Growing up I was a fighting game fanatic. Most specifically, I remember reading EGM and tearing pages out from Capcom vs. SNK 2 as well as Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Mainly I was jealous because I didn’t own the systems to play those games, but I was also just completely caught up in the idea of those games. So, upon the release of the PS2, I was not going to leave the store without a copy of Tekken Tag Tournament. I always find that I miss those days, especially now that fighting games are so much more capable. What with the online play.
My fighting game loves partially came out of growing up on Beat Em’ Ups. I think the first one I picked up was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which I found out was a 1989 release. Then, of course, I was totally into Final Fight, which blew my mind when I was a kid. Even last year, ‘Guacamelee’ was one of my favorite games and that was kind of a stylized take on the classic Beat Em’ Up structure. The results of the effort in ‘Guacamelee’ revitalized my taste for the genre. So I was super excited when we were contacted to do coverage of a fighter/beat em’ up hybrid with ‘Fatal Theory’ by 2 Hit Studio.
‘Fatal Theory’ opens with protagonist ‘Nick Mayhem’ chilling in his room playing video games. The landlord comes knocking to collect rent. But he’s not collecting rent, he’s collecting brains! Him and mostly everyone else has become a zombie. So, naturally, Nick Mayhem is amazingly stoked to partake in the apocalypse and eventually teams up with a demon chainsaw sword to overcome both the demons and the zombie. Don’t think about it too much. It’s great.
The entire story is told through these comic book style encounters with other characters. There’s small amounts of backstory to each level. The comics have an interesting look to them and really tie together the ascetic of a retro beat em’ up. The story isn’t anything to laude over, but that’s not usually the point of a beat em’ up. Everything comes down to two things in the genre: gameplay and design.
‘Fatal’ Theory is more of a classic beat em’ up game. It has the look and candor that seemed so prevalent in the 90’s. There’s a snarky main character, plenty of rivals, combo meters, and great retro music to tie it all together. In some ways it was what I was looking for out of ‘Fatal Theory’. I crave nostalgic joys and it initially seemed like ‘Fatal Theory’ could provide me with exactly that.
The systems in place for ‘Fatal Theory’ are really quite good. I especially enjoyed the weapon and upgrade system. Your character gets better as the game gets harder. I think that the electric whip ended up being my go-to weapon throughout the game, even though it was janky and tough to use. The combat system is pretty typical of the genre. Your character has a health bar and waves of enemies are presented to defeat. Usually following a beat em’ up level is a fighting level, which pits the player in a one-on-one battle with a foe. The combat system remains the same, but the opponent also has a health bar to deplete.
Each of the enemies you meet one-on-one has their own special abilities, which are very cool to fight against. I found myself enjoying these fights much more than the mass enemy bouts. I think the one-on-one fights continued to progress and become more interesting as the game went on, where the mass enemy bouts floundered a little bit. This could be a bi-product of the zombie theme, which I personally believes backs enemy design into a small corner within to make advancements.
Most importantly though, beyond design, story, music, and structure for a fighter and beat em’ up is the controls. I played the entire game on an Xbox 360 controller, so keep that in mind as I continue on this mini rant. ‘Fatal Theory’ doesn’t control very well. Pulling off combos was difficult, despite them only being a three button prompt most of the time. I found I had no room for error with my directional button pressing. I would accidently jump at crucial times, or miss a necessary special move because the controller was simply not registering what I was inputting. Those who have played fighting games know how important “feel” is and the feel in ‘Fatal Theory’ is not quite as there as I had hoped it would be. It was an unfortunate down spot on what I see as a worth entry into the beat em’ up genre.
Long Story Short…
‘Fatal Theory’ may be exactly what you’re looking during a dry period in games. It is a quintessential combination of beat em’ ups and fighting games and I found myself really enjoying it. The control issues are definitely a huge drawback, which should be considered when looking at a game so desperate for accurate controls. Overall, it is a great package at a low price for fans of the genre like me. Definitely worth a purchase and considerably great at multiple points, ‘Fatal Theory’ may be just what you’re looking for.
‘Fatal Theory’ is available at ‘2 Hit Studios’ official website. You can also grab it at the auxiliary sites like Desura and Itch.io. Finally, go help these dudes get Greenlit so they can get their game on Steam.