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Fights in Tight Spaces Review: Card-Based John Wick

Fights in Tight Spaces is a roguelike deck-builder with tactics-style combat. The minimalist art style and punchy animations aim to make you feel slick like John Wick!

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Title: Fights in Tight Spaces
Release Date: December 2, 2021
Price: $24.99
Suggested Audience Age: Rated M for Mature for Blood and Violence
Time to Play: 8 hours (per HLTB)
Availability: Steam, Xbox
Recommended for fans of: John Wick, The Kingsman, Into the Breach, and Slay the Spire
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.

Who doesn’t love a well-choreographed fight scene? I just rewatched the first Kingsman movie yesterday and for all the ways that that movie is absurd, I love its action. Each time a character manages to twist away from an enemy, then bring their momentum crashing back into their foe I silently cheer. Well, mostly silently. That part with the umbrella and the pint glass will not get an audible reaction from me.

Tights in Fight Spaces is a deck-building, rogue-like turn-based tactical game that is all about giving you those exhilarating thrills of every moment in the fight working out just right. The overall structure and progression through the story feel really good and the combat is interesting and strategic… but at the end of the day, it doesn’t quite deliver the punchiness that it feels like it’s aiming for.

A Simple Spy Story

The art style in Fights in Tight Spaces does a great job of setting expectations for this game. Everything about it operates at a fairly minimalist level. The characters are represented by simple, two-colored polygons, the environment is gray and unobtrusive, and even the story-telling takes a back seat to the actual gameplay.

You start each run through the roguelike structure by choosing a deck of cards and a level to start on. In the beginning, you’ll have a deck that’s pretty well balanced and will be sent to deal with a biker gang. As you progress through the levels in the story, you can then start at further levels on subsequent runs, and you unlock new decks with specialized focuses.

It’s all very straightforward and quick because the narrative is nowhere near a focus in this game. You might come across an “event” on the roguelike path that tells you that a British agent has sent out a distress call looking for help, but basically that just means you can click a button to help him, losing some health and gaining a new card, or you can just ignore him and move on to the next fight.

There are small story elements here, but none of them are as memorable or impactful as even the most basic fight.

Throwing Fists

The combat in Fights in Tight Spaces is really what you are here for. Each encounter drops you and a few enemies into a small, grid-based environment. On your turn, you use “momentum” to play cards that let you move around the arena, attack enemies, and set defense for your next turn. As you build up attacks your combo meter goes up, which is used to dish out extra beefy hits.

It starts off pretty straightforward, but throughout each run, you will earn new cards and buffs that can change up your gameplay. There’s nothing as diverting as the boon systems in Hades or changing out your cards in Dandy Ace, but there’s enough to keep the game feeling like it develops over time. For example, in one run I ended up with a few cards that let me bash an enemy's heads into walls, so I started always staying at the very edges of the room.

The tactics gameplay here is pretty satisfying. It reminds me a bit of Into the Breach, in that you can see what your enemies are going to do before you decide what actions to take on your turn. A lot of my strategy goes into moving my enemies around in order to make them attack each other. If someone across the map has a gun pointed at me, there’s nothing more satisfying than stepping back a square and then pulling another goon into the line of fire.

Faulty Flow

Unfortunately, the presentation of the combat unfolding lets me down a little bit every single time. Pulling off a maneuver to get your enemies to attack each other in Fights in Tight Spaces feels great, but just dodging out of the way of an attack isn’t rewarding at all. In the example above with the gunman, if I just stepped out of his line of fire and then ended my turn, he’d choose not to shoot. The same is true if you dip out of the way of someone aiming a punch. If you get an enemy in range they’ll execute the attack against their compatriot, but if you leave the air in front of them empty they just don’t do anything.

If I manage to dive out of the way of someone who is about to try to kick me in the face, I want to see them absolutely fail to kick me in the face!

Things especially fall flat in the replay feature at the end of each round. Superhot is the first game I remember that took slow, methodical gameplay and showed it back to you in real-time to make you feel like a badass. Fights in Tight Spaces tries to do that, but all of the action is still turn-based. So, yeah, you’re not waiting while you choose a card, but seeing my agent step towards an enemy, pause for an idle animation, do a kick, pause for an idle animation, then step away from an enemy who was planning to throw a punch but instead does nothing…. it’s not cool! It doesn’t look like John Wick at all!

Final Thoughts

Don’t get me wrong, I really like Fights in Tight Spaces. The deckbuilding and strategizing are really fun and the combat is engaging enough to keep me playing for a long while, but the way that everything comes together (especially in those replays) just doesn’t quite click. I know that getting those replays to translate the turn-based, grid-structured fight scenes into actual, fluid fight scenes would be a massive undertaking, but having a replay option that doesn’t pull that trick off ends up bringing the whole experience down for me.

Eventually, I had to give up on the idea of this making me feel like a cool action star, and instead just enjoyed it for the great card-based micro-tactics game that it is.

Geek to Geek Rating: 4 out of 5 whiffed kicks

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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