PAX West Spotlight: Way of the Passive Fist

Way of the Passive Fist is a classic 90s style beat-em-up that combines nostalgia and innovation in a cartoon inspired brawler.

PAX West Spotlight: Way of the Passive Fist

IndieHangover was recently at PAX West from September 1st through the 4th. We’ve got a lot of indie games and developers to spotlight over the next week or two, so make sure to stay tuned!

Way of the Passive Fist takes the classic 90s arcade brawler and infuses it with an unexpected level of complexity by adding totally customizable settings. In the game, the player is forced to navigate through a desolate, Mad Max inspired world, defeating a variety of enemies, leveling up with XP, and picking up new abilities along the way.

In order to debut the demo for Way of the Passive Fist in the most fitting style possible: with a custom built arcade cabinet. Getting to play the game’s demo on the arcade-style machine felt like I was transported from the Indie MEGABOOTH area of PAX West to a crowded arcade from my childhood. The demo featured a full level with one boss fight to give me a feel for the gameplay. Getting the rhythm of each enemy down took a little getting used to, and keeping track of each enemy’s style got tricky once their numbers multiplied.

Aside from vibrant graphics and an incredible soundtrack, the game boasts a fully customizable experience. Before starting the game, the user can change everything including the difficulty of gameplay, the number of enemies that appear on screen, and the window of time the player has to achieve a perfect parry. There are around 200 combinations, each with their own clever name that is a variation of the game’s title, like “Way of the Ardent Eternal Alert Warrior” or “Way of the Daring Enduring Resilient Warrior.” Each of these different combinations can alter the difficulty and style of game to whatever the player desires.

The developers sought to create a game that not only appeals to a variety of different gamers, but also one that is accessible to as wide of an audience as possible. Household Games teamed up with Halfcoordinated, a speedrunner who mostly plays one-handed and works towards greater accessibility in gaming. So far, Way of the Passive Fist is set to include features such as fully remappable controls and options for color blind players. The game currently also has simultaneous visual and audial cues so that more players can accurately time their parries and dodges.

After playing the demo, I was able to talk to Orie Falconer, who composed the music and did sound design for Way of the Passive Fist.

Indie Hangover: “Can you tell me a little bit about your studio?”

Orie: “We’re Household Games, we’re a studio based out of Toronto. We just started up about last year, and we’ve been working on this game for about a year. This is our first debut title. We’re all a bunch of professionals from Toronto, we’ve been in the gaming industry for several years now. We’ve known each other for a long time, and we decided to come together and wanted to make something special. We know each other’s strengths, we knew what we wanted to work on, and we just came together and made it happen.”

IH: “Awesome! So can you talk a little bit about the game?”

O: “Way of the Passive Fist is an arcade brawler, a beat-em-up in the style of classic 90s arcade games, specifically the licensed ones. We’re big fans of Turtles in Time, X-Men Arcade, Simpsons Arcade, so we wanted to make a cartoon inspired arcade beat-em-up with a defensive combat system. So instead of your basic actions being a punch or a kick, this game is all about countering enemy attacks with parries and dodges. Rather than being a button masher, it’s all about letting enemies come up to you and blocking them with a parry or dodging right before they attack. As you do that, you’re wearing enemies down.

It has elements of a rhythm game, each enemy has a set pattern, they have a set order that they like to fight in. Enemies will group around you, but just like a Kung-Fu movie, they’ll attack one at a time.”

IH: “So how long has this game been in development?”

O: “It’s been in development for about a year, it’s still a couple of months in development out. We’re aiming for early next year, early 2018. It’s coming to Steam, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.”

IH: “How does it feel to be here at PAX West showing your game?”

O: “It feels great, it’s so much fun just watching people get their hands on it and watching people get their hands on it and really getting the core concept of it and being excited about this new take on a familiar genre.

One of the things we did for PAX is that we built our own custom arcade machine, and it’s definitely been a huge draw. People see the arcade machine and they go, ‘Oh, how did I miss this game? When did this game come out?’ We wanted it to feel like an 80s or 90s arcade beat-em-up that somehow no one had heart of until now. It’s definitely aimed to that kind of aesthetic, and peoples’ reactions have been exactly what we were hoping for.”

IH: “The arcade cabinet is great! Glad people are liking it. So is there anything you want people to know about the game?”

O: “Absolutely, so a lot of our design consideration was about accessibility. We brought on a guy called Halfcoordinated, he’s a speedrunner that does a lot of stuff for Awesome Games Done Quick. He came on board early to help us out with accessibility concerns. We wanted the game to be playable for as many people as possible.

So one of the things we worked on was fully remappable controls, so you can actually change any input to be any button. So if you’re playing on a controller, and you want to play with only your left or right hand, you can set up your controls in such a way so that works.

We’re also working on color options for color blindness. Every character in the game has both an audial and visual cue, so no matter what, there’s always some kind of warning signal for when an enemy is about to attack. If you want to get that timing for a parry, there’s always something to look for.

Having Halfcoordinated helping us out with the game has just made our design and our communication to players better. It’s improved the kind of game we’re working on.”

Way of the Passive Fist is set to release early 2018 on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One.

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