When I think of 2D fighter games I think Tekken, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter and the need to be quick on the draw and decisive with every move you make. What if that wasn’t the case and you could take your time with every move? What if a 2D fighter was actually turn based? Mega Knockdown asks just that. The answer is a curious oddity that deserves a look.
Mega Knockdown releases into early access today and features 6 characters as silhouettes to take control of in single player combat against the AI or local and online multiplayer with others. There’s no rollback netcode here – you won’t need it! You can take as long as you want to make a move but crucially your moves are then triggered simultaneously. Mega Knockdown is like a very glossy rock, paper, scissors in many ways as you are are guessing and predicting what moves your opponent will do next and using the onscreen display and previous move cues to narrow down your predictions.
Each move consists of two actions. You can use two direction moves to move two squares forward or back like a run, but mainly you’ll be using a direction button and a move button. You have fast, medium and slow attacks (think light, medium and heavy) alongside throws and blocks and the speed of the move is often tied to its hit radius. A sweeping kick will be slower but have the ability to hit from further away than a punch. The problem is you’ll need to ensure your opponent doesn’t jump up to avoid the attack when you go for it. Missing attacks causes you to “whiff” which means your next moves will be slower, allowing your opponent to take charge and cause big damage.
If all of this sounds familiar to fighting gamers, that’s because its the same formula but now its done move by move together at your own pace. Each character has its own three or four special moves and a passive ability but getting in the quick hits pays dividends in Mega Knockdown. You don’t roll out the special moves until you think they’ll land the blow. That being said some moves are a bit cheeseable, such as one characters ability to have a stretchy leg that clears two thirds of the screen. There’s also a Liu Kang knockoff too with fireballs you can spam a bit too. It’s clear that balancing will need tweaking over time but it was amusing to see various characters from different series pop up in a new guise here. One tactic I did enjoy was the fact your area for battle is not never-ending. The background (divided into rows of cards as this was originally developed as a card game in 2017) has ends and so you can’t run and hide. Bullying characters into a corner is a very good tactic if you can get someone there.
Outside of a tutorial there is arcade with a story mode to be added, survival mode, a hardcore mode with extra hard AI and then your multiplayer matches – local and online. Building a community will be key for Mega Knockdown and I’m not sure having three or four special moves per character is quite complexity to see avid gamers stick around for years and years to come. What I will say is that whenever I played this game with a few friends, there is a genuine novelty element to it that stays beyond the first few goes. I had people say “that’s such a weird one, can we give it another go”. It doesn’t stay on rotation for long – quick bursts work best – but if the character roster expands or more moves are added in, then it has legs for sporadic returns on your multiplayer evenings.
There is frankly nothing else quite like Mega Knockdown out there. A turn based 2D fighter is a novel experience and whilst there’s clearly a lot of polish needed (I had a few crashes to desktop and locked controls) the actual idea is really solid. One to keep an eye on.
Review copy provided by developer and is reviewed on early access release (29/07/22).
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