Avatar Fighter: the avatar game you’ve been waiting for

Review of Avatar Fighter on XBLIG: Try
This fighting game starts out fun but quickly turns frustrating.

Since Microsoft added Avatar support to Indie Games, there have been a slew of games that use the feature in gimmicky ways. Some games have hinted at real Avatar combat, but most of those have turned out to be little more than button-mashers and the like (I won’t name names). Finally, we have a true Avatar fighting game.

Avatar Fighter features 6 characters, each with a fighting style, two special moves, and a super move. Fighting game aficionados will be comfortable with many of these: Ryan plays like Ryu or Ken from Street Fighter II, Bill plays like Zangief, and Alex plays a bit like Liu Kang from Mortal Kombat.  The rest I can’t quite place.

Of course, you don’t buy Avatar Fighter so you can fight with random characters. The player’s Avatar is also available with customizable fighting style and special moves. I felt this was a brilliant approach to customize my Avatar’s style—after all, I didn’t create a digital likeness of myself just to let a game define how he moves. But I also liked it from a tactical perspective—the ability to mix and match character features to my liking was the best part of the game.

I have to give serious credit to the developer on the character design. For the most part, they blend in with real Avatars well. Not only do many character animations pay homage to classic fighting games, the fact that they work on both the new characters and my Avatar is a feat. It’s also a nice touch that they don’t simply palette-swap the avatars for mirror matchups; most fighters have two completely different sets of clothes and accessories.

Gameplay feels like a combination of Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat, with an emphasis on the latter. Mortal Kombat’s famous uppercut is the most obvious design element, but the feel permeates the game. Like MK, controls are on the slow side. It’s not bad, but it’s especially noticeable when using heavy punches and kicks—committing to a move meant my fighter was going to be open for quite some time. While the game doesn’t capture the same level of precision or smoothness of Street Fighter, controls are still decent and I found it very easy to execute all of the special moves (which is something you don’t see in a lot of fighting games).

Difficulty is the game’s one downside. While there’s no difficulty setting, fights become much harder up the ladder. I found the first couple of fights too easy, but the last couple of opponents were always impossible. Admittedly, it still retains that compelling “just one more try” hook, but eventually I was so frustrated I had to force myself to ignore it.

To put it simply, the AI gets cheap later in the ladder. It blocked faster than I could block and it attacked faster than I could attack; it didn’t seem to have as much lag when committing to a move. Taking down later opponents felt like a combination of patience, good defense, and sheer dumb luck—but mostly sheer dumb luck. I found that my best bet was usually to use hard-to-block combo attacks like Cyndi’s Rolling Kick and Mike’s Combomaker as often as possible. Ultimately, mixing the three most effective moves in Avatar mode was the only way I could beat the game.

Avatar Fighter gets a Try. It’s one of the best uses of Avatars I’ve seen. While it’s not the best fighter I’ve seen on XBLIG, it’s fun. Difficulty is the real issue. There’s a local versus mode if that’s your thing. Unless you just like the challenge of a one-sided fistfight, it may get frustrating too fast.

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