Not familiar with the game when I started playing it, Foul Play really surprised me with its original premise. The key here was in its title. Foul Play could have been a political simulation or a violent take on a popular sport, but it’s a bit more clever than that. The word “play” has to be interpreted in terms of a stage play, albeit a very unusual one.
Taking place inside a theater, Foul Play tells the story of Dashforth and Scampwick – whose adventures happen to include a whole lot of ass-kicking. The theater setting is used to great effect, with the audience not just visible on screen but also interacting with you in terms of rewarding or punishing you for your performance. Do well and you’ll unlock special attacks, do poorly and you’ll be left more vulnerable. Entertaining your crowd is an important part of any play, and this one is no exception.
The way the game plays out is much more familiar to gamers than its setting. A fairly traditional side-scrolling brawler (although the stage doesn’t allow for much of the scrolling part), this will feel familiar to anyone who’s played Castle Crashers or perhaps even an older classic like Golden Axe. As you unlock more attacks, different moves and tactics become available – including grabs and explosive counters. If you’re a fan of the genre, you can be sure that you’ll be entertained by this one. Basic attacks, special attacks, parry moves and throws – they’re all here, and easy to control.
Though the game’s controls and core gameplay aren’t terribly original, its style definitely is. The art style most closely resembles something like South Park, and the stage play setting is used to great effect. The audience interaction has already been discussed, but since all of your fighting is essentially a re-telling of events that ‘really’ took place, your enemies are actually actors. After you beat them up, they’ll crawl off stage or stumble in another – often funny – way before vanishing.
The game’s full of little touches like that when it comes to its presentation, which really helps in elevating the game beyond its relatively basic fighting dynamics. What’s added is not depth or (unfortunately) replayability, but fun and entertainment. And isn’t that what good stage entertainment is all about?