I haven’t been this excited about a video game since I first discovered Ski Stunt Simulator. Toribash is a turn-based physics fighting game. The majority of fighting games rely on pre-built, unchanging animations. Although newer titles are incorporating motion blending and even including layers of physics simulation, the underlying motion is still keyframe based. Toribash does away with keyframes entirely, and the results are fantastic.
Controlling Your Character
Okay, so what exactly is happening in the above video? I usually stay away from describing a game in too much detail, but Toribash deserves an explanation. As I mentioned in the intro, the game is turn-based; each match is broken down into segments of time. While time is paused, you can set the behavior of your ragdoll’s joints: extend, contract, hold, or relax. So, for instance, you could raise your knee to kick by contracting both your hip and your knee. Check out their tutorial video for an idea:
Other games have attempted to implement full body, physics-based control mechanisms. The problem lies in the complication of movement. As a designer, you either need to simplify the control mechanism, automate some aspect of the process, or rely on convoluted controls. It’s a very hard problem to solve for a real-time game.
And that’s the brilliance of Toribash. They didn’t attempt to solve the complexity problem. It can take a full 20 seconds to set up your punch, kick, or grab just the way you want it. Because everything is turn-based, though, there isn’t any real penalty to this for the player. They’re given enough time to create very complex maneuvers.
Rock Paper BOO-YA!
Toribash is primarily a multiplayer game. It has a single-player mode, but there isn’t any AI to play against. You simply control two ragdolls simultaneously. While playing by yourself can be fun for setting up ridiculous replays, the real fun starts when you play a match against someone else. The default server lineup offers a variety of game settings (the server sets the amount of time that passes each turn, and the total time per match). The longer turn settings, 70 frames or so, have a very apparent rock-paper-scissors feel to them. Properly predicting and counteracting your opponent’s moves becomes a huge part of the strategy.
All of the default servers have disqualification turned on, which means that a player loses if they touch the ground with anything except their hands or feet. Most servers leave the default of enabling dismemberment, too, so a valid strategy is to literally tear off someone’s arm and throw it on the ground. Instant disqualification!
We played some matches here with disqualification turned off, and it was an interesting dynamic. It’s much harder to turn a match over, though, but the ensuing brawls were rather entertaining for their brutality (and I’m talking Dan-in-the-thoroughfare quality brutality, sans eye gouging).
Every match in Toribash is a little different. You quickly learn a variety of opening styles, but even slight changes in your ragdoll’s forces will produce completely different results. There’s a huge amount of variety waiting in the wings, too—even something as simple as letting the player choose an opening stance would modify the gameplay significantly. The engine allows for an impressive array of moves, as their promo video shows:
I don’t have a lot of negative things to say about Toribash. It’s a remarkable implementation of a very solid concept. The controls are a little difficult to learn—give up on the keyboard keys and use the mouse wheel and right button—but on the whole the game is very approachable. It’s most fun to learn locally with some friends, so put up your own server (Linux only, for now). If you can play with other people who are just learning, the frustrations of your failures will be a lot more hilarious than if you were getting your ass handed to you online.
Let the Fighting Begin!
The game is free, too, and it’s a tiny download. Give it a shot, and don’t give it up on it too soon. It takes a bit to get into, but once you’re in you’ll be having a blast.
Head on over to the official Toribash website for news, downloads, and forums.
- Toribash Updates to 1.98
- Toribash Gets Visual Overhaul
- Toribash Updates, Releases Multiplayer Video
- Toribash 3.0 Released!
- Toribash 2.0 Released