Mediatonic has never been one to shy away from established genre, bringing their unique brand of score attack gameplay to existing frameworks in a way that make them feel fresh again. This is exactly what the studio’s latest, Foul Play, does with the scrolling beat-‘em-up: in terms of gameplay there is nothing here that you won’t have seen before, yet in terms of presentation the videogame is so unique that it’s more than worth investing your time and money in.
Foul Play tells the take of Sir. Dashforth, or rather Sir. Dashforth tells the tale of Sir. Dashforth by way of a play put on in this videogame. He’s a hero, you see, and along with his chimney sweep sidekick Mr. Scampwick, he’s travelled the world acquiring great reaches, defeating armies and battling against mythical beings. And today he wishes to share his audience with all who’ll listen; as it turns out that literally thousands of theatre attendees.
Throughout the whole videogame the player, as Sir. Dashforth, is presenting the story on a stage to an eager audience. As they move from scene-to-scene, with a significant emphasis on action of course, the scenery will change to accommodate new locales or times of day. The enemies you will fight are typically men in costumes (of variable quality) and the challenges you will face all fall into the realm of performance critique. Foul Play has a theme – and a loveable one at that – and it runs all the way home with it.
The mechanics of the videogame are built around this theme, too. As opposed to a health bar the player(s) has an audience appreciation meter which is boosted with lengthy combos or the successful execution of a special move, but deducted from when the enemy takes the advantage. The audience will cheers and throw their hats into the air when you’re winning, but turn on you, booing and hissing, when you’re failing. It’s an interesting system that always allows the player an opportunity to retake control of the situation, reliant on their skill and ability to pull themselves out of a bad situation. Furthermore the player will start each act with a series of challenges to complete, typically revolving around achieving a specific combo tally or performing a specific move a set number of times, and doing so will earn you a great deal of experience.
The combat system is predominantly based around combos. Some may feel that it’s limited by comparison to modern 3D scrolling beat-‘em-ups, and they’d be right, but Foul Play is aiming directly at redefining the 16-bit traditions. It’s a videogame that will appeal to the experienced gamer in both its gameplay design and quirky sense of humour, both of which are top tier stuff. Mediatonic set themselves a lofty goal when they decided to modernise established genres, but on Foul Play they’ve discovered exactly why doing so presents a rewarding gameplay experience.