EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Amber Hall
previewed on PC
Don't Pick On The Fat Kid is a beat 'em up game that's currently in early access on Steam. The premise is pretty much exactly what the title implies: you play as "Fat Kid," that being the only name we're given for him, and the goal is to get back at the bullies that pick on you in each of the game's chapters. Each chapter contains a bit of fighting and is ended by its bully boss. Overall, it's an exceedingly simple premise. Wasn't the schoolyard stereotype thing already done to death by the 1980s?
Indeed, much of the game's humor is funny only the first time you see it, if even then, and quickly loses its charm. Fad Kid gets picked on for being the fat kid and yet also enforces that as his defining character trait as he eats excessive amounts of burgers and rolls up into a ball to crush enemies. I'm positive that this is the point, but it also comes across as unintentionally confused when the character's driving motive conflicts with the character's very essence. I think boiling down each character as their schoolyard stereotype is also meant to be funny, but for me, the comedy fades when I lose any sympathy for a character that represents exactly what he's fighting against.
Even the game's genre feels at odds with Fat Kid's objective. Each chapter hosts a new bully that, like Fat Kid, is named after their schoolyard stereotype, such as jock, cheerleader, and so on. They each do or say something mean to Fat Kid to prompt him to want to get back at them (which gets very repetitive). But before you get to the big meanie, you have to fight a bunch of other school kids. This is naturally a feature of the genre, but in Don't Pick On The Fat Kid, it feels a bit too brutal and serves to move me from being simply unsympathetic to Fat Kid's woes to understanding why everybody in the school hates him. See, when Fat Kid fights his fellow students, they straight up fall down in a pool of their own blood. It makes me question who the actual bully in the school is! Fat Kid's peers are defending themselves from the murderous onslaught that is Fat Kid's unrelenting rage!
I know that, perhaps I've taken a title that's meant to be funny and analyzed it deeper than it should, but when playing Don't Pick On The Fat Kid, this is what sticks out to me. It sticks out to me so much that it gets in the way of the funnier bits of the game. I expected the game to add something original to genre's formula, but it seemed only to further enforce old clichés.
Give Me Something Fresh!
Moreover, as far as the beat 'em up genre goes, the game doesn't seem to aim to do much to switch things up. The moves are mostly what one would expect from the genre but with a "fat kid" spin, such as a stun attack where Fat Kid farts at his enemies. However, I found a lot of Fat Kid's special abilities to be less useful than the basic punch attack. The stun attack takes so long that it will usually be interrupted by an enemy's attack. What’s more, Fat Kid's moves feel unresponsive. Most of the time, Fat Kid will execute a move that I wasn't trying for, and it's pretty frustrating when trying to quickly break something for a health pickup only to do the wrong move and get surrounded by enemies. This unresponsiveness carries over into the menu screens which are sometimes difficult to navigate. All of this may and probably will be improved before release, but they are definitely something to keep an eye on.
The the moment, there are only two songs in the game. I hope that they add more as the development progresses, because the music is actually a great fit. It's fun and fast and seems perfect for what I think the game wants to be. If they decide to move forward with each level being based around a boss, I hope that they make tracks that fit each character and perhaps levels that are more consistent with that boss' overall theme.
I'm Sorry To Pick on You, Fat Kid
In its current early access state, Don't Pick On The Fat Kid comes off as sloppy and unimaginative as Fat Kid himself. Neither its plot nor its gameplay do much to spice things up in genres that have been very thoroughly explored in the past. Further, Fat Kid's character only serves to enforce the stereotypes he fights against, which creates a confusing message that gets in the way of the game's humor. It is clear to me that this game needs a lot more polish before it comes out of early access, but I do hope that it realizes its potential.
The game has potential, but we're not ready to jump in with both feet. If the game interests you, look, but don't touch - yet.