One Finger Death Punch 2 Review: An Excellent Brawler That Sticks
One Finger Death Punch 2 is a deceptively simple brawler with charm and style to spare. It's easy to start, but rewardingly difficult to master.
A massive improvement on the original in terms of quality, variety, and polish, Silver Dollar Games' One Finger Death Punch 2 is a captivating indie brawler that never takes itself too seriously. It shares the deceptively simple premise of its predecessor, in which the player is tasked with killing multitudes of on-screen stick figures using only two inputs to chain over-the-top martial arts combos. However, once it sucks players in with its charm and cartoonishly gratuitous violence, the true challenge and depth of the game is slowly revealed. Playing like the lovechild of Mortal Kombat and arcade rhythm games, One Finger Death Punch 2 is as addictive as it is rewarding.
After a fairly brief but effective series of tutorial levels, One Finger Death Punch 2 looses players upon its main offerings, a remarkably lengthy campaign that mounts in difficulty and variety and Survival, an endless mode that encourages players to climb the leaderboards on a mountain of stick figure corpses. Using either the left and right arrow keys or left and right mouse buttons, a player-controlled stick figure must kill all enemy combatants as they appear on-screen, with the color of these foes indicating what types of enemies they are and how they need to be dispatched. By the time multiple enemy types, weapons, and special abilities have been introduced, it quickly becomes clear that One Finger Death Punch 2 has an fairly high skill ceiling, but it balances its potential difficulty with a handy speed modifier that can scale the game's pace automatically or manually.
When it all comes together - and the game ensures that this happens frequently - playing One Finger Death Punch 2 feels like reanimating a Chuck Norris joke in glorious fashion. Absurdities such as a loaded gun suddenly appearing in the player character's hand after catching a bullet bare-handed, wielding a large garden planter like a makeshift club, or spontaneously launching into a perpetual spin-kick become commonplace only a few hours into a playthrough. Comical and self-aware to its very core, booting up One Finger Death Punch 2 feels akin to stepping back into the internet era of Flash games dominated by Newgrounds and Kongregate. That said, some of Silver Dollar's choices come off as dated, with the announcer's distastefully poor attempt at a Chinese accent sounding flagrantly out-of-place. Additionally, the exclusively linear movement granted in the campaign's level select screen works well enough for a first playthrough but is annoyingly restrictive when backtracking, and levels lack any visual or textual identification after their initial completion.
Embracing its tongue-in-cheek identity and combining it with strong arcade influence, even the game's main menu features two stick figures duking it out while waiting for player input, and after a few more seconds of inactivity an arcadey "demo mode" showcasing gameplay footage will begin playing. One Finger Death Punch 2 is chaos and nostalgia incarnate, and players will be hard-pressed to find another title that allows them to seamlessly transition from unleashing an oversized can of kung fu upon enemies to slaughtering more of them with a Star Wars-inspired "power sword" than Anakin Skywalker in a temple full of younglings. Furthermore, fans of retro arcade fighters like the original Street Fighter games will fall in love with the game's huge and varied soundtrack, which is replete with fast-paced power melodies that are liable to take some back to the days they spent dropping quarters into a cabinet between gulps of Pepsi Clear.
The game's appeal isn't restricted to on-screen insanity and pop culture references, though. Despite its seemingly crude use of stick figures, One Finger Death Punch 2 is a well-polished brawler experience that oozes style. This is primarily thanks to the manner in which it tirelessly juggles a sizable collection of fluid animations, keeping the experience from feeling stale even when the relatively one-dimensional gameplay should have otherwise worn on the player. Cycled in and out at random, these animations expertly craft the illusion that the player character has a unique response to every individual attacker out of dozens. Combined with well-sequenced configurations of weapons and enemy types, cinematic finishers and duels, and more, One Finger Death Punch 2 guarantees that no two campaign levels play exactly the same, and enduring players who reach a new tier of the Survival tower are always in for new surprises.
One Finger Death Punch 2 likes to remind struggling players to not button-mash, as the combat system requires players to prioritize precision even at overwhelming speeds if they want to complete each level with a five-star rating or top the Survival leaderboards. Thankfully, the game can be as relaxing or as hectic as players desire, and even the most casual player should be able to complete the campaign. However, those seeking a challenge should prepare for punishment at higher speeds, but the reward of completing a tough multi-level stage or especially tricky Survival segment after repeated failure is pure catharsis. Misses will quickly become the bane of One Finger Death Punch 2 players' collective existence, which makes it slightly frustrating when some misses feel cheapened due to the occasional extension of the player's range, being too hard to predict and sometimes disappearing just as a button has already been pressed. Overall, though, success almost never feels completely out of reach in One Finger Death Punch 2, and it does a commendable job of making the player feel clever in their combat mastery when throwing all-new enemies at them with the confidence that they'll be able to adapt on the fly.
Finally, the game's replayability is furthered by a bevvy of upgradeable abilities that can players can respec at no additional cost and a few extra modes hidden away in a the "More" menu. There's a local co-op Survival tower, a hilarious version of single player Survival with an added catch of a black cat named Luca blocking a major portion of the screen, a training mode, and Gauntlet, which faces players with a randomly ordered board of increasingly difficult levels and provides them the choice of which to tackle next. Small, personal touches like the so-called No Luca No (as well a hidden jump scare that triggers after sitting idle in the menus for too long) are reminders of Silver Dollar Games' indie size and charm, but that status does not absolve the developer of all criticism. Game-breaking bugs are highly uncommon in One Finger Death Punch 2 but do occur on once in a blue moon. Also, some enemy types are too close in color to others', which could have been worked around by introducing unique visual elements for each type beyond color-coding - this would be an important change to make from an accessibility stand point, as well, since sight-impaired gamers will likely struggle with the game a bit more than able ones.
One Finger Death Punch 2 is a brawler with a lot of heart, a great sense of humor, and an astonishing amount of depth and content for its relatively low price tag. Those who opt to give it a try will likely at once find themselves entranced by its compelling gameplay, discovering an odd sense of calm in stylishly plowing through swathes of stick figures that wish to do them harm. Of course, it's not without its flaws, and the gameplay may appear shallow to those who can't or won't dive beyond the surface, but players that do will likely agree that One Finger Death Punch 2 is a cut above the rest in 2019's indie gaming scene.
One Finger Death Punch 2 will be available on PC on April 15. Screen Rant was a Steam key for review.