Back in the early months of 2013 we saw the release of Foul Play. A beat 'em up well suited to anyone with a strong left hand and a great love for a combo driven, punchin' brawl on the big theatre stage. This title was first unleashed on the Xbox 360 and PC, by Mediatonic, the developers who've since given us Hatoful Boyfriend! Now in 2016 we're seeing the release of Foul Play both on PS4 and the PS Vita.
This side-scrolling star of the stage first introduces you to the captivating mind of Baron Dashforth, a proud demonologist from the Victorian era. A hunter of dark and monstrous entities, working alongside his loyal friend and side kick, Mr Scampwick. Accompanied by a theatrical audience, you will follow and discover the story of Mr Dashforth's life for one night only in a series of flashbacks throughout each act of the game, starting from the comfort of his arm chair and taking us down to the bottom of the ocean. He unravels the daunting and harrowing tales of the paranormal entities he once faced, and now he will relive it before your very eyes. So "Always expect foul play, sir."
Within this 2D brawler you will encounter an immense army of the supernatural beings, otherwise known as actors dressed up in what can only be described as fancy dress, something that certainly contributes to the witty nature of Foul Play. Each individual act will be reliant on your ability to throw as many punches and kicks as you possibly can, so in other words, you need to give the enemy a good old fashioned hiding! Each act is built upon the mood-o-meter, so each attack and dodge from Mr Dashforth will build up a combo score. The higher your combo score, more excitement is built within the audience, causing them to stand on their little feet and throw their hands in the air! However, if an enemy manages to get the better of you, or you fail to execute each crucial link attack and take down, the mood-o-meter will decrease and the curtains will close on you for good. So prepare for your fingers to be sore.
Each act within Foul Play contains a group of challenges to complete throughout Mr Dashforth's performance, whether it's to reach a combo score of 75 or to nail that damned boss right at the end of the show. Even though you can complete each of the challenges with relative ease, we found the tasks to be pretty engaging overall. The combat system is very simple and there's not too much button bashing once you've mastered it, and you have to be especially deliberate if you want to achieve a Perfect Scene in each act, done by building the mood-o-meter with high scoring combos that will entertain your audience. So the tougher - and better - you fight, the more Mr Dashforth will impress.
After a thorough play-through of Foul Play, you cannot deny its repetitive nature, which has to be the most inadequate aspect of this game. Despite the overall gimmick, it does get a bit tedious sometimes. Another big let down was the lack of narration throughout. The story is accompanied by small dialogue boxes and little groans and grumbles from time to time, which could possibly be a barrier for some players.
However, there are no arguments when it comes down to the ingenious and creative aesthetic that shapes Foul Play. Each act is accompanied by a backdrop to set the scene, and enemies lose items of clothing with each punch and kick from Mr Dashforth, which is undoubtedly worth a chuckle from time to time. The gorgeous visual style most certainly kept us enthralled throughout, keeping us engaged with the charming characters and adventurous plot.
You cannot deny the amount of charm that Foul play contains, it's simply bursting with humour. You'll see actors forgetting their lines and needing prompting, and stage-hands forgetting to leave the scene after a set change... it's brilliant and innovative, despite some minor disappointments. Also, the music is most definitely suited to the genre, keeping your blood pumping and your mind focused on the fight with some of the most triumphant, dramatic music based on tunes from the Victorian era.
Overall Foul Play is, for the most part, good fun, with great humour and plenty of charisma. Yes it might be a bit repetitive at times, but it's a solid beat 'em up with lots of style, and worth a look on PS4 if you're into the genre and this one hasn't crossed your path before.