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Way of the Passive Fist
Game Reviews

Way of the Passive Fist

A bizarre flip-flop of classic side-scrolling brawlers where you aim to get punched instead of throwing punches.

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Want to sell a game in 2018? Well, you’ve got a few avenues. You could create another entry in a long-running franchise, that tends to work. You could make an art game and try to turn pretentiousness into cash, though that’s not quite as successful after a decade or so of everybody going to that well. You could also try and appeal to nostalgia – that’s a classic trick, huh? Maybe you could even aim for nostalgia but then pull a fast one and do something completely weird instead.

See, Way of the Passive Fist looks like a retro brawler. It sounds like a retro brawler. It even smells like a retro brawler…somehow. That’s all a ruse, though. See, the Wanderer, your hero, isn’t going to be doing much aggression as you explore the wastelands of Zircon V. Instead, he takes a somewhat more stoic approach.

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Victory typically comes from properly anticipating enemy attacks and dodging them until the baddies tire themselves out. At that point all it takes is a gentle poke to put them down. Someone throws a knife at you? Catch it and return it to sender – you didn’t throw it, after all, so that’s fine. Enemies coming at you with sick combos? You’ve got parries, use them.

In practice, the focus on memorizing repetitive enemy attack motions turns Way of the Passive First into something closer to a rhythm game. You’ve got your own attacks, but they’re definitely the exception rather than the rule since they’re fueled by a super meter that builds up when you’re being properly Passive. Most of your time is spent waiting for enemies to make the first move, contrary to what you feel like you should be doing. You’re going to love it or hate it, really, and I’m not sure there’s a lot of middle ground here

That’s going to come as a bit of a shock if you’re just looking at screenshots, because Way of the Passive Fist nails the retro brawler aesthetic like few other games. It’s easy to imagine dumping quarters into this one or desperately hoping for a home release. There’s also something to be said for the guitar-heavy music; it’s like coming home if home were a smoke-filled arcade.

Way of the Passive Fist is an interesting idea that generally works and is surprisingly fun. I’m not sure I’d recommend it to everyone; the gimmick is cute but I’m not sure it’s cute enough to last for more than a few hours. If you’re looking for something new and different, however, you’ll absolutely get that here. Just make sure to have patience, grasshopper; after all, isn’t that what the Passive First is all about?