Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Toribash Review

Toribash, developed and published by SXP Software Consulting.
The Good: Flexible fighting physics engine, multiple multiplayer modes
The Not So Good: Steep learning curve
What say you? An interesting physics-based fighting game that requires a lot of practice: 6/8

For whatever reason, fighting games have almost exclusively been released on consoles where they are very popular. I’m not quite sure why fighting and wrestling games have never made it over to the vastly superior personal computer; I bet the PC crowd is far too advanced for mindless button pushing that seems to enthrall the limited intelligence of console gamers. If the PC was to have a fighting game, it must use real-world physics and be much more complicated! Enter Toribash: a fighting game that uses real-world physics and is much more complicated! What a strange coincidence! Toribash takes the rag doll physics seen in many first person shooters and applies it to hand-to-hand mortal combat.

The best way of describing the graphics and sound of Toribash is to say it is minimal. The fighters themselves look like early 3-D models: an interconnected set of control points amassed to resemble a person. The game could have played the same using more advanced models or realistic-looking people, but the developer chose to keep it simple. The background is a stark white, a definite contrast to the dynamic backgrounds seen in most fighting games. Toribash does have a lot of blood, however, complete with dismembered limbs, so that’s an overly violent plus. If the graphics are minimal, the sound is almost non-existent. There is no background music to speak of and the only sounds are heard when contact is made and when the match is over (I still can’t figure out what the game says then). Sure, Toribash lacks the polish and pristine nature of most fighting games, but as long as the game plays well, most people won’t mind.

The goal of a match in Toribash is to cause parts of your opponent’s body to touch the ground or score more points through more powerful moves. You do this by manipulating all of your character’s joints and muscles, applying a tensional or compressional force to each part of the body (shoulder, elbow, wrist, glutes, neck, knee, or hip as examples). This is done by a simple mouse wheel operation, so making adjustments is easy. However, actually pulling off successful moves is extremely difficult. The game’s flexibility allows you to pull off any conceivable move instead of canned moves activated by a button combination, but it takes lots of practice to even make the most simple moves work well without your competitor falling over (damn you, gravity). Toribash is turn-based, and 10 frames of action is executed at a time before you can tweak your fighter. The game shows what the expected results of your current input will be, but it does not take into consideration any actions of your opponent. The game can obviously allow for some pretty cool moves, as evidenced by the 60 replays included with the game. Dismemberment adds another aspect to the game, as an arm flying across the room can count towards disqualification if it touches the ground (adding insult to injury). While the single player mode is more of a practice sandbox (there is no AI), joining a multiplayer game is fairly easy. Because of the flexibility of the game, there are numerous fighting styles available (judo, sumo, classic) each with their own starting positions and rules. This makes Toribash quite an exciting fighting game in terms of expandability, since anything that is possible in real life could be simulated here (weapons are an expected future addition). The game comes with two short movies showing how to execute simple punches and kicks, but the game still requires a lot of patience as you become accustomed to controlling your character.

Toribash is a very interesting title, but the highly flexible nature of the game doesn’t help out new players that may become frustrated early on. However, it’s worth it investing time in the game, as the multiplayer modes offer some interesting contests and the title offers almost unlimited mod support. While the graphics and the sound might not compete with top-flight titles, you won’t really notice it much while you are ripping your opponent’s arm off and beating them with it. Unlike most fighting games, you are not restricted by pre-set moves in Toribash and the only limit is your imagination. Any fan of fighting games will enjoy the brutal action of Toribash as long as you’re willing to spend some time practicing with the rag-doll mechanics.