One Finger Death Punch 2 will challenge your kung fu by throwing thousands of stickmen at you. Did we become the last action heroes? Here’s what we think.
When you spectate a game of One Finger Death Punch 2, it can be a little overwhelming to assess what’s going on. Bodies fly, blood shoots like out of a waterhose, props are lowered into place for the sole purpose of being broken. Weapons materialise and disappear, as do massive images of mystical warriors. And sometimes, there’s even a chicken having its breakfast while you stylishly execute your foe. All this can happen in a span of seconds.
When you actually play it though, everything comes together and fuses together into a stream of binary impulses: left and right.
One Finger Death Punch 2 features some of the simplest controls in a modern video game. You press one button to attack your left side, and one button to attack your right. Enemies come rushing at you from both sides, and your job is to clear them all out.
Most enemies can be killed with a single hit, but many others will take extra punishment. There’s also flying daggers, bullets, and arrows, as well as special types of enemies that you duel with, and weapons you can pick up and use. It’s a medley of action movie tropes, boiled down to two controls.
As you progress through the game’s lengthy campaign, you may also pick up skill points. These can be invested in skills that allow you to summon earthquakes, firestorms, extra bullets, and so on. The skills here are activated automatically once charged. The more points you put in, the sooner they will show up.
The game can probably beaten without using any of the given skills, but it sure as hell won’t make it easy for you. I have yet to beat the game’s gargantuan final level, and that’s probably because I missed a whole bunch of skill points I could have picked up.
It’s silly, really. I could just go back and finish the maps I didn’t go through, or go to the levels I missed. Rationally speaking, I know that the skills will greatly improve my odds. But One Finger Death Punch 2 has a way of making you feel like you don’t really need the extra skills, just your own raw kung fu ability. Just one more go, you tell yourself, and this time your timing will be perfect.
It’s tempting to put labels on the gameplay. It’s definitely action. Is it a brawler or a beat-em-up? Is it a rhythm game?
In trying to describe how it plays, I’d rather gravitate towards Terry Cavanagh’s classic Super Hexagon. It’s something of a trance game then, one in which you surrender control to your reflexes. One finger for left attack, one finger for right attack, and the rest of your body might as well not exist.
The action is so blazingly fast that there’s no time whatsoever for conscious strategy. And yet, it’s a game of precision and timing. As you are repeatedly told, button mashing will only get you killed, because missing an attack leaves you briefly vulnerable.
The developers spent a long time refining the pitch-perfect gameplay and it shows. Each level feels like a sheet of music that you play with your stickman’s arms and legs. The resulting melody would be the satisfying crunch of bone, the thunk of a club, the crack of a sniper rifle.
One Finger Death Punch 2 doesn’t just not have a story, it specifically asks you not to expect one. Don’t even expect a setting. One Finger Death Punch 2 exists in a realm of its own, where action movie imagery exists without the promise of any underlying sense.
There’s kung fu at the core, of course, but you’ll also be driving chainsaws into torsos, beheading stickmen with lightsabers (sorry, “power swords”), shooting them down like you’re John Wick, kicking them into torturous death devices, and summoning a very wide range of unnamed, and enigmatic spirit warriors to assist you in superhuman ways.
The sheer incohesion of the game’s presentation is something to behold. You’re not supposed to give it much thought, but that, ironically, only sparked more curiosity for me. Who are the threatening zombie monks in the background of the Horror Show levels? Who is the serial killer bunny with the chainsaw? The lady on the fire-breathing lion? What about the cyborg with long, flowing hair? What is the mystery of the demonic train? What’s with the random dance parties?
Nothing. Like the art you’d find on knock-off backpacks and firecrackers sold in Asia, the art of One Finger Death Punch 2 means nothing, even in implication or inference. It’s purely there because it looks cool, because it suggests an awesome spectacle, because it ignites and invigorates the fighting spirit. Even the music is in the vein of generic ‘epic’ fight music you’d find on YouTube, mixed in with East Asian influences.
The resulting aesthetic is ludicrous, garish, unmistakable, and thoroughly postmodern. I love it.
A word of caution for fans of the original One Finger Death Punch: the sequel isn’t terribly different. I was struck with a spot of disappointment when I started playing it, as I really couldn’t tell what was different about it. Eventually, the rhythm and the madness did catch up with me, and I enjoyed the many new types of levels. Still, this is strictly a ‘more of the same’ kind of sequel.
As long as you don’t mind how similar it is to the original game, One Finger Death Punch 2 offers up a furious and spectacular pastiche of action that bypasses your brain and interfaces directly with your reflexes.
Developer: Silver Dollar Games
Country of Origin: Canada
Publisher: Silver Dollar Games
Release Date: 15 April 2019 (PC)
This review of One Finger Death Punch 2 is based on a copy provided by the developer.
For more information on One Finger Death Punch 2, have a look at our coverage of the game.
- Ridiculously fast-paced action
- Makes you feel powerful, both in-game and in real life
- Lots of levels and variety
- Not that different from the first game