Imagine, if you will, a world torn straight from the action-packed sketches doodled in a third-grader's margins. Knights fighting robots, aliens dueling vampires... the craziest, unlikeliest match-ups, set against one another solely for the fact that, deep down inside, your inner child knows that this is the stuff of awesome. Welcome to Chaos Faction 2, the bombastic brawlfest from Dissolute Productions.
While controls vary on the mode and how many players there are, there's a standardized set for the solo player: [arrow] keys for movement, [down] to activate your shield, and the [Z] and [X] keys to let your fists or feet do the talking, respectively. There're other more advanced techniques, like evasive maneuvers and aerial acrobatics, which can be viewed via in-game help screens. Picking up items is as easy as walking into them, and you can use them just as easily with the attack buttons. Who knew that uproarious mayhem was so intuitive?
There's quite a bit to see; while the single player campaign mode can probably be trounced in a single sitting (with a couple of blood-boiling, endgame exceptions), it's all about the trendy character parts and gear that you unlock, which can be carried over into the deathmatch mode. It's from there that you can challenge a friend as awesome-obsessed as you are to single combat. Or, throw some AI players in there to make things interesting. Make teams, set time limits, and even account to have a magical toilet plunger appear for players to clamor over. Like I said, it's all about the awesome.
Analysis: A lot of what this game stands for is that distilled, unadulterated, italicized awesome factor. Your personal avatar is customizable right down to their eyeballs, with dozens of parts salvaged from defeated foes. There's a trove of wacky items, ranging from boxing gloves and blowpipes to teleporter rays and localized black holes. Even a level editor is there for your meddling amusement.
The trouble is that, at times, the action can actually get a bit too hyperactive. There will be times when you're knocked off the stage and you're not entirely sure why. The melee combat, while wearing the trappings of complexity, usually seems to boil down to mashing. For a game that seems to draw a lot of inspiration from a certain source, there are oddly jarring changes made. You can jump up through platforms, but not drop down through them, which makes navigating some stages an endeavor. Items also always overpower unarmed attacks by about three to one.
That said, the raw psyche of this game isn't about creating a "balanced fighting game" where the outcome's always fair. It's clear that the heart that beats within this game is an awesome engine, constructed for the purpose of powering a game where a polar bear can throw ninja stars at a pirate with a flamethrower. The cartoony animation meshes well with the game's zany atmosphere, and there's enough level-specific music that you'll almost never need to hear a loop. Even if the controls are sometimes loose and the mechanics don't always seem to give matches to the most skilled combatants, you can't help but smile at the wacky, slapstick charm when you see those doodles in the margins. Hey, it's not your fault. Awesome is a tough emotion to hide.