The art of pugilism is as simple as punching some no-good blockheads repeatedly in the mush until they explode into tiny blocks. Well, that’s how the first-person fighting game Spartan Fist seems to depict it. As the up-and-coming contestant Emma Jones, you must bop your way through many randomly-generated arenas. Unfortunately, this rogue-lite is just far too monotonous to recommend, even on the Switch
After the tutorial, you’ll start off in the Concrete Wasteland, a no-frills coliseum filled with two types of the same enemies. They’ll rush at you at once, sporadically block for an annoyingly long amount of time, and run away at random intervals before repeating the cycle. Taking on an enemy one-on-one isn’t particularly difficult; it just gets awfully dull pretty quickly. Some of the worst ones you’ll come across will perform flurry attacks that’ll chew away your health bar like crazy.
The bosses aren’t particularly noteworthy, either. Just dodge their predictable but ludicrously powerful attack patterns, avoid any stage hazards that might be restricting how much space you’ll have, and slap them when their back is turned. Repeat this over and over until they spontaneously combust. Yawn…
You know something is horribly wrong when combat in a fighting game just ain’t cutting the mustard. It’s not bad in Spartan Punch, but it’s far from grand. Boxing gloves can be equipped on each hand, and each of them allow you to attack in slightly different ways. There’s an ample amount to choose from, like super-speedy bandaged fists, or the eagle mitts that allow you to float and jump incredibly high. You can even find stackable abilities to add to your gloves, too. Alternate attacks and combos are a thing, though these are sometimes pulled off against your will. Otherwise, it simply boils down to mashing the triggers as much as possible.
There are three fighting stances to cycle between. Updraft allows you to perform upward attacks, Duelist is ideal for 1v1 spars, and Brawler can make you hit groups of foes. The differences between each moveset are minor at best, sadly. They are handy for tackling baddies on the defense, though. Since the movesets are colour-coded, you need to switch to another if the colour of the enemy’s shield corresponds with your current fighting style.
The level layout is another weak point. Each room is a symmetrical square with pits, trains, fire traps, climbable platforms, and more. You’ll stumble across areas with the same layouts all too often. Still, new weapons and handy weapon upgrades may be available in the corridors that connect each room to one another. You won’t be able to leave a room until all foes are vanquished; rushing to get to the boss in order to get to the next floor is usually no quick feat unless the map generator randomly decides to spawn it in a nearby room.
Defeating baddies in stylish and creative ways will earn you a little bit of cash. When you die, the money can be spent on some of the upgrades that The Fixer has on offer. Most of thse power-ups are standard fare: damage upgrades, more health items, and even unlockable shortcuts to the other floors in the game. The prices for these ramp up exponentially as you purchase more of them, and there aren’t any money-earning boosters to get. You’ll be stuck with a pittance; even minimum wage jobs paid more than this.
Spartan Punch is plagued with many annoying design decisions and irritating nitpicks. The rogue-lite elements don’t feel like they were implemented very well, and the combat becomes headache-including pretty quickly. The unrewarding grind for cash does it no favours, either. Sure, the Minecraft-like visuals are good enough, and it runs at a fairly stable rate on the Switch. Plus, seeing baddies fly across the room and exploding into multi-coloured blocks never gets old. Alas, there aren’t enough incentives to encourage anyone to come back for another round.