Fights in Tight Spaces gives you tight spaces to fight in.
Do you remember that scene in Oldboy? No, not the bit with the octopus. Not the tongue one either. I’m talking about that excellent hallway fight scene! Brilliantly choreographed, with great use of the enclosed space and fantastic camera work, it was a fight scene that’s as memorable as the insane plot of that movie. Fights in Tight Spaces feels like that scene combined with the card-based gameplay of Slay the Spire, and as insane as that sounds, it absolutely works.
Playing as a British secret agent, you’ll run through a brief tutorial before being sent into the field to take down a European biker gang. To be fair, the story is very much an afterthought in Fights in Tight Spaces, and all the focus is on the gameplay. Stages are played out in small venues made up of 4 x 4 to 6 x 6 grids. You’ll need to play cards to maneuver yourself around the arena, and defeat your enemies via good old fashioned fisticuffs.
Cards are mostly split into attack and movement skills that you can play so long as you have enough Momentum — this game’s equivalent of energy. Attack cards will damage enemies and sometimes move them and yourself around the arena, as well as build your combo meter, giving access to powerful finishing moves. Movement cards will move you to adjacent tiles, around or through enemies at the cost of reducing your combo meter. You’ll need to use these cards with a lot of care, as you’ll have all the information you need to know how enemies will attack during their turn.
Here’s where the clever part comes in. Your opponents will attack so long as there is a target in their attack range, regardless of who it is. You can use your attack and movement cards to damage opponents and get yourself to safety, but with really careful planning you can force your foes to dispatch each other as you dance around them. Landing a strike to force one enemy into the line of another’s gunfire before driving a third foe over a balcony and sidestepping an incoming punch feels great. It looks all the more impressive when you see the replay after a completed stage which cuts out all the thinking time. I’d like these replays all the more if they were a bit more free-flowing without pauses between actions — still, it’s pretty neat to see in action.
Between missions, you’ll have a choice of routes, much like Slay the Spire and its ilk. Missions will tell you what the objective is — mostly beat up everyone, but sometimes you’ll need to protect an ally or collect an item — as well as the rewards you’ll get, from cars to money. Medical facilities and gyms will allow you to heal yourself, upgrade your cards, and remove unwanted cards for a cost. Finally, events will give you choices that could lead to rewards or penalties. Sadly, these events lack a lot of the charm you see in similar games. Whilst there are a couple of fun ones — a surprise birthday party that you aren’t surprised for because you’re a secret agent and ready for anything is funny — most are pretty bland.
Much like many games of this type, Fights in Tight Spaces works as a rogue-like, with failure resetting you right back to the start. As ever, if replaying from scratch after a defeat is off-putting, this won’t change your mind. In fact, this is more annoying than most as there aren’t any unlocks that can be added to future runs, meaning that your next effort won’t be terribly different from the previous one. Personally, I don’t find this too frustrating, but it could be a bit of a deal-breaker for some players. Equally, success doesn’t unlock more cards or characters but does allow you access to the next setting with another set of missions.
In terms of visuals, this is quite striking and reminded me of Superhot thanks to its stark use of red, black, and white. In spite of the simple visuals, different types of enemies stand out well thanks to distinctive models, and the animations all play out very smoothly. The same attacks will play out in different ways depending on the environment which is a nice touch. The sound is less impressive and didn’t really stand out in any way. I liked the meaty sounds of physical strikes, but nothing else was terribly impressive.
As it stands Fights in Tight Spaces is a lot of fun with a good amount of content for an Early Access game. It’s also quite polished and stable considering how early in development it is. I only came across a single bug — an endlessly repeating replay — that was easily resolved by quitting via the menu. I’m hoping Ground Shatter goes on to add some more varied content as development continues. There’s a lot to like here, and I’m looking forward to the full release.
Fights in Tight Spaces is currently available in Game Preview on Xbox and will be fully released on Xbox and Steam next year.