Tap Fu offers a quick slap and a kick when you’re in the mood

Posted: October 16, 2009 in Action

The iTunes store is overwhelmingly flooded with pick-up-and-play games that focus more on quick play rather than depth. Tap Fu, however, is a little bit of both with a fun casual fighting game that can be played in short spurts or in more prolonged sessions when you’re looking for a little more action. While it isn’t one of the deepest games out there, Tap Fu provides engaging gameplay with different game modes and combat abilities that make it a game worth considering.

Whether in the village or on the mountaintop, the colorful backgrounds look terrific even though they are limited in variety, while the character movements and animation are smooth. Don’t let the cutesy graphics fool you. The game has 4 modes: Story, Survival, 100 Rounds and Training. One of the shortcomings especially in survival mode is the game screen real estate can abruptly end as you reach the border of the screen. Obviously it’s limiting, but fortunately in Story Mode, the scenery is continuous. In addition to the sound effects of punches and pain similar to what you would hear in an old school kung fu movie, the game also has a 5-slot save system and auto screen flip.

In Story mode, you play the role of a Tap Fu Trainee out on a mission to recover candy that the Sweet Tooth Clan has stolen from your village. Under the tutelage of the Elder Tap Fu Master who strangely looks like Pat Morita from The Karate Kid, you learn new skills. The story is told through cut scenes, dialogue boxes and muffled sound effects that sound like the adults in Charlie Brown cartoons. One of the things to keep in mind is that Tap Fu’s Story mode is a work in progress that currently only includes Chapter 1: Ninjas. While additional chapters are planned in later updates, the content that is there right now offers a nice glimpse into future installments.

Survival mode offers high-scoring opportunities by battling a continual onslaught of enemies. A variation can be found in the other mode 100 Rounds where you must defeat all the enemies including bosses to move to the next round. Both modes provide the option of playing in two different locations: Mount Fuji and Sakaki Forest.

Training is an entertaining mode for practicing moves, and for those times when you’re looking for an opportunity to relieve some stress. Here, you can either use the Elder Tap Fu Master as a punching bag or set him to battle against you.

The big selling point for Tap Fu comes in your Tap Fu Trainee’s fighting abilities, and the combat system is intuitive and well implemented. Using either the virtual d-pad or specific finger gestures, specific moves can be performed. The easier of the two control options is the d-pad with specific buttons that appear when available, but the devs created a game where the abilities are both easy and fun to use. These abilities—blocking, quick attack, jumping, spin kick, back kick, roll, and fireball—visually look great, and dare I say, almost make the game too easy.

The gesture-based controls require some practice and gestures are indicated by an array of color on the screen. Jumping for example can be accomplished by swiping upwards, while swiping downwards will result in a roll. In general, the quick attack consisting of a quick punch and kick and activated by tapping the screen will be your primary method of attack against ninjas, but progressing through the levels will see ninjas evolve with different abilities.

One of the nice twists is that some of the fighting abilities are not always available. For example, once a back kick is used, there is a slight delay before that ability is available again. The fireball is one that you’ll want to use strategically since this also takes time to charge up. Both of these abilities are monitored on a separate gauge that you’ll come to rely on as much as the health gauge. Another nice element is the local and online scoring system which awards points for combo moves and style. The game also has an achievement system which provides further re-play value. Achievements are awarded for points scored, battle combos, damage inflicted, and length of survival.

“Candy…your smell is sweeter than pie.”—Elder Tap Fu Master

While Pat “Tap Fu Master” Morita indulges in eating it, collecting candy is rather important to the Tap Fu Trainee for other reasons. Candy randomly appears after slaying an enemy. Collecting green candy will improve the health of the little Tap Fu Trainee, while an extra life is awarded for every 20 green candies collected. Aside from that, Tap Fu Trainee earns the special power of quickness and speed for every 15 blue candies collected. All of this is tracked as part of the HUD.

While the game starts out easy, Tap Fu is all about volume in terms of enemy attacks. Ninjas become more difficult to slay as you progress, as well as the ability to cloak their appearance and teleport from one place to another. The gameplay can be intense and involve a fair share of button mashing because the stages gradually become longer. Illustrations appear as you kill off enemies using combos, maximizing scoring abilities and earn achievements.

Each stage culminates with a boss fight against the Master who can easily drain your health. As the enemy hordes increase, the ability to jump and roll will be essential to your survival. The controls are responsive enough that this won’t be a problem for most, although finger gestures can sometimes be misread. The gameplay in Tap Fu can be rather repetitious because you are battling the same type of enemies for the most part. And, more importantly, the difficulty may not be high enough for some. But with what is there now and the promise of additional chapters, Tap Fu does offer an enjoyable fighting experience.

The game is a work in progress, which may discourage some from purchasing right away. But, what is included in the current version still delivers a full experience especially when compared to other iTunes games. Tap Fu is fun a game where the combat moves should keep pique the interest of casual players. With a funny storyline and smooth cartoony graphics, Tap Fu provides a good amount of content with more to come.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (recommended for casual gamers looking for an equally casual fighting game; combat moves are nicely implemented and intuitive; different modes provide both prolonged play and shorter quick play; animation is done well; gameplay is a bit repetitious, but is offset by the different moves)

Check out my review at http://toucharcade.com/2009/10/17/tap-fu-a-casual-beat-em-up/

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