A Kung-Fu homage that packs more than a punch.
Okinawa Rush caught my eye pre-release with an impressive beta demo. Since beat-em-ups make my knees weak, the seemingly fast and frenetic style caught my attention immediately. It’s not a pace I have seen in this genre too often, at least to this degree. The premise is that the protagonist comes across a murdered loved one, and a journey of revenge ensues.
Put bluntly, Okinawa Rush is a dark game. Your hero’s journey is a marathon of levels with a trail of blood left in your wake. Basic actions include a jump, an attack, a strong attack, and a super move that’ll obliterate anything on screen. Enemies range from basic ninjas, bugs, beasts, and oppressive bosses that are incredibly durable. At times, enemies can fill the screen to a suffocating degree. Then you have to account for traps and hazards such as falling debris, endless pits, and spikes that can skewer your corpse and leave a bloody mess.
In action, there’s something exhilarating about being in the thick of it. Despite the limited button set, there are a wide set of attacks available through combo button inputs akin to a 2D fighter. For example, the typical street fighter inputs will emulate a hadouken or shoryuken. Moves have a contextual effect—if you’re surrounded on all sides, you might grab the heads of the two enemies next to you and bash them together. Weapons like bo staffs, nunchucks, and swords can be procured on site, and each changes the tempo of battle considerably until they break.
What Okinawa Rush nails is making you feel like a bonafide badass. Your character is heavy, but can speed run as well as vault to great heights. Each punch and kick has that kind of old karate movie “thwack,” a sound design trick that is executed perfectly. More densely populated skirmishes can get messy and unfairly punishing, but learning how to crowd control comes easily enough. Where the game really shines is its boss battles, especially against human-like figures. The back and forth is downright cinematic, with dodging, parrying, and powerful beating back and forth that’s breathtaking.
That said, I do have some nagging (if minor) issues. The default difficulty is punishingly hard. Not because of the enemies becoming more powerful, but due to a countdown timer that enacts an immediate life lost when it hits zero. It’s a punitive addition that keeps you from reveling in crushing your opponents. The music left something to be desired, bordering on forgettable. Finally, the writing is cheesy as all get out. I can’t tell whether it’s intentional, but I had to restrain myself from audible groans at some moments. If you’re not too prideful about difficulty setting, soundtrack, or cheese, then it’s small potatoes.
Okinawa Rush attracted me the moment I played it and dragged me in with its visceral, fast paced powerful battles. You won’t find a developed story or a stellar soundtrack, but sound design in combat is top tier, with each hit feeling like it’s forceful enough to crush skulls. If a dark, gruesome brawler that empowers you to be a badass is what you’re itching for, then Okinawa Rush is just the right scratch for you.