I like Metroidvanias. I enjoy their puzzle like construction, the incremental power, the build variety, and the rewards for precision. Hollow Knight is right at the top of my list, just an all around amazing game from end to end. Bloodstained, Ori, and Blasphemous are up there too. Metroid Dread is good. Even the indie versions, like Gatto are a decent play as they focus on a specific aspect and go from there.

F.I.S.T. is a game from a smaller gaming developer, using Unreal Engine to try and capture the Metroidvania spirit. You play an anthropomorphic rabbit with a large metal hand attached to your back, on a McGuffin quest. I say smaller because while the game does look good (Unreal will do that) there are some polish pieces missing. I picked this up for free from EGS during the holiday event.

There is a substantial amount of detail in every screen

I’ll go over the items I think are essential to the genre:

Puzzles: There are secrets here, lots of backtracking based on new skills/abilities, and new movement abilities. Backtracking / shortcut doors are quite common. I’ve yet to unlock any type of fast travel, but given the size of the map I have to assume it’s there. On that, the map is very large and windy. While you unlock a dash very early, traversal feels laborious.

Incremental Power: You have a skill tree that improves your weapon combos. You don’t actually hit harder exactly, you just unlock new button press combos for say an extra swing or such. This does mean that even the starting enemies still take the same amount of hits later on. For shorter games, I don’t mind. The weapons themselves you unlock have different aspects… one is pure melee, another AE, another for mid-distance attacks.

Build variety: This is a tougher one, because I enjoy multiple playstyles. Metroid Dread doesn’t have this and it’s a major annoyance to me. F.I.S.T. ‘s variety is based on the 3 weapon types and your preference. The skill combo unlocks are only based on damage. It sort of works here.

Precision gameplay: After you play through the White Tower in Hollow Knight, you will understand why this is important… and this is where F.I.S.T. generally disappoints. The world in general feels “floaty”, where gravity doesn’t really exist unless it needs to. Hitboxes are oddly designed and not related to what you see on screen. All attacks have an AE component and your lack of mid-air controls makes its very hard to be precise. Staggering appears to be random, and there are no i-frames or cancel-out abilities. You press a button and you have committed to that movement occurring – the enemy too, meaning that either you hit first and they die, or you take damage. For normal enemies this is an annoyance… for bosses, this means death. You can certainly complete most bosses with zero damage, the mechanics are simple enough. But there are no rewards for playing accurately, which is quite fascinating to me.

F.I.S.T. is an interesting game, with some interesting choices. The map in particular is simply too large with too much filler. The precision puzzles lack the controls to feel rewarding rather than simply lucking out. Combat feels slow and random, with the same enemy types throughout. If you can get this for like $5-10, it’s an interesting distraction. It will also remind you that there are much better Metroidvanias out there, for the same price.

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