The Way Of The Passive Fist is a retro side-scrolling brawler, only the niche here is you aren’t starting the fights per se. Instead, you’re deflecting a flurry of bandits intent on punching you in the face.
If you read the Cobra Kai review, you’ll know that I side with Miyagi-do in terms of ethos – defend, rather than attack, pursuing a path of peace and all that wet flannel stuff. When a game comes around that has a mechanic of defending rather than attacking, I’m interested.
I’m also interested when it’s on sale on the Nintendo eShop. The Way Of The Passive Fist is up and down in price – more times than yo-yo dieting, and each time I was always thinking “shall I get it…?”. This time, I did.
The Way Of The Passive Fist Switch Review
Side-scrolling beat ’em ups were some of my favourites back in the arcades and on home systems, but they’ve mostly been on the sidelines due to their monotonous style of gameplay, even with multiplayer side dishes.
Of course, the revitalised Streets of Rage 4 and 9 Vidas make the genre fun to play again, but, in my opinion, they’re mostly nostalgic pieces. However, I do still love them. Mother Russia Bleeds is another favourite of mine on the Switch, to keep you on the site longer while I trace this call.
The only reason The Way Of The Passive Fist appeared on my radar was the sale, and that only. Nothing to do with it receiving good or bad hype – I never heard of it. Anyone looking for a bargain will check the current offers on the eShop, and this is a regular.
Watching the trailer and looking at some screenshots provoked me to purchase it finally and it’s… ok. As you can imagine, a game that focuses on defence and parrying will appeal to a particular type and considering I only defend as a last resort; this might not be my cup of tea.
Rhythm Is A Fighter
In some respects, The Way Of The Passive Fist is a bit of a rhythm game as you have to time your movements regularly. That does without saying for a beat ’em up, but in this case, you can’t button mash and hope for the best. You have to entice your opponent, then counter.
That isn’t my cup of tea – not just because I don’t like the approach, but I seldom have the patience for it. In most combat scenarios, my characters usually can take a hit but hit harder, and parrying is the last thing on my list. It can’t be avoided here as it’s the ruddy premise, don’t you know.
Taking that into consideration, The Way Of The Passive Fist is more rhythm game than brawler as timing means everything. That’s not to say beat ’em ups don’t rely on it, but the protagonist never strikes first and depends on their counter-attacks to see through the day.
There will be times when the enemies are the equivalent of a bus and pull off some devastating attacks. If you can hold out long enough, you’ll be able to do a throw which tends to be one of the most underrated moves in a fighting game as involves getting in close. As you’re more or less standing still in each fight, you may as well go for the throw when you can.
You play the Wanderer of this heading, leisurely strolling through one area to the next, making Morpheus look like a tit when it comes to dodging attacks. The visuals are pretty nice and captures the 16-bit aesthetic pretty well, if Household Games were going for that look or just had a limited budget. For some reason, it reminded me of Ultimate Body Blows, but I have no reasoning for this.
There are about ten levels to contend with, and each one is separated into scenes. These are more or less waves of enemies, and you’ll get a blanket of the same ones, only wearing different trousers, and ‘they did something with their hair’.
Any beat ’em up fan will be familiar with the patterns that each enemy displays and this technique is best applied here too: learn the attacks of the enemies and The Way Of The Passive Fist will be a breeze. I wrote that sentence with ease, unlike the actual practice that I preach: I can’t get on with it.
To be in it for the long wrong, you need to demonstrate uninterruptable deflections, in order words: perfect response times. The reward for this (other than looking incredibly cool) are special moves and combos that demolish enemies with ease, notably the bosses.
Over The Counter
If you don’t get your timing right, you won’t last very long, and that’s what happened with me. On the very first boss, I became impatient and started to spam my counter-attacks, consequently fudging my combo meter, doing less damage.
Enemies continually spawn, and it feels like the boss is immortal. While this isn’t a rage-quit anecdote, I became frustrated and bailed, still knowing it was likely me that wasn’t getting it rather than the game. And it is from this experience I get my conclusion.
The Way Of The Passive Fist is a pretty decent game, but it will perhaps split people down the middle. If you like to play the parry game, you’ll get a lot of satisfaction from the experience – the same for rhythm game fans too – even better, as the soundtrack is pretty good too.
However, if you lack rhythm and prefer to use brute force, you’re going to struggle with The Way Of The Passive Fist. By the time I ‘got it’ and was able to progress, it soon became apparent that this is a pretty long game, considering similar titles can be finished in a fifth of the time. If you can’t get enough of the parrying style of ‘combat’, this repetitive nature is likely to be a key factor for you. While I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped, I can see the appeal.