Let’s put it aside. FIST: Forged in Shadow Torch on Nintendo Switch is a frustrating game. Not in the sense that it’s hard, but rather that it’s so frustrating to be something big and it doesn’t quite do it. Like doing a pole vault and breaking your ankle on the pole. There’s a lot of good stuff here, but a mix of the game falling short of its potential and Switch hardware struggling to keep up makes this one a bit harder to recommend.
Developed by Shanghai-based TiGames in conjunction with Sony’s “China Hero Project” initiative, FIST launched on PlayStation and PC consoles in 2021 before making its way to Switch nearly a year later. It’s a dieselpunk Metroidvania in which you take on the role of an anthropomorphic rabbit named Rayton; a former pilot who must take the “arm” to fight back against the Legion and its elite squadron, the Iron Dogs, who have occupied his Torch City home. The arm in question being literally a giant arm that attaches to Ray’s back – the eponymous FIST.
FIST hits all the standard Metroidvania notes: explore, hit a wall, find an item to help you overcome said wall, open up the map further, flush, repeat. However, due to its heavy reliance on storytelling, FIST feels decidedly more linear than something like Super Metroid. The upgrades themselves are pretty standard too, like an extra jump, wall jumps and other weapons, and some of them really feel like they should be in your standard kit – more on that more late.
Once you get your full kit, Ray feels great to maneuver, and the platforming challenges (and streak breaks) are satisfying to complete. That being said, Ray moves as slowly as a rabbit with a giant metal fist strapped to his back, so if you want to move at a decent pace, expect to spam that dash button a lot.
One area where FIST stands out a bit more from other Metroidvania games is its combat design. Melee combat with a heavy focus on combos is the name of the game here; while not as deep as, say, Bayonetta’s systems, FIST’s combat is surprisingly satisfying. However, this is another part of the game where the aforementioned issue with upgrades looking like they should be standard parts of your kit bleeds. When we first got our hands on the game, the combat felt like it lacked something to really make it click; like a dodge that can pass through enemies and projectiles or a parry. These are both optionally present, but one is the last upgrade you get in the game and the other is missable. It makes sense that extra moves and combo chains are locked behind upgrades (which you can spend money on at any save point), but with those moves locked, things got a bit awkward. gone wrong at the start of the game.
Ray also has access to new weapons with their own set of combos, like the slow but hard-hitting drill and the super-fast whip, these can be swapped out at the press of a button allowing you to use multiple weapons in your combos. He also has an array of secondary weapons like a homing rocket and truncheons that can parry attacks (separate from the actual parry). The big thing here is that these sub-weapons use the same meter as your healing flask, so they end up feeling like a waste of resources comparatively.
While it’s by no means a super long game at around 15 hours, FIST feels like it’s just dragging on a bit too long, paired with a pronounced difficulty spike in the late game. There’s a segment that revolves around slow transport of batteries, which is bad enough, but if they get damaged they go back to the start, and that’s incredibly frustrating. Not to mention the reuse of bosses throughout the game, with some fights reoccurring three or four times by the time you reach the credits, which makes things a little tense.
FIST sometimes struggles on the presentation front; while the game looked quite attractive on PS5 and PC, the transfer to Switch isn’t quite as sleek. It still looks pretty good for the system, but things like fur textures during cutscenes seem completely off, along with some areas that struggle to maintain 30fps. That being said, the presentation issues aren’t all the Switch’s fault. Cutscenes can go black abruptly; the voice acting can go from perfectly fine to reading weird, stilted lines in the same conversation, and the characters even teleport.
This glitch also transfers to gameplay, with the teleport occasionally occurring on Ray when hit. During one of the last bosses, we ran into an issue where they simply disappeared from the edge of the screen, softly locking the game, which was immediately followed by enemies respawning endlessly when an elevator ride that once again locked the game down smoothly.
The biggest downside to the Switch version, however, is the loading times. Charges between zones last an average of 45 seconds to a minute (we timed them). This is made even more frustrating as there are parts of the game where you go to one area only to be told a minute later that you need to go back to a different area and thus another long load. The worst offender is in one of the late game boss fights in which dying means a 50 second loading time followed by returning to the arena, loading into combat, dialogue , then a return to combat. Which is even weirder considering other fights will take you right back to the boss.
Although we may sound quite negative when talking about the game, FIST: Forged In Shadow Torch is definitely worth playing; he just has so much potential that he doesn’t quite reach. He rides so often on the cusp of greatness, even though he’s not enough cross the obstacle. We can’t wait to play a sequel because if it were iterated, FIST could be something really special. Unfortunately, due to the technical issues associated with this version of Switch, such as unbearably long loading times, it’s even more disappointing. All in all, a promising foundation that we hope will lead to better things in the future.