Foul Play sets the stage for an excellent 2D side scrolling beat ‘em up and it does not disappoint. Telling the life story of daemonologist Baron Dashforth and his assistant Scampwick, the game follows their efforts to banish the dark things of the world – with one twist. They’ve already done it. What you play out is a theatre performance recounting their adventures to an enthusiastic audience. It’s this games gimmick and Mediatonic knew exactly how to use it.
Everything from the art style to bonus objectives and humour is affected by the fact this is a theatrical bibliography. The enemies are obviously either puppets or men in suits, occasionally dying at the wrong time or forgetting their lines, and the levels are constantly changing sets. Rather than a true health bar your objective is to keep the crowd appeased and excited via everything from specific demands to being hit as few times as possible. It influences every detail of the title such as the final scores of stages being actual review stars of the show, and is taken to an extent where its entertainment value never truly wears out.
Much like Castle Crashers from previous years, Foul Play has excellent humour stemming from its artistic style and setting but is clearly more refined. Whereas the aforementioned game had very limited combo capabilities beyond character types and some weapons, Foul Play has been set up with brawling in mind. From the very start you can pull off skilled air juggling, over the shoulder throws and timed dodges with surprisingly fluid combat. There is far more skill in timing attacks and deciding when to use each move than you would traditionally find in the average game of this genre.
Much of the replay value of the title comes from getting higher and higher scores. However, despite this the secondary objectives desired by the audiences can force you to repeat levels multiple times to achieve full completion. Unfortunately Foul Play relies upon this to keep you interested past its twelve stages, few of which are especially lengthy; meaning those less obsessive with a perfect score might find this relatively short.
Furthermore, another weakness comes from the fact that while racking up combos might be fun there is not quite enough variety of basic attacks. Something which proves to be a point of frustration with the more hit spongy enemies. Not to mention the occasional frustration of unskippable cutscenes, which are frequent throughout stages.
Foul Play might have some shortcomings, but for its price this is strongly recommended. Definitely pick up this one if you’re after a 2D brawler with plenty of great gags.