Beat-'em-ups don't work on PC, right? It's all up, down, punch, kick, wish I had a joypad.
Wrong. Rag Doll Kung Fu has just reinvented the fighting game on PC, with style, wit, originality and fine mouse play. The only thing this game has in common with other smack-'em-ups is the hitting part.
Combat is entirely mouse controlled. The ragdoll characters don't use conventional animation, instead they move with a rubbery, wibbly response to the teasing of a mouse cursor.
It's all done a limb at a time by right-clicking an arm or a leg and dragging the attack arrow to the target. A punch is simply grabbing a fist, dragging the arrow to the face (or any other body part) of the enemy and letting go.
Your ragdoll will react with elasticised force, lashing out with the selected limb. It's amazing that it works at all, never mind so well. You're free to do whatever, whenever.
If it doesn't work, it's only because you got greedy and overstretched the puppet; they may be limber, but there are limits. Want to throw your back leg out to kick at shins? Give it a go. Want to leap over a ninja and headbutt as you go? You can.
A number of bizarre concepts power the rubber-limbed fighting. First up is Chi. If you don't have Chi power, you can't fight. Luckily, getting Chi is as easy as swirling your mouse around in small circles, to charge yourself up. Chi discharges as you fight, so regular swirl sessions are needed.
This is a zen game, where getting into the zone means you're one step ahead of everyone, spinning out of the way at the last minute, blocking and counter-attacking with casual wrist flicks.
If Rag Doll has a failing, it's that it takes a bit too much practice to be that good. It's also easy to overreach and send your ragdoll spinning wildly into the air.
As a short game, there's little to moan about. There's a publishing deal with Valve, so it's even delivered to your PC painlessly, via Steam.
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