Fights in Tight Spaces (8)

Here’s the scene: You’re a secret agent, doing your usual covert espionage activities and all hell has broken loose. Hired goons surround you, and a fight is about to break out. But in a tight space. Imagine the idea of claustrophobic combat, your back against the wall, and several guns trained on you. Imagine time standing still, and a hand of cards dictating your every move.

“Cathartic close-quarters chess”

Play a royal flush of quick kicks and throat-punches? Go for the ace up your sleeve and smash a minion’s skull into shards of bone and broken memory? That’s the gist of Fights in Tight Spaces, which adds a layer of strategy to one of cinema’s best setups for down and dirty porcelain pugilism. It’s essentially John Wick meets Hearthstone, and I am well hyped with how the current project from Ground Shatter Games.

Tactical card-based battles sounds crazy in concept, but the format works smoothly and elegantly in Fights in Tight Spaces thanks in part to a robust selection of gameplay options, control, and style. There’s a certain visceral joy to literally playing your cards right, delivering a flurry of attacks, and finishing up the experience with a skull-crushing finale.

Each space is appropriately tight, but the joy of strategy here is on par with Robert Downey Jr. analysing a pattern of brutality to act on, while you also position your secret agent around the confined area that always leaves him in an advantageous position when it’s time for the next turn. When you first start playing, the action is a proper mud-slinging match. Punches are thrown and taken, blocks and counters become last-minute saving actions and you’ll seldom walk out of a scrap untouched.

But as the levels unlock more cards and options for your personal deck, your agent becomes a brutal ballet dancer, weaving between opponents and breaking jaws with the confident swagger of an MI6 operative who just spent a night memorising one-liners and downing shaken Martinis. All of that skill is absolutely necessary though, as Fights in Tight Spaces can be relentlessly difficult when the odds and cards are stacked against you.

I’ve barely managed to clear the first selection of missions since I started playing the preview build last week, and that was thanks purely to some luck on my side. Fights in Tight Spaces is chess with fists, where a spinning roundhouse kick can put a dangerous mercenary into check before you remove that piece from the board with a well-positioned chop to the neck.

And yet I keep coming back for me. That established brutality, juggling multiple actions, and thinking several snap-kick moves ahead of the opposition, makes for an exhilarating mental experience. Littering the ground with broken bodies and then watching the aftermath of that brawl delivered back to me in a stylish highlight reel makes me feel like a stunt coordinator who just wrapped up filming a John Wick fight scene.

I’m utterly sold and I cannot wait to see how this game evolves in the months to come. If you’re interested, check out the Fights in Tight Spaces in Steam. The public Early Access version launches today, but you can also get a brief taste of it with a neat demo level. It’s cathartic close-quarters chess and I’m absolutely hooked on it so far.

Last Updated: February 24, 2021

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