How to fight like a SIR!
Foul Play is as if developers Mediatonic, not to be confused with its publisher Mastertronic, took the characters from Cloudberry Kingdom, had them fight against of enemies from Castle Crashers, and put them all in a theatre sponsored by Skullgirls. I told the two developers on-site at the booth, Luke Barrett and Jeff Tanton, this ridiculous description of their game, and they just chuckled and nodded in agreement. Later, they gave me some nifty buttons. Good show, sirs!
Among all of the bite-sized titles showing at this year's PAX Indie Megabooth, Foul Play was one of the very few that looked complete, polished, and ready for primetime. It might look simple, since it's really just a side-scrolling brawler with cartoonish British characters. But that's just the approachable part which, I must emphasize, enticed an incredible number of walkers-by to the booth. Look a few layers deeper, though, and it becomes clear that Foul Play is able to contend with a wealth of influences.
In a proper nod to the classiness of Sherlock Holmes and other English gentleman, the main character Dashforth is the paragon of an English gentleman, complete with top hat, monacle, handlebar mustache, and cane. He and his trusty sidekick, Scampwick—who wears a driving cap, covers his mouth with a blue bandana wields an steel sledgehammer, and runs like a ninja (and thus is my new favorite character)—decide to put on a play revealing to the masses their various exploits around the world.
And when I say "play," I mean the rowdy English theatre. The entire side-scrolling affair is framed within a seated theatre, with the audience watching in front and the background visibly changing by way of stagehands. The sun and moon will swoop in from behind, spotlights will shine on the ground to show where each protagonist needs to go, and shrubbery will literally be carried away and replaced by sandy deserts in time for the next scene. Enemies will even forget their lines, prompting a frustrated man to rush out from behind the curtain to give them a hint.
As there is no life bar per se, successfully completing each act is tied directly to satisfying the bloodthirsty crowd who wish to see the duo's dashing heroics. This means attacking in long, unterrupted strings of combos, not wasting time dilly-dallying across the stage, and keeping the score multiplier alive. Performing several quick attacks before launching enemies into the air, as well as countering enemies that have the lightning symbol above their hands a la Batman: Arkham Asylum, will usually do the trick. This will keep the Mood-O-Meter high and keep the audience from walking out. The show must go on, quite literally.
As your score increases, so will the bar showing your progress toward a five-star rating, much like Rock Band's. In fact, once your characters have accumulated enough fame, which serves as experience points, they can perform an ability similar to Star Power. Any combos dealt while Star Power is activated will be doubled or, if both characters use it as the same time, quadrupled! Earning five-star ratings will unlock charms that act as perks, other gameplay modifiers, and perchance additional costumes.
Foul Play will have a total of five plays, the first four of which will be separated into five acts and the last of which will only have two acts but act as a grand finale, which promises not only to have an epic boss showdown, but also explain why Dashforth and Scampwick are holding a one night-only show in the first place. Foul Play will release on September 18, 2013 for Xbox Live Arcade and PC via Steam.