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Fights in Tight Spaces
Game Reviews

Fights in Tight Spaces

Card games meets fistfights in some very cramped spaces in this latest roguelite.

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People always say that a liberal arts degree is useless, but they don’t consider the liberal martial arts. Underwater basket-weaving might not be the most career-ready degree option, but beating people up is always a skill that’s in need. Fights in Tight Spaces definitely reinforces this fact as you control a secret agent out to dismantle criminal organizations using the justice-dispensing power of their fists.

The world’s a pretty mean place, you know. There’s criminals all over with nasty schemes that need to be stopped. Thankfully, there’s a covert organization out to fight evil on its own turf. As Agent 11, it’s your job to keep people safe one way or the other. That’s usually going to mean taking on various opponents in arenas that are fairly small. Funny how that works.

This is one of those newfangled roguelite games! That means it’s a run-based deal where you’re expected to fail often, learning new techniques and strategies to help you next time you play. Fights in Tight Spaces’ take on the model involves clearing missions by progressing through a series of rooms and beating up everyone in them as you go. You’ll also discover random events, hospitals and other locations that can shake up your run. It’s pretty similar to something like Slay the Spire.

As with Slay the Spire, early on your opponents are just regular mooks. They’ll hit you if you don’t move out of the way and…well, that’s about it. You can dispatch them in all manner of ways, including the particularly hilarious method of shifting away from an incoming attack so the attacker hits one of their allies instead of you. You don’t get to rest on your laurels for long, though. Later on, your enemies become a little more complicated. You’ve got baddies that counter your attacks for instance, as well as hefty brutes that swing in a large arc and defensive fighters that you’ll need to wear down before you can break through their guards. You’ll need to adjust your strategy accordingly, especially given how expensive it can be to recover lost health.

Thankfully, you’re not defenseless. Your attacks, defenses and mobility are all represented by cards; you’ll start with a themed deck such as a balanced approach or a style focused on counterattacks, then expand on that set of cards with additional skills that you collect between fights and upgrade at Gyms throughout each mission. You’re able to bend your deck toward your preferred playstyle, perhaps focusing on long range strikes, pushing enemies around with kicks or unleashing powerful finishers at the end of combos. You’ve even got options when it comes to defense, as some players might prefer blocking attacks, some might prefer counters and some might focus on moving away from danger. The variety of techniques is interesting and keeps the game feeling fresh.

Fights in Tight Spaces benefits from a striking aesthetic to match all the striking you’ll be doing to your enemies. It’s a Superhot-style black-and-white comic-book sort of deal, with colors used primarily as highlights or to delineate different types of enemies. This looks great and keeps everything simple so you can focus on strategizing. It also makes for a fantastic experience when you replay your fights, allowing you to view each battle as an unbroken series of dodges, counters, throws and destruction.

It’s still in Early Access so I’m hard-pressed to give an unconditional recommendation, but what’s on offer with Fights in Tight Spaces is still pretty compelling. Fans of martial arts flicks are probably going to like what’s here even if it never gets updated again. That’s really how you have to approach this brave new world of buying and selling unfinished games, so it’s a feather in Fights’ cap that it still feels like it would be worth the money.

About the Author: Cory Galliher