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Have You Played… One Finger Death Punch?

I Know Kung-Fu

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

It’s ludicrous to me how good One Finger Death Punch [Steam page] is. It’s a stick-man fighting game that harkens back to my wasted youth spent on tasteless websites like stickdeath.com, but it’s also one of the sleekest rhythm games I’ve ever played. Now, when I say rhythm game I’m not talking about punching to the beat, but the rhythm of combat that becomes so frantic it’s practically musical as stick-y parts fly across the screen.

Part of what makes One Finger Death Punch so good is its simplicity. Enemies approach from either your left or your right, and you use corresponding button presses to deliver and killing blow when they get close enough — but not too close to hit you. From there, things start getting wildly complicated as some enemies require specific combos of left and right attacks to take down, often swapping which side of you they’re on, and others begin hurling all manner of weapons at you.

Now, this seems like something that would be fun for all of five or ten minutes, but One Finger Death Punch manages to draw it out over multiple campaigns that sucked up dozens of hours of my time. It has one of the most satisfyingly smooth difficulty curves I’ve ever seen, but also feels virtually endless. Just when I think I’ve mastered it, another stage kicks my ass. At a point, things get so frantic it’s like watching a pro tackle a barrage of arrows in DDR except instead of delicious beats it’s flying stick-corpses. Finally, The Matrix has the fighting game it always deserved.

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