies, or aren’t long or polished enough.

    Personally I’m more interested in playing a 5 minute game which does something interesting and new than a 1 hour game which doesn’t, but I might be in minority.

  • paul eres

    i kinda agree that there may be more retro games on the frontpage than is warranted, but this one is relatively full-featured, complete, and lengthy. i’d far rather see posts like this than preview videos for the latest indie game that was announced for wiiware.

    and if you know of some flash games that are better than this, that’s what the guest reviewer system is for — feel free to review them (or even just to recommend them to me to review).

  • Derek

    “I know many flash games which I think are much more interesting than this but seem unlikely to ever make it to the TIGSource frontpage…”

    And they’re so interesting that in two comments you don’t even bother to mention any of them. No wonder it seems unlikely!

  • Dodger


    Wait a minute… so you mean to say that you didn’t see “Don’t Look Back”? “Meat Boy”? “When Pigs Fly”? “Evacuation”? “DeflectorPool”? etc, etc, etc…

    You mean to tell me you didn’t notice any of those flash games when they were posted on the front page??? There are plenty of others listed as well.

    Honestly I’ve discovered quite a few great flash games by checking out TIGS front page, many more than the ones I’ve just listed as well. Maybe you just missed them though, but I certainly remember more than a good handful of them.

  • mike

    “aren’t made by one of the “certified TIG” indies”

    I’m still waiting for my card, I know I sent in my first year’s membership payment about three weeks ago and I still haven’t gotten properly certified.

    Derek, I’m looking at you :(

  • Dinsdale

    in marcus’ defense, features a lot more games tigsors so perhaps he’s referring to some of the titles derek here missed mentioning?

    and what the hell does the 1st post mean, anyway? cellulose man? Action Fist! not hitting the front page? why?

  • Marcus

    OK, sorry for trying to make a point on the state of the frontpage by saying a game “shouldn’t have been featured”, no good debate will ever come out of that.

  • paul eres

    i agree that tigsource should review games more frequently than it does now — i do have a list of about 10 games i want to review, but am limited by free time. timw works on full time, whereas we don’t.

  • rolf

    ummm whats the big deal… i think the game is very fun and img lad i found it here…

  • raigan

    This game is awesome — the freedom of movement is amazing, and the graphics/sounds are especially good.

  • BMcC

    **@Marcus:** Yeah, I’d be hard pressed to find games that “shouldn’t” be featured on the front page! The whole notion of deciding something somebody put time and effort into making not *deserving* to be featured is ridiculous to me. (Especially when it’s free, sheesh.)

    Anyway, I’d love to feature everything, but we’re all working on games in addition to posting here. TIGS is a labor of love.

    If you think we’ve got a blind spot, you should draw some attention to things you’d like to see in the forums. Even if it’s just a collection of links. (Or, if you’ve got time, write a guest review!) I know I’d appreciate it. :)

    **@Dinsdale:** So, “mostly everything else is pictures and videos of hipsters giving speeches?” I’m sorry, but can you count? I see *one* post of *Cactus* giving a talk *for IGS* — which I’m obliged to cover, by the way! And it links to like a half dozen other game developers you might not be following.

    Please, PLEASE, don’t take pot-shots like that in the future. It really depresses me. :(

  • BMcC

    Also, this game is rad! Thanks, celluloseman, for the review. :D

  • st33d

    Awesome game!

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention

  • IjonTichy

    Does the game slow wayyyyy down for anyone else on the stage with the red background and the eclipse? It’s fine otherwise, oddly. I really want to play the rest of the game, but I can’t :(

  • celluloseman

    @Dinsdale Me and Beau are collaborating on a few projects, and when he finished one of his own, I liked it so much I decided I’d review it myself. The disclaimer points out that, if you want to, you can think me a total jerk for reviewing my friend’s game.

    As the discussion here goes, all I’ll say is I personally found the game to be a lot of fun, a lot of work went into it and it was released for free. I think that qualifies a game for a little highlighting, even if it isn’t going to lengths to advance the art form or push the boundaries of what a game can be.

    On the Race to the Rocket level lag: I’ve gotten a little bit of this myself; try playing again? In the meantime I’ll see to it that Beau hears about the problem.

  • Anarkex

    I’ll definitely be trying this one out soon. It looks pretty badass.

  • Anarkex

    Okay, I’m not going to write a whole essay about this, but let me bring up one or two points.

    First of all, the color swapping mechanic is a little ass. Would it really have been giving the player too much power to just let him switch between the three colors at will? The way it is is just frustrating, since you get enemies of all types coming at you constantly and you’re always without access to one color. There’s no “good way” to go about playing with this mechanic: Fighting one in every three enemies is always ass.

    Second of all, ever wonder why games like Gunstar Heroes and Metal Slug didn’t have contact damage on grunt enemies, and employed a close-range knife swipe ability when your sprite overlapped theirs? This game is why. Fighting enemies sucks because of dodging bullets into enemy sprites. And no enemy has any limitations, either, they all have like jetpacks.

    The guns are all the same besides the colors, the powerups suck, there’s no grenades or weapons with fun trajectories like in Metal Slug and Gunstar Heroes… but we NEEEEEEEDED walljumping in here. It just had to be in here. Platforming is anything but painless, the wall jumping is sketchy and we can’t conserve our double jump for afterwards to do any cool maneuvers, we can’t triangle jump up walls, and as far as I can tell there’s no reason why walljumping doesn’t reset your double jump. I mean, we’ve all done platforming before, isn’t the challenge of this game the bullets and the combat and stuff? Why not give the player more mobility instead of less? As it is walljumping is something the player only does when he’s FORCED to.

    The driving level was a cute idea but it’s lacking in so many areas it shouldn’t even have been here. Why does the stage have depth? all it does is make it harder to aim and dodge, and bullets and enemy hitboxes don’t obey depth so you can jump into enemies riding on the ground above you. OOPS. And there’s no checkpoints or powerups either. Cool dudes.

    Lastly, and this is seriously a big deal, WHY DIDN’T YOU INCLUDE LIVES AND A CONTINUE SCREEN? I can’t be the only one who finds playing games like this TORTURE with infinite lives, it’s like you aren’t allowing me to improve or something. Adding lives and a continue screen gives the player a meter of his abilities, and it gives the game designers an easy way to understand the balance and difficulty of their own game: If it can’t be beaten without using continues, we should make it so it CAN. I’m only making a big deal out of this because this game really feels like an arcade game and BEGS to be played like one.

    In all the game is pretty cool, and it’s probably the best indie game I’ve played in a while. It’s got what it takes as far as graphics and music goes, but the mechanics need a bit of work to be more original, balanced, and appealing. The bullets move at a great speed and saturate the screen in a way that makes them really fun to double-jump through and dodge, but the bare-bones aiming and movement skills (along with contact damage on the grunt enemies, grr) coupled with the tacked-on colored bullet system makes surviving a little bit too much about luck.

  • MisterX

    I agree with nearly all of your points, yet none of them really is an issue in my opinion. Some notes:
    -The colour switching has a tiny tactical component, as the enemy types appear with different frequency. For example the main cannon fodder is nearly always yellow guys. But, because of this, I just always had a main yellow gun, preferably with spread and permeate against those, and then just something else. So, I agree it isn’t a very meaningful feature.
    Still, I didn’t have much trouble fighting enemies without the correct colour, so having a matching weapon was really only a bonus in my opinion, not the other way around.
    -Having no way to attack enemies standing “inside” you, yet still taking damage can be somewhat annoying, but mostly it just ment that I was more wary of the default enemies, since it can still make them very dangerous. On the other hand, in Metal Slug you can mostly just run through hordes of enemies without feeling like you’re in danger at all. I’d say it’s mainly “different” in Action Fist, not (much) worse.
    A game which really suffers from this is Bonesaw. Too bad that was never fixed.
    -I thought the driving level was a nice diversion and I actually really enjoyed that bullets don’t behave according to the changed perspective. Sure, it’s not logical, but if it was “correct” it would probably be very annoying. So, again, I just don’t mind it.
    -I don’t get the problem with not having lives, at all. The way I see it, it’s nearly impossible that a player won’t get stuck somewhere and have to try several times before he succeeds. I guess having infinite lives just makes that a bit less frustrating, whereas in games with continues you usually have to retry the whole level if you fail a few times.

    The only real problem I had was the boss difficulty. On normal difficulty I thought most bosses were nearly laughably easy. A few maybe took me 2-3 tries, but others I bet on the first try and didn’t feel challenged. In contrast to that, the final boss was frustratingly hard, I had to retry many times, lowered the difficulty and tried another few times, finally lowered it again to “kitty” and even then only beat it after several tries. Granted, it took me a while to see that damn powerup crate before it.

    I just think it’s a bad, bad idea to make the final boss fight at least 5 times more difficult than the rest of the game. Preferably the whole game is challenging, so that I nearly constantly have to make an effort to proceed and will likely have to retry some sections a few times. But, if the final boss then is several times more difficult than that, it can only lead to frustration.
    It wasn’t very bad, I didn’t get very frustrated before I made it, but I still dislike that. It was worse in Cave Story, that one’s final boss actually got me very frustrated, so much that I had to pause a few times before gathering enough motivation to try again. And yet worse was Bonesaw, which I had great fun playing up until the final boss, but just couldn’t manage it and had to give up, thus never finishing it.
    I think as a developer you should really take the risk of making the game’s ending a bit less satisfying than it could be, if that means you won’t frustrate the player, or even prevent him from completing the game at all.

  • Bob

    Great game, think I found a crippling bug though. In what I assume to be the first level of the final stage (red moon in background, lots of rain) I run into an invisible wall at one point. Platform comes to an end while dodging all the rockets and there is no place to go. Characters run into wall and get squished.

    Probably due to my POS compy? The level is incredibly slow as well. Computer is old junk.

  • Bob

    Sorry for the double post. I just went to the action fist site, couldn’t’ find a contact link. Is there an official place where I can report the bug?

  • Landers

    @Bob: You have to jump up once you get to that point. There is one orange ledge that precedes the edge of that platform. Jump on that beforehand, and the camera will shift and show you the way up.

    I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Quirky weapon system & double jump aside, it’s a fun game to play. And the final boss was awesome IMO.

  • Anarkex

    @MisterX: Perhaps you are unfamiliar with my style here, but what I’m doing is offering constructive criticism. This isn’t about what I could “live with” or what I was “mostly fine with”, this is about questioning a game’s complexity and eloquence at every turn. Maybe you’d call that being an asshole elitist, I call it a study of game design, one game at a time. Of course I didn’t have *trouble* with the color switching mechanic, or the hitboxes, or the lack of a life limit. I don’t have an *issue* with these things. But these design decisions don’t add to the game and at worst are detrimental, and that’s why I bring them up. Even if these guys never make another game, someone might learn from all this and take indie games one step further. So on to your individual points besides that:

    On colors:
    The color switching does have a TINY tactical component once you’ve memorized the levels. The point is that its use is tiny, almost to the point of insignificance. They could have put in guns that are actually fun to aim and shoot with weird features and patterns, and the tactical aspect would have been heads and tails better. As it is it just takes Ikaruga and Gunstar Heroes’ respective weapon systems and removes everything enjoyable about them. Playable without a doubt, but not entirely fun.

    On contact damage:
    >On the other hand, in Metal Slug you can mostly just run through hordes of enemies without feeling like you’re in danger at all.

    Lol except you actually are in danger, because Metal Slug games are legitimately challenging. The game would be frustrating and impossible if enemies had constant hitboxes because you already have plenty of hazards to dodge. This game has like twice as many bullets at times, and still feels the need to add one more little ass factor. Like, I can understand that the devs just didn’t really know where to hold back or go all-out with this game. Essentially most of my gripes don’t indicate that these guys were being idiots about this game, they just tried to do a lot of things that just didn’t work very well.

    On the cars:
    >I actually really enjoyed that bullets don’t behave according to the changed perspective. Sure, it’s not logical, but if it was “correct” it would probably be very annoying.

    And yet you neglect to say how in god’s name having things that actually work the way they are supposed to would be annoying. They could have easily not had field depth in that level without it being boring. Gunstar Heroes did exactly that in their cart level. But instead, we get something utterly stupid, where we can jump into enemies that are behind us. Don’t make excuses for crummy design.

    On lives and continues:
    >The way I see it, it’s nearly impossible that a player won’t get stuck somewhere and have to try several times before he succeeds.

    The way I see it, we should just make the player invincible and cut out the middleman. In all seriousness, what infinite lives does to a game is make both the players and developers sloppy. The player no longer has to try, as he can haphazardly bump his way through the entire game if he just keeps rushing the next checkpoint. And the developer no longer has to balance the game for people who actually want to play it, opting instead to just arrange objects in any old fashion and assume the player will fuck up somewhere between ten and seventy times during his one playthrough.

    Not to mention, the arcade style of using lives and continues is actually exactly the same as this at its most difficult, and MORE lenient at its least! When a player dies in many modern arcade games, he consumes one life and resumes play IMMEDIATELY, without backtracking to a checkpoint. But when the lives are gone, he has to use another credit. This means players who hate the game can still run through the whole thing and have an EASIER time, while players who love it can strive to clear it in a single credit and get tons more play out of the practice. Even when you are sent back to a checkpoint, though, I still think limited lives (possibly with unlimited continues for the weak) is the way to go. It gives the player a better perspective on his own skill and, once again, it proves the developers have really thought things through.

    So, that’s pretty much everything anyone should ever have to say about this game, possibly much more. Any questions?

  • Dinsdale

    @BMcC – okay, so yeah man, i was exaggerating while attempting at funnies up there but the fact of the matter is that as of late, playable-games-posts to other-stuff-posts ratio per page is mostly equal – and as i’m writing this, another hipster appears!

    i’m just saying there are more games out there than what little tigsource is covering.

    doesn’t really matter, i’m just happy to have found out about Action Fist! is all.

    @celluloseman – ah, i see! figured it’s something else… thanks!