Review: Way of the Passive Fist (PC)

Developer: Household Games
Publisher: Household Games
Genre: Beat ’em Up
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Price: $14.99

Last year, in the introduction of my Wulverblade review, I took us down memory lane. I mentioned the classics and how they were a huge part of my gaming history. The beat ’em up genre is still alive and well. I wouldn’t call it a revival, but the indie scene has been keeping them alive to some degree. It may not be the best example, but Raging Justice was one of the more recent to show up on digital stores of all platforms. Way of the Passive Fist may be the better example, because the homage it pays isn’t quite as on-the-nose as some others we have seen in the past. Household Games wanted to make a brawler that stood out from the crowd, and they mostly succeeded. These types of games usually encourage the players to take an offensive approach, but this one requires a more defensive mindset.

Content Guide

Spiritual Themes: One of the boss characters worships the sun. The sun of this planet has become destructive and has destroyed most of the colony that inhabited it. This cult leader sees the destructive power of the sun as salvation and the start of new life.

Violence: Way of the Passive Fist is a game in the beat ’em up genre in which the player battles enemies. The player’s focus is not to beat enemies to the ground but rather block and parry most attacks. Special abilities will throw and punch enemies while parrying projectiles will throw them back at enemies. There is no blood or gore present within this game. When the player or enemies are hit, they simply yell in pain and get knocked off screen as a result of their defeat.

One stage in a lab does show silhouettes of people being experimented on by machines. In the same stage there is an area where mechanical claws are hanging on to what look like people. There isn’t much detail in these scenes.

Positive Themes: Way of the Passive Fist is a brawler that is more focused on defensive abilities. Most games in the genre don’t usually have block buttons, but this one does. Players will spend their time blocking, parrying, and shoving enemies away, mastering patterns, timing, and rhythm. The presentation is also very inspired by the action-packed Saturday morning cartoons from the 90’s. This game has a positive nature tied to it all the way from gameplay to presentation. This is indeed not something we see in games too often.


I’d like to begin this review right where I left off in the content guide. Way of the Passive Fist has a positive nature behind it from top to bottom. Playing this game took me back to the days of Saturday morning cartoons when Fox Kids was a thing. These graphics are more hand-drawn than pixelated, which is a relief from all the other indies that are trying to relive the glory days. Each character and environment feels original. It seems as if the creators have accomplished their vision when it comes to the art style and presentation.

An important part of the beat ’em up genre is the music. Every great game in the genre is accompanied by memorable soundtrack—Streets of Rage 2 being the most iconic. Way of the Passive Fist has a solid soundtrack to back it up, though I wouldn’t consider it memorable. It’s got a high-energy feel to it with some tracks containing sweet guitar riffs that remind me of old school Metal. My personal favorite being the first track in “Speed of Light” that resembles 90’s Hip-Hop. I enjoy how the soundtrack captures the spirit of the era that inspired it.

It may look like the game takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting—it does, but not like you think. The story takes place on a planet called Zircon V where a once-thriving mining colony is now in peril thanks to a dying sun. We take control of the “Wanderer” who is seeking out a mad scientist that is performing experiments on members of the colony. The Wanderer seeks retribution through a fighting style called “The Passive Fist”. Players must adapt to this fighting style through a creative new kind of gameplay for the genre.

The basic idea is that players must block, parry, and dodge enemies and attack only when necessary. How does that make sense for a beat ’em up? Well, the folks at Household Games found a creative way to represent the fighting style through gameplay. Each enemy has a meter over their head and becomes fatigued when the meter runs out. That meter depletes every time they miss. Players must block, dodge and shove enemies out of the way, defeating them when their meter is fully depleted.

If you feel overwhelmed, there are shove and evade buttons to push an enemy out of the way or move yourself. Each of these tactics are mapped to a button because the combat can get very rhythmic. Enemies will take turns to attack and players must adapt to enemy-specific moves as they re-position and alternate patterns. This sounds like it might be too much to think about all at once and it can feel that way at times. Luckily, there are some things that have been set in place to make our experience better and give us more room to breathe.

About to unleash that finisher move.

Medals can be earned as you complete each fight. The amount of experience points awarded is based on whether you earn a bronze, silver, or gold. Filling the experience meter will grant you health boosts and special finisher moves in a set order. The finisher moves can be done when you execute enough blocks and dodges without getting hit and do big damage along with clearing a crowd of enemies. These moments are the only occasions in which the Wanderer ever uses his mechanical hand.

The developers were kind enough to include a feature that we don’t see too often. Players have the option to make the game as difficult or easy as they want to. Through the adjustment of a few sliders we can change things like number of enemies, their strength, the combo meter, and the amount of health pickups. One of my experiments with this feature involved cranking everything down to the lowest setting and cranking the enemy encounters way up. I eventually found my perfect mix of settings and I encourage doing this to find the ideal experience that suits you.

Only White Castle has more sliders than these difficulty settings.

With only 10 chapters, the game can be completed within several hours. This was enough time for them to tell the story they wanted and to give the players a new experience that never got long in the tooth. My least favorite moments were the bosses—mastering their tactics while trying to balance the patterns of enemies felt like it was too much sometimes. But after some trial and error, they weren’t very difficult to beat. The best moments of Way of the Passive Fist were when I got into a good flow of combat and couldn’t be touched for long periods of time.

An update called “New Dawn” was released in June. This update included a new enemy type for the main story mode, but most of it is post-game content—the first being an epilogue challenge mode that is best suited for masters of the Passive Fist. The other is also challenging, with some rogue-lite features and the option to choose various paths that are more difficult than the one before it. This update is meant for players that crave more of a challenge; I can’t recommend these new modes to anyone who dislikes these gameplay mechanics.

Even with a wasteland setting, the stages had a pleasant variety in their environments

Way of the Passive Fist is a callback to a time where games of its genre were among some of the most popular in the industry. I found the gameplay to be very creative, but not entertaining enough to play through in one sitting.  All of the pattern memorization meant a lot of trial and error, which made the game more entertaining in small doses and tiresome during long sessions. The best thing about it is that the nods to nostalgia are not so on-the-nose like we see in the vast ocean of indies out there. Household Games made an effort to create something that feels original and yet pays homage to an era we know and love. Everything about it took me back to the days of getting up on Saturday mornings with a bowl of cereal and cartoons. Not everyone will enjoy the pattern-centric style of combat, but its worth checking out if it interests you.

The Bottom Line



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L.J. Lowery

Born in southern California, but currently residing in Lafayette, Louisiana. Loves Hip Hop music, comics, and video games. Events/Media Coordinator, Podcast Producer, and Public Relations.

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