Foul Play Review

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players

Posted By | On 25th, Sep. 2013 Under Article, Reviews | Follow This Author @Bojeeva

The show must go on – that’s the key principle this unique side scrolling beat ‘em up from Devolver Digital and Mediatonic. At first sight, the new XBLA and PC download Foul Play looks more than a little reminiscent of the much-loved Castle Crashers, an addictive brawler that received critical acclaim back in 2008. But look beyond the cartoony appearance and side-scrolling format and Foul Play is an altogether different adventure.

It tells the tale of the moustachioed daemon-hunter Baron Dashforth who wants to reveal his life story on stage. He thus takes on the role as the lead actor in the “greatest show on earth”, tasked with keeping his audience happy while slapping, swatting and swiping enemies/jobbing actors in an elaborate stage show. It’s a vaudevillian tale – the game taking place in a vast theatre – with the audience displayed at the bottom of the screen, whooping and cheering with every bad guy you dispatch. Play with aplomb and the audience cheers, play safe and they will bay for your blood and boo you off, bringing down the curtain and ending your game.

foul play video game

Here’s the twist… there’s not a conventional health bar onscreen but an applause meter that shows how entertained the audience is. Chain a massive combo together and throw in a variety of strikes and they’ll go wild, but forget to counter incoming attacks and succumb to sucker blows and they’ll quickly tire of you and jeer.

"Diving into the main game, however, and you'll notice the rogue like factors right out of the date. You play as a piddly male or female warrior carrying a standard sword, mucking around in some pub."

Sporting a top hat and cane, Dashforth is a very dapper chap and keen to take on all manner of foes. Played alone Foul Play is great fun but team up with a friend as trusted sidekick Scampwick the chimney sweep either online or locally and things really improve. With a chum, you’re able to pull off special team takedowns and linking attacks, throw enemies towards one another and string together huge combo chains.

The gameplay is about as simple as it gets. Drum buttons to attack, launch enemies into the air and string combos together. A handy lightning bolt icon indicates when enemies are about to strike, giving you ample time to counter and parry. Get in the groove and you’ll sometimes be able to pull off a Showstopper move, which boosts the audience approval rating for a time limited time.

foul play video game

"Diving into the main game, however, and you'll notice the rogue like factors right out of the date. You play as a piddly male or female warrior carrying a standard sword, mucking around in some pub."

The 22 Acts take you on a trip through the highlights of the good Baron’s life, set across the globe in locations as varied as Cairo, Atlantis and London. Several challenges can be completed in each stage, such as finishing a section within a strict time limit or killing enemies in a certain order, all of which keeps you on your toes and makes the game a lot trickier. With the points and challenges come charms – little trinkets that are unlocked and add to your abilities, making life a little easier.

Besides the run-of-the-mill enemies, big bosses occasionally lumber on screen wielding huge weapons and requiring a large health bar to deplete before they’re vanquished.

Visually, everything looks suitably vintage and theatrical. Admittedly it’s a bit weird to see the shaky scenery constantly change as you wander across a never-ending scrolling stage while the audience remains static; an odd effect but to run the entire game on a stationary stage wouldn’t really have worked either. Despite this idiosyncrasy, the gameplay is solid albeit a little repetitive and buttonmashy.

foul play video game

There’s a nice instrumental soundtrack with an orchestral feel to it – but sadly there are no voiceovers, just lots of grunts and “ums” and “ers”, combined with plenty of pop up captions. It seems a bit of a shame.

No matter. Despite its repetitive nature, stepping into the shoes of the famous demonologist Dashforth to slap actors and stagehands is entertaining, especially when you’ve got a friend along for the ride. Offering several hours of gameplay, Foul Play is unique, charming and fun.

This game was reviewed on Xbox 360.


Great graphical style and unique concept. Foul Play is a fantastic example of a modern side-scrolling brawler


Although it’s fun, Foul Play is awfully repetitive. Play for any period of time and your thumbs will ache for all the buttonmashing

Final Verdict

Let Baron Dashforth lead you through his life story, a tale of adventure that’s rightly dubbed “the greatest show on earth”

A copy of this game was provided by developer/publisher for review purposes. Click here to know more about our Reviews Policy.

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