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‘The Counter of Death’ Review- Zen and the Art of Tapping

TouchArcade Rating:

You know, even if I didn’t love kung fu movies and think of Bruce Lee as an inspiration and a hero, I would still probably love this game. This is the kind of game touch screens were made for. Simple, unique, original, fun gaming on the go. I love games that personify this philosophy. Games like Lonewolf (Free), Redden ($2.99), and Ball King (Free). Games that may not be perfect or are maybe a bit repetitive, but they just have that addictive magic. The latest game for me in that list is The Counter of Death (Free), and it has nothing to do with mathematics, step counting, or kitchen surfaces.

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Developed by Curlking Game Studio and Jemina, This game puts you in the classic kung fu jacket (which my google-fu has told is me is called a Tang costume) of an unofficial Bruce Lee, replete with the cool attitude and posture of a master and those classic high pitched screams as you dominate foes one by one. In classic video game fashion, a scumbag has sucker punched you and taken a pretty lady to the top of a tower, so naturally it falls to you to commit whatever acts of violence are required to remedy the situation. This game doesn’t just have a classic video game/kung fu story. It even has a classic kung fu movie aesthetic, with the film grain and fuzzy screens that come with watching old VHS tapes. A very nice touch.

Gameplay is all about counter attacking. There is no button mashing your way through a crowd of dudes. You are too good at kung fu for that. You don’t even seem to be in much of a hurry, happy to slowly and calmly walk your way through all comers with cool determination. As every enemy attacks, you will block high or low, striking back afterwards for a one hit K.O. As enemies get stronger, they’ll attack with more moves and more complex and unpredictable animations, but once you block a certain number of attacks, you’ll one shot them with a quick strike. Only bosses take multiple rounds to kill, in increasing number as well, meaning they get hit like 8 times minimum.

Counter of Death 5 Counter of Death 3

Once you get through all the normal boss counter phases, you’ll have a mind’s eye moment of Zen, basically predicting the next flurry of attacks. You’ll have a limited time to input the right combination of blocks before unleashing your own furious flurry to knock them out (and presumably stop their heart too. It’s just how these things should go in my head canon). Something that you won’t be explicitly told but will likely discover on accident as things get tough, is that you can instantly knock out an opponent by blocking at the very last instant. The very last frame. Even if they have a total of 5 attacks to go through, you can cut them short in the first blow by truly blocking like a master.

This is a game of focus and concentration. It can’t be played like many endless runners or other simple mobile games. I can usually play those types of games while listening to podcasts or going through my YouTube subscriptions in the background, and still make tons of progress. Not so here. Heck, if you lose focus, you could even get hit by that super slow starting enemy from time to time. This game demands your full attention, and I am happy to give it. It’s very satisfying. The design is even so clean that any time you get hit, it’s guaranteed to be your fault. The entire bottom half of the screen is taken up by your only two input buttons; a high and a low. They are so big and spaced far apart enough that you’ll never accidentally hit the wrong one by mistake. It’s a thing of beauty.

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You’ll notice blue flame icons indicating how many hits you have to block per enemy. Each one of these is also collected and used as currency to increase your max health. You only regain one heart per floor, and you have one continue option with a full health refill, assuming you’re willing to watch an advertisement. There are occasionally ads once you get a game over as well, but they can usually be skipped after 5 or 15 seconds and weren’t very frequent. One of my main gripes with this game is that there is no way to pay the ads away, but the developer has mentioned adding this feature in our forums.

They’ve also mentioned adding new costumes, such as the classic Bruce Lee yellow biker jacket, and thank heavens for that. This game is glorious, but severely lacking in bells and whistles. I’ve already maxed out my health, so some cool cosmetic options are very welcome. Some other form of progress would be nice, like maybe a floor checkpoint at the expense of score (since there are Game Center leaderboards. Can’t have pay to win). This goes against the philosophy of the game though. Only true masters will be bad enough dudes to save their girlfriends, as it were. I’m more advocating for more options of any type, as the game is very simple and repetitive. But what is there is pretty freaking great. Enough to make me want to try the developers other simple looking games, like Mr. Octopus (Free) and Combine Robot ($0.99). I have no idea if they’re good, but I’m definitely going to follow this developer more closely in the future.

Oh and P.S. That fourth floor boss can eat me.

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