Stick figures and stick fights were all the rage in the Flash era. They are usually outdated nowadays, but not in this amazing 4-player multi-player bomb of fun.
Genre: Casual, Action, 4-Player, Party
Developer: Landfall West
Release date: 28 Sept, 2017
A few years ago, I only had a poor selection of 4-player party games to play with my friends. Most of them were on Nintendo consoles, and Samurai Gunn was my go-to computer game. I never loved TowerFall much, but this game started an indie trend of 4-player games that culminated with the amazing Duck Game. Nowadays, there are tons of 4-player games to choose from, whether they are inspired by old classics or an entirely new beast like the surprising Overcooked. And I am having trouble maintaining a short list of the best 4-player games out there for my party toolkit. Along the great ones are also many disappointments, thus let us see where Stick Fight: The Game stands.
Stick Fight: The Game is about murdering your friends with a wide variety of weapons falling from the sky, and dangerous traps and pitfalls. The graphics are very simple, it would be silly to say otherwise. That’s even the point of stick figures, to draw something simple and yet the shapes are enough to determine what is represented. Considering that no talent is required, it is easy to dismiss content featuring stick figures as crude and uninspired. However, in this case, there is something more to the simple shapes. The choice of colors, the backgrounds, the lighting, the animations: those are well mastered, and the game is never ugly to look at. On the contrary, everything is smoother and more fluid than a pixel-art game. How is that possible, you might ask?
Physics are at the heart of this game. Procedurally generated animations of the characters allow their movements to cover a wide range of positions. Let me explain this in more detail. If a character jumps a bit behind a cover, their arm might lay down on the top of the cover, with the rifle pointing to the side. This would not be possible if animations had fixed frames. Furthermore, the recoil from shooting might move the arm to a diagonal, and allow to shoot at a completely new and unpredicted angle. While the movements of the characters respond perfectly to player input, the arms (and thus the weapons) float along according to the physics. Tihis makes aiming all the less predictable and all the more fun in the chaos of a party. Of course, skilled players will always come out on top, but because of their strategies and quick decisions rather than solely based on character control and aiming skill. Casual players can quickly have way more fun than with more technical games.
How it sticks
To control your stick fighter, you can move, jump, aim, and shoot. Aiming is with the right stick of a controller, or with the mouse (which is great!!!!). For advanced techniques, there is a shield and a button to throw the weapon, but it is not necessary for casual players to pick up on. Some weapons can one-hit kill, others need a few shots, but there is no healthbar to keep track. Weapons fall from the sky as players scramble to reach them and hope for a good angle to kill. Lasers parse the level and incinerate whoever was not under cover and then ice breaks and everyone falls to their doom, all of this within a few seconds. When someone wins, another level is instantly built anew. There is nothing to stop the avalanche of fun. To spice things up, a special power-up falls on the arena and transforms one player into a flying rampaging boss with multiple phases. I had never seen this before, and I hope to see it again: this is brilliant. Go in, have fun, murder your friends, laugh, scream, and have a hell of a great time.
Surprisingly for this kind of indie games, there are some players online. I did not experience any issue while playing online, it worked very well. The host can also customize the weapons and choose if the maps are chosen randomly or in order from a biome. The only technical issue I have with the game is that it is not possible to rebind buttons.
As if this was not obvious from the rest of this review, I had a ton of fun with Stick Fight: The Game. Whoever I invited to play it instantly loved it and said they would love to play it again at our next party. This definitely should be in the Top 10 of any list of the best 4-player local multi-player games. You can see it as a more streamlined Duck Game. Both have similarities although they maneuver quite differently, and both are absolutely mandatory in your local multi-player toolkit. The game is surprisingly cheap relative to the less enjoyable competition. Get it, get some people together whether they are confirmed players or not, and have a great time.