The VR controllers of the HTC Vive easily translate to a lot of movements that come naturally to us, but there’s something special about throwing a punch. On the expo floor of PAX South 2017, we came across Digital Precept’s Kung Fu: Shadow Fist, a game that asks you to throw quite a few punches, and we had a chance to experience a short demo level.
After chatting with Digital Precepts co-founder Craig Herndon, we learned that the story behind the game’s conception and even the inspiration for a portion of the demo level are as exciting as the game itself.
Kung Fu: Shadow Fist is an arcade beat-em-up that was created essentially on a bet. When discussing games with a fellow member of the Memphis Game Developer group in Tennessee, they pondered how cool it would be if they had a fighting game in VR. Someone quickly responded, “I bet I can make one first!” and it turned into a challenge where the winner earned a pizza on the loser’s dime. Digital Precept won the race, starting development around March of last year, but we’ll have to follow up with them later to see what toppings they got on their pie.
When creating the game, Herndon says the classic Sega brawler Streets of Rage was the main inspiration. The team essentially asked, “What would that look like in VR?” and charged forward. We got our hands on the demo level and the influence, from music to enemy design, was certainly there.
A particular survival-like section in the subway area was also influenced by another work of fiction: Oldboy. In the Korean revenge thriller, there’s an iconic scene where the film’s protagonist takes on gangster after gangster in a hallway during a one-shot fight scene. The shot is great not only for its brutality, but also the realism as the protagonist’s fighting deteriorated into a more chaotic mess as he grew tired – something I experienced first hand when playing.
In the game, you have a small amount of space you can move around in normally and even do short-range teleportation to enemies as they surround you. Movement around the map is done via longer range teleportation. Your objective in the demo is to move down and through a subway area while taking on scattered groups of enemies.
You’ll fight them in open areas and also have to act quickly in claustrophobic subway trains, finally ending the demo in a hall were enemies run in from every direction and you survive as long as you can. The long range teleportation and fighting was functional and fun, but the short range teleport was often activated by mistake when swinging chaotically at enemies.
As you fight, the speed and power of your punches contribute to the score in the demo level along with the amount of health you end with. There’s a slow motion effect that happens during combat as well, but it also wasn’t plainly clear when the effect would be activated. This demo level was extracted from the alpha version of the game, which can be accessed if you purchase the game in Itch.io.
“People who are really enthusiastic and want to see this game get built can give us feedback,” he Herndon says. “As we add new builds in they can ask for new features and we’ll have some back and forth about what the game looks like going forward. If you get into this alpha you’ll definitely have the ability to have a say into what happens next.”
The team made 300 keys for sale available on the website, so act quickly if you want to help shape Kung Fu: Shadow Fist. Herndon says the full game will be filled with typical beat-em-up tropes like faster ninja enemies and a story built on the abduction of your significant other, like in Double Dragon. The game has been greenlit on Steam and the team is hoping to release in September or October of this year.