The Legion, an armada of robot dogs, rule the neon-colored slums of Torch City with a literal iron fist. Anthropomorphic citizens called Furtizens are reluctant to accept this regime, but war hero Rayton the Rabbit has other plans. Armed with a giant robotic fist, he leads the fight to his battery-powered oppressors to foil a grand takeover while settling a personal score at the heart of the conflict. Knock a few heads in this side-scrolling action title and you’ll understand what the iron dogs learned the hard way: Rayton is one hell of a force to be reckoned with.
Throwing hands, or rather “hand”, with Rayton feels accordingly powerful and gets better as you unlock new attacks and combo strings. Performing powerful uppercuts, juggling opponents in mid-air, and then landing a charged punch to toss enemies across the screen never gets old. Despite the title of the game, you also carry two other types of weapons. A gigantic drill grinds enemies into lightning, while an electrified whip can tie up enemies while unleashing quick attacks like a one-armed Doctor Octopus. Mixing these three different fighting styles creates a plethora of fantastic attack combinations that only get deeper as you unlock their custom upgrade trees. Ancillary equipment like a rocket launcher and explosive decoys offer fun compliments on your main arsenal.
Oddly enough, the game has two identical parrying mechanics: one that consumes energy and one that you can do freely. Unfortunately, the free version requires you to flick the stick forward, which feels unnatural and unreliable. As a result, I often went headlong into attacks, and successful hits felt like stupid luck. The limited parry is mapped to a more appropriate shoulder button for ease of execution, but its deprivation of energy spoils an important aspect of the fight.
The robot enemies come in a variety of classes and challenged my mastery of the skills. Teleporting ninja frogs keep you moving, air towers force the fight into the sky, and metal samurai challenge you to deliberately think, parry, and strike at the right moment. I had a great time taking apart this villain’s gallery despite the challenge they present. However, sometimes they overcrowd the doors and slam as soon as you step into a room that feels cheap. Mini bosses and their bigger brothers will test the limits of your abilities and will take several tries to conquer them, but the challenge is rewarding and fair.
Exploring the expansive map consists of the standard “find the right skill to open doors” formula, but the smooth maneuverability makes it easy to get around. Rayton’s Double Jump, Wall Climb, and Air Dash are expected, but they’re well tuned and made me confident that I could survive the platform glove selection. It’s satisfying to dodge laser beams, rotating spiked platforms, and the murderous eye of a giant mechanical octopus. The rundown streets, billboard-laden homes, and quiet shopping district of Torch City are beautiful thanks to the attention to detail in every dirty brick. The adventure eventually takes you outside the walls and below to experience a welcome visual variety, such as snowy outposts and ancient temples. The areas are divided into separate mazes, which are mostly fun, but they could have more fast travel points. Warping from point A to point B often feels like choosing your poison, which long route to retread.
Even so, the world of FIST wants to be explored thanks to its abundance of rewards and collectibles. Shattering iron piggy banks explode into confetti of coins. Finding posters unlocks cosmetic skins for your weapons. Bringing scattered plant seeds to a young botanist will give you cash and unlockables. Rescuing an overhead thief from his repeated mistakes grants skeleton keys that can be used to open special chests. While the game is not lacking in proper side quests, smaller narrations, like encountering an enemy paper pusher who routinely offers new reasons why you should spare him, add flavor to the world. Even after spending two dozen hours on FIST, I itched to see what was around the corner.
FIST provides another fine example of an exploration-oriented side-scroller, and fans of the genre will find plenty to love. What it lacks in innovation it makes up for by implementing well-known ideas at a high level and letting them fall into a seductive world. Developer Bilibili has pulled a nice surprise out of his hat.