Sunday, June 16, 2013

Kinetic Damage [Benjamin Merchand] - $2.99

Fighting games on the touch screen are a bit of a niche genre. While there are tons (and I do mean TONS) of fighting game mongers out there, it’s hard to really get the same feeling of playing a console fighter when you have no tactile feedback from your controller. Because of this, most fighting games have been ‘dumbed down’ so that they are easily playable on the touch screen, usually giving us single buttons that can pull off massive combos instead of having to input a series of moves on a flat surface to achieve the same effect. While this option can also be turned off, the touch screen’s lack of any raised surface so that players can tell where their thumbs are, or give players that sense of total control over their character definitely makes it near impossible to get the same type of gameplay experience on the iOS as with an actual controller. Though this is becoming less and less of an issue with more and more Bluetooth controls hitting the market, it’s still a problem that developers of these games have to struggle with and gamers have to adjust to. 

While some brawlers have done a very good job of developing the gameplay around the touch screen (Mutant Fridge Mayhem will always be a very good example of this and more recently, Combo Crew and Best Park In The Universe have done a great job as well), the first fighting game that I’ve personally felt completely comfortable with while using the touch screen and not an iCade is Benjamin Marchand’s Kinetic Damage, an incredibly deep and insanely impressive title, especially considering that it’s all been created by the hands of one man, and when you get into the game you’ll see why development of this amazing title took a whopping 4 years to complete. 

Once you start out, you’ll quickly realize how deep the gameplay actually is. You’ll be able to create your own character, selecting how they look, what clothes they’ll wear as well as what color you want everything to be. Along with these purely cosmetic features you’re also able to choose which fighting style you’ll like to use; Jeet Kun Do, Tai Chi Chuan, Shaolin Kung Fu, Ninjutsu, Krav Maga, Taekwondo, Muay Thai or Break. Each of these styles have different stats for Speed, Strength, Range, Critical Hit, Combo, Health, Recovery, Precision, Endurance and Energy. Yeah, pretty intense already, wouldn’t you say? And we haven’t even gotten into the different modes, combos, or incredibly deep AI yet. 

Once you choose your character and fighting style, you’ll be taken to the main area where you’ll choose your fights. There are 4 options here, Fight Lab, Olympic Resort, Grand Strike Casino and the Dojo. Now, you will need to start off in either the Dojo or Fight Lab as these are the only two areas where you can enter fights without an admission fee. In the Dojo, you’ll be able to hire a partner, which gives you the chance to train another fighter, create an event where you can select the difficulty and type of fighting mode (Tournament - you compete against 7 fighters, Team Spirit - ‘regular fight, where enemies can become friends’, Team Survival, King Of The Hill and a whole lot more [24 different options to be exact]), sparring, where you’ll be able to slowly earn some easy money with no penalties for loosing and the special shop, where you’ll be able to customize and evolve your fighter with the credits that you’ll earn by winning fights, but we’ll come back to that a little later.

The Fight Lab area will give you 3 random battles to enter each with a different gameplay style, like Dance, where your character will loose 5% of their HP if they’re not in a randomized stance that changes every 5 seconds, Weak Spots, where each character stars with 30% of their normal HP, Breath Cutter, where attacks reduce the enemies energy regeneration by 18% for 3 seconds and many, many more. Here, you’ll earn money for a win as well as some enhanced stats for your next fight, like +25% precision, +15% critical, ect. But if you loose, you’ll also get the opposite stats for the next fight, like -25% precision or -15% critical. Each of the 3 fights is also set at a random difficulty level with the winnings directly reflecting the difficulty, which means that you’ll earn more currency for harder fights. In Olympic Resort you’ll also have the option of 3 randomized fights to choose from, also varying in difficulty, but here you’ll have the chance to earn quite a bit of coinage or extra boosts, like a random implant (which we’ll talk about when we bring up the shop). Grand Strike Casino has the potential to earn you loads of currency though, with prizes bringing money multipliers to the table it’s probably the best way to earn loads of cash once you’ve got a decent handle on the game. 

The Special Shop. Something that I’ve been hoping to see in more fighting games since playing Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero. Kinetic Damage has taken this, like most everything else in the game, to the next level. You’re able to purchase 6 combos ranging in price from 500 to 1,500 credits, 8 different implants which permanently upgrade your speed, strength, vitality, endurance, prevision, energy regeneration, recovery and critical. You’re also able to purchase up to 4 special moves (though you’re given one random special right off the bat for free when you create your character). You can also change your characters look, outfit or fighting style here as well. Needless to say, this is where the majority of your currency will be spent. 

The controls are pretty much what you would expect in a fighting game. A movement joystick on the left side of the screen with 4 buttons on the right, 2 for punches, 2 for kicks. There’s also a special button right next to the movement joystick which, when pressed, changes the punch/kick buttons into special buttons. While Kinetic Damage does incorporate the one touch special moves that other fighter games on the touch screen use, to pull off combos you’ll need to memorize a series of punch/kick inputs. This mix of ‘easy’ and ‘hardcore’ controls works incredibly well within the game. Movements are not needed for combo inputs, however, you will need to time the button taps perfectly in order to pull them off. For this to work as intended, the controls need to be incredibly responsive, and Kinetic Damage nails it.

As for the opponent AI, it’s got to be one of the most impressive systems I’ve ever come across in a fighting game (note, this is not explained in the game, rather it was explained by the developer on the Touch Arcade forums). Enemies and how they fight are determined by 3 different stats; Aggressivity, Reactivity and Analysis. Each character  is crafted from a pool of 6 to 25 personality points which are distributed to their stats using 3 random ‘dice rolls‘. Because of this, the game is able to have multiple behaviors for fighters in the same difficulty and even in the same fighting style. On top of this, the opponents are also able to ‘learn’ mid-fight, able to redistribute their stat points depending on their ‘mind type’ and how you are playing. The end result? There’s between 4,000 and 16,000 different opponents in the game, depending on the difficulty levels that you choose. Impressive, no?

Combine all of this with incredibly precise and responsive controls, top notch animations, smooth gameplay that’s focused more on blocking, timing and skill than button mashing, pinpoint hitbox areas and not one little bit of IAP in sight, and what you’ve got could easily be considered the best fighting game on the iOS and arguably one of the best fighting games on any gaming platform to date. Put an insane price of $2.99 on it, and you’ve got a game that fans of the genre would be crazy to pass up. Scratch that, that all gamers would be crazy to pass up. With Multiplayer on the horizon, Kinetic Damage could replace every single fighting game on your device very soon. I really can not recommend this one enough, but if you’re still weary, there’s a lite version that you can check out which contains 2 of the 8 fighting styles and access to the ‘Match’ gameplay mode where you choose between 2 of the 8 areas that are in the full version, and be given 2 random specials for each fight. It’s a great way to get a feel for the game, and since it’s free to try, there’s no sense in not checking it out if you’re still on the fence. My advice? Skip the lite version and get the full. Now. You will not regret it one little bit.


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