With its magnificent trailers at E3 and Gamescom, Midnight Fight Express had beat ’em up lovers on the edge of their seats. After being in development for several years, by Polish developer Jacob Dzwinel, Midnight Fight Express finally hit stores: a high-tempo, isometric action game that threatens to turn us all into John Wick-killing machines.
In recent years, with games like My Friend Pedro and Katana Zero, the beat ’em up genre is definitely alive and well, so does Midnight Fight Express bring something new to the table? Let’s start from the beginning. The story revolves around a retired gun for hire known as “The Babyface” who’s yet again back to his criminal roots. This time though, he’s got 24 hours to stop a nefarious criminal plan by his former comrades!
Despite this vaguely interesting storyline, the game’s narrative approach is not as flawless as its fighting mechanics. The story is told through skippable dialogues that appear on screen, each time going into “storytelling mode”, pausing to let us read long lines of dialogue. For quite a long narrative like the one in Midnight Fight Express, these cutscenes break the flow too much. It’s understandable that there might not have been a budget for voice actors, yet there must have been better options for telling the story, beyond uninteresting dialogue and unnecessary pauses. At times it feels like driving an Aston Martin full speed on a highway with no traffic, with the cutscenes acting like holes and bumps.
But let’s get back to the positive. Jacob Dzwinel’s first game is a pure dopamine fest high octane action that keeps you coming back for more. Even though the game doesn’t really break new ground, it takes full advantage of the boldest mechanics introduced by games such as Arkham Asylum and PS1’s Jackie Chan Stuntmaster. For example, the enemies attack from various positions which are signalled via visual indicators, like in Arkham They attack you from so many positions and the game signals their attack via visual indicators, like Arkham. Also, you can use the environment and pick up a variety of weapons, like Jackie Chan Stuntmaters.
The game’s design and gameplay are flawless. Variety is the biggest key point when it comes to Midnight Fight Express. Having 41 handcrafted and fantastically designed levels, along with 117 different kinds of enemies ready to punish “Babyface”, will always provide a fresh experience. The levels become more complex, deep, and challenging as you progress. Also, you get introduced to the Upgrade System/Skill Tree which lets you keep up with its challenges and the new kinds of enemies you face.
One of the main aspects I liked about the design is that Midnight Fight Express is well aware of its high-tempo nature, yet it wants you to stay sharp during its bombastic levels. In order to achieve this, the game always challenges your environmental awareness, with moving traps (which can also be used to defeat your opponents) and enemies whose attacks that can’t be blocked. Thanks to these challenges, Midnight Fight Express definitely feels more like a solid brawler than a mindless button-masher.
Unfortunately, the game suffers from a key-mapping problem. Both finishing movies and secondary guns are mapped on the same button, a problem that’s not even fixable in the settings menu and can get annoying, especially in the more complex and challenging levels.
From a technical and artistic point of view, the game is pretty solid, featuring fluid animations and smooth movements, with motion-captured animations, which are definitely rarely seen in a small-budget indie title. The music is composed by Noisecream, the same artist who composed the soundtrack to My Friend Pedro, and it’s a classic Techno/Electronic soundtrack which definitely fits the fast-paced action and will have the blood pumping in your veins!
In conclusion, it’s safe to say that the creation of Jacob Dzwinel features a lovely high-quality experience for fans of the brawler-style genre. Even though the game does not innovate, it cherrypicks some of the finest mechanics and design elements from notable entries in the genre. With a slightly better narrative technique and fixing its control problems, it could have easily rivalled the best in the genre. Still, even with these small flaws, beat ’em up fans will be pretty happy with what’s on offer here.
Midnight Fight Express: Even though Midnight Fight Express never tries to bring anything new to the genre, it gathers so many mechanics and design elements from pioneers of this style into really well-designed levels and makes up for a super fun and fantastic brawling experience! A game that even its narrative and key-mapping flaws can’t shadow its magnificent flow of blood, sweat, blades, fists, and bullets! – Ali Goodarzi