Fights in Tight Spaces - I Know Kung Fu
These thugs think they have the upper hand. They rush in to take up positions around me. I’m sure they think that by surrounding me in this small alleyway they have the advantage. I’m about to show them how wrong they are. Two of them are packing pistols, taking up position in front and behind me. A third attacker, an unarmed thug along for the ride stands behind the gunman facing me. Wanting to make the first move I grab the gunman in front of me, pulling him close for a left jab to the face before a strong front kick reinstates the distance between us. As I slip to the right, the unarmed thug lashes out instinctively at the body in front of him knocking out the first gunman, disregarding the fact that they are on the same side. The gunman behind me was too quick to pull the trigger. Too late he realises I am no longer in front of him, putting a bullet into the unarmed thug now standing in front of him.
Suddenly I notice a new player joining the fray, though at the moment he is no threat. The now lone gunman moves into position behind me, once again taking aim at my back. The original unarmed thug moves to position himself in front of me but warily keeps his distance to be safe from my attacks. A quick slip back to the left as the gunman fires off another shot and we have another casualty of friendly fire and one less thug that I have to deal with. The two remaining attackers decide to dispatch with the long game, the gunman positioning himself on my left, pointing his pistol straight at my head while the new guy stands right behind me. I quickly strike at the gunman, hurting him but not knocking him out and turn to the thug behind me. I quickly unleash a spin kick hard enough to make him take a step to the left. Dazed he lashes out, striking the gunman with his fist, knocking him out cold. I move to face my last opponent square on but I don’t have a lot of options for an attack. A quick left jab followed by a front kick creates some space between us and prevents him from attacking me. For some reason, despite what has happened to his buddies this guy thinks he can take me, moving in close and preparing to attack. He won’t get a chance as I lash out with a hook kick to the head followed by another spin kick, sending him into oblivion. In seconds I have taken out four attackers without them laying a hand on me.
This is a blow for blow representation of the second fight in a run in Fights In Tight Spaces, a deck-building roguelike from developer Ground Shatter throws you in fights against multiple opponents in small places like public toilets, alleyways, prison trucks, moving trains and offices. The key to succeeding is taking the time to plan out your strategy based on the cards in your hand to maximise the damage to your opponents while avoiding their attacks as much as possible. Like all roguelike’s, the more you play the further in the game you will find yourself able to go. While all your perks and upgrades reset after every run, the XP you gain from those runs will unlock new cards that can appear as rewards at the end of every fight scene, increasing your options for inflicting maximum damage to your opponents.
That’s not to say it will all be smooth sailing. No matter how good a run you are having you can always come undone by bad hands that do not leave you many options in a fight. Should you fail a level and go down you do have the option to replay it again and try your luck, but the cards you receive will be the same initially, meaning there will be times when you find yourself shit out of luck and have to start a whole new run again. As the different storylines have branching paths there is the option to take on a different fight and hope things go better there, but there will be times when you have no other option but to tap out and try again.
Now there is a storyline in Fights In Tight Spaces but really it is not all that important. It is there to set the scene in the form of investigations your agent is undertaking, leading to the various fisticuffs in various locations. And it is in these fisticuffs that the game truly shines, doing away with fancy detailed graphics and going for a clean simplicity that allows you to focus on what is important. The enemies you face are all brightly coloured, with various shades used to differentiate between the different types. You can bring up information about each enemy by holding the alt button, but after a few runs, you will have the gist of what each shade denotes and how they are going to attack you.
Knowing how your enemies operate is also key to getting them to attack each other. At the end of each turn, the enemies take up their positions and if you are in their attack range they go into a ‘ready state’, prepared to launch their attack on their next turn. Your enemies will make that attack if there is a target present in their attack area, regardless of whether that target is you or not. By using these attacks against them you can have your enemies do the dirty work for you, like what occurred in the fight described above. While the moves described in the fight above are limited, there are a plethora of moves that you can unlock and utilise as you brutalise your opponents. There are various different playstyle decks unlocked as you level up, allowing you to play with more aggressive decks, a deck based on counter-attacks or even slashing based decks. It truly allows you to find the playstyle that works best for you and build upon that basic deck.
While there is a lot of enjoyment to be had from launching off a wall to punch someone in the face, or smashing their face into a variety of objects and surfaces, there are some confusing moments that may leave players scratching their heads. The levelling up and the cards that are unlocked as a reward had me confused initially. If I was unlocking these new cards how come they were never in my deck when I started a new run? Eventually, I realised that while they were not added to the base decks that players start a run with, it unlocked the chance that the cards would show up as a reward at the end of a fight, which I could then use to bolster my deck. The other major head-scratcher was an in level bonus where I had to protect the British ambassador from harm while fighting off members of a Scandinavian biker gang in a tattoo parlour. Now I get it, throwing in bonus objectives to make the player change tactics for a reward is a tried and true method in game development, but something a bit more believable could surely have been crafted, like protecting a snitch or an undercover agent.
Overall these are just minor quibbles on a game that is a lot of fun to play. I found myself multiple times just taking one more run to try and get further in the game. I am not ashamed to say that I have not managed to finish it yet but do plan to keep on kicking ass and trying to get there eventually. If you are a fan of either roguelike’s and deck-builders or just a fan of martial arts in general then I recommend giving this a try. There is nothing sweeter than a flawless victory over multiple opponents.