Iron Fisticle Drops

Iron Fisticlejust out on Steam – is simultaneously the best and worst game name I’ve seen in a long while. It makes me wince and grin at the same time. The game itself describes itself as somewhere between Gauntlet and Robotron, which sounds like a very arcadey place to be. It looks like it too, as you can see in the launch trailer, below.

With an emphasis on frantic action, it looks like a museum of 80s arcade games came to life and had a gamejam.

A twin-stick shooter, the graphics seem to be aiming for the Amiga era, something very Bitmap Brothers about them. The dungeons are randomly generated, and there’s much upgrading and item collecting to be done. But keeping to the retro stylings, co-op is local only, which makes sense for the era being emulated, but remains a shame. Chip tunes come from Andy Lemon, and you can even switch scan lines on for faux-authenticity.

The game’s currently discounted to £5.40 on Steam – hopefully we’ll take a closer look at it soon.


  1. slerbal says:

    “co-op is local only”

    Noooooo why do you do this to me? That immediately bumps it from “looks great, will buy” to “looks great, won’t buy” as I have a group of friends I love playing these games with but with whom local co-op just isn’t possible as we are in completely different parts of the country, besides there being no way I could get another person squeezed in round my computer :(

    It meant the copy of Legend of Dungeon I have is still sitting there unloved and unplayed.

    No internet or LAN coop makes me sad :(

    Aside from that looks cute :)

    • Niko says:

      It is sad indeed, but in fast-paced games like this one the lack of online coop might be justified.
      link to

      • princec says:

        Yup, you just can’t do online co-op for most arcade games like this. It doesn’t mean that the single player game isn’t great though.

        • Excelle says:

          You really can. I played online coop Hammerwatch from start to finish and it worked fine. Even the re-release of Chaos Engine works fine online coop.

          The main reason online coop doesn’t get done on these sorts of games is that it is a larger time and resource investment for what is generally a small dev. While I understand this, it still makes me sad :(

          • Niko says:

            I’d say it depends. Hammerwatch is slightly slower compared to mentioned in that Polygon article Towerfall or Nidhogg, and Iron Fisticle also seems to be a bit faster.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Yep. I wish this stupid excuse would stop getting trotted out, because about two decades of online gaming have shown that it can and does work. Not implementing online multiplayer was a choice, not some horrible reality the developer was forced into.

          • princec says:

            It’s not an excuse, it’s the balance of a decision based on multiple tradeoff factors. In no particular order:

            1. Just like 30Hz isn’t 60Hz and never will be, 120ms of network lag ain’t local co-op and never will be. Lag in certain game styles just sort of ruins the experience. Though I’m perfectly aware it’s totally technically possible (programming for 34 years and many of those in the games industry too) it is probably a sacrifice in game feel too far for Iron Fisticle.

            2. “Just adding networking” is about as opposite from “trivial” as it is possible to get in a computer game, especially if you don’t design the entire game around it from the bottom up. It would have almost certainly doubled the development time for this particular game for the benefit of a tiny proportion of extra players. If you’re going to make a multiplayer game, then make a multiplayer game and you’d design it entirely around that premise to maximise the return on the vast effort that it is.

            2a. If you think networking is easy then you’ve not ever actually done it yourself or the implementation you concocted is probably more full of holes than a Swiss cheese and it’s likely that it wouldn’t cope with a Steam-sized audience.

            3. Indie games usually suffer from the “empty servers” or “none of my friends have the game” problem. It’s extraordinarily hard to gain critical mass for multiplayer when you’ve got the sort of limited playerbase that an independent developer is going to attract – and that’s before you even factor in the even more niche appeal of a twin-stick shooter.

            4. Local co-op is literally more fun. Real people in a room with you! Yay!

        • slerbal says:

          I don’t mean to disagree but you really can – I worked in the game industry for 16 years and can definitely say you *can* do that (I *have* done that, several times!), though the point about limited resources with a small team is completely fair. I would just hate to see a good game (I’m assuming this is good) would miss out on all those sales. I know I convince my friends to buy copies too for online coop so that ends up getting at least 3 more sales than they would if it was just me.

          • Niko says:

            Now I’m confused. So Bennett Foddy is wrong about Towerfall? And if so, are there some methods to work around lag that he didn’t mention?

          • MaXimillion says:

            Yeah, playing with people close enough geographically that your ping is negligible.

          • blind_boy_grunt says:

            Lethal League! seems to be doing it and that’s quite fast paced, and for a coop game ping is (i think) less important because it’s not so vital that all play the same exact game, it’s enough if you have a consistent world. But multiplayer is not something you can generally throw on at the end, you have to plan for it. For indies or lower budget titles it’s probably more important to get the game out and make money back.

          • monomer says:

            This is kind of more of a reply to Niko and Maximillion, but I agree with slerbal. I wouldn’t say that the TowerFall creator is “wrong”, it’s just that he has determined the amount he could feasibly reduce lag to is still too much for a fast paced game to be fun. There are many developers who disagree with that, and while he has a point about Street Fighter 4 being developed to play slower to lag was less noticeable, it remains a very reaction based game filled with unpredictable player actions. Even still, other fighting games, such as the much faster paced BlazBlue or Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, have online play that many people enjoy greatly.

            That being said, there are also people who won’t play said fighting games online because the lag, minimal as it is, still bothers them. So this is far less of a black and white issue than is being presented; it’s really a subjective call of “do I think my game is still fun with X amount of lag in it.” Personally, I’d rather play a slightly laggy Towerfall online than not play it online at all, but I can completely understand if that was simply out of the scope of the project.

          • slerbal says:

            What monomer said :)

            In my case I’ve been fortunate to work alongside people who really understood network communications protocols and how to optimise communication and minimise lag – we ran our own indie MMO on the smallest of hardware and twitch based games really successfully and we had to have guaranteed messages. Maybe there are unique cases with this game, but it is definitely doable and I say that with confidence because I have done it (several times) :)

            It certainly wouldn’t work for everyone, but don’t forget this is a game where all the players are on the same side – it isn’t competitive, so all you need to compete against is the computer and that is even easier to manage. Towerfall is head-to-head, this isn’t.

    • Curratum says:

      You still have plenty of time to get Hammerwatch in the current Humble Bundle. It has internet coop and is basically a huge love letter to Gauntlet, it just got a free DLC campaign and it’s in the $1 tier.

      • Niko says:

        Hammerwatch’s a bit weird, though. The levels are the same, but there’s permadeath and not much randomization of anything, and that means you have to replay the first levels all over.

        • trjp says:

          That’s quite a funny comment – “the levels are the same so when you die you have to do them over and over” is how videogames originally worked and have done since the year dot ;0

          It’s bizarre seeing it brought up as a bad thing – once, anything else was seen as ‘ezmode’ ;0

          • Niko says:

            Hey, I know, I’ve spent many hours beating Wizards & Warriors X on Gameboy, but it’s just that randomization is sort of a norm in dungeoneering RPG action games now, but in Hammerwatch it’s all the same – maybe even the amounts of money that drop, not sure about that. So there’s not a lot of variability – you go through the level, open all the secrets, kill all the enemies in the same places, get a first upgrade, etc.

            I’m not saying it’s bad game, and we’ve had fun playing it with friends, but when you get to that damn second boss and die, you have to do it all over again in pretty much the same way. And yeah, it was that way with old games, but when I was little I had like six Gameboy cartridges and a lot of free time, now it’s the other way around. Hope it makes sense.

          • tangoliber says:

            I think it is great that some of us have that reaction now. I think randomized levels should be the norm, and static levels should feel odd outside of time-trial focused games, some shmups, racing games, competitive multiplayer, etc.

          • Niko says:

            I’m not against static levels entirely – it might be fun playing even through the same levels, if the game allows enough variability in playing style, or if there are different paths you can take, or if treasure/loot drops are randomized.

      • Niko says:

        Although it’s still fun, especially for that money, I must add.

        • slerbal says:

          Definitely – it is well priced. Even if I play it just a handful of times and enjoy those I am already satisfied. The extra campaign they released yesterday is just icing on the cake.

      • slerbal says:

        Yup – I got Hammerwatch some time ago, though my gaming group only just piled in with the humble bundle, so yes we have been giving that a good thrashing! It’s good but a little strange in some ways that I can’t quite put my finger on. Still, it does scratch the Gauntlet itch (much more so than the brown and murky Gauntlet remake that is coming out, though i could be wrong)

  2. Artiforg says:

    You had me at Robotron. If only Jeff Minter would do an updated version of Llamatron. Not sure I like the look of the platform-y bits though. Someone tell me they’re not annoying (and don’t lie!)

    • J. Cosmo Cohen says:

      The platform-y bits are bonus levels wherein you get more points or something, so dying on them just sends you to the next real level.

  3. DanceComm says:

    hell hath no fury like RPS readers told ‘local multiplayer’