While at PSX this past weekend, I had the chance to check out Household Games Inc.’s upcoming beat-em-up Way of the Passive Fist. Except it isn’t quite a beat-em-up, rather it’s the opposite. Way of the Passive Fist tasks you with taking down mobs of post-apocalyptic ne’er-do-wells in the most pacifistic way possible: by parrying enemy attacks until they’re tired out. It’s strange, it’s subversive, and it’s one of the most original games I’ve played in years.
Way of the Passive Fist takes place on a desert planet that’s a bit too close to the sun. The intense heat and bleak sky blend wonderfully to create an atmosphere that combines Fist of the North Star with Mad Max, if it were a late 80’s cartoon. Every character’s neon-bright costume design starkly contrasts the drab desert world to create an atmosphere that, while harsh, never takes itself too seriously. The enemy designs take this a step further, each with their own post-apocalyptic shtick. My personal favorite design belonged to the boss I battled, who sported a jeep wheel for a hand and a gut that would put Roadhog to shame. It seems there are plenty of wild designs scattered throughout the game, so I’m looking forward to seeing all the wacky enemies that will inhabit the full game.
The biggest part of what makes Way of the Passive Fist so intriguing is its focus on pacifistic fighting. Only your ultimate attack, which can very rarely be done, lets you actually punch an enemy. Everything your character does is purely reactive, whether it’s parrying, countering, or knocking your enemy over with a one-fingered poke. Timing your blocks and parries properly is essential and adds a rhythmic sense of style to the game. Not only does this make each new enemy challenging, but it makes you feel godly without even throwing a punch. To clarify, I like hyperviolent hardcore beat-em-ups as much as (or probably even more than) anybody, but it’s this appreciation for the genre that helps me appreciate such a creative and decidedly non-violent take on it even more. And really, what looks cooler than knocking down some leather-clad decked-out thug with a single finger?
Even if you aren’t particularly invested in beat-em-ups or the game’s aesthetic, I’d recommend giving Way of the Passive Fist a look. Ideas like this one are few and far between, so it could very well scratch a pacifistic itch you never knew you had.
Way of the Passive Fist releases for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC in early 2018.