How much do you love martial arts movies? That’s a trick question, of course – we all love martial arts movies more than we can describe. Whether it’s classics like Enter the Dragon and Police Story or newer entries to the genre like The Raid and Ip Man, there’s something about the balletic, choreographed violence on display in martial arts movies that speaks to something primal in our souls.
In our idler moments, we have often found ourselves wishing that more martial arts movies featured pigs as their protagonists. It’s just a notion we’ve been entertaining. Incredibly, it seems that Lithuanian developer SnoutUp shares our fantasy, or at the very least they’ve been reading our thoughts. Iron Snout is a hybrid beat-’em-up and rhythm game which sees a plucky pig fending off waves of wolf aggressors using cinematic martial arts moves, which is pretty much exactly the sketch we’ve drawn over and over again in our exercise books. If, like us, you’re already sold on the elevator pitch alone, you can play it here right now.
SnoutUp, true to its name, has past form with heroic pigs battling impossible odds. Previous titles by the studio include Bacon May Die and Cave Blast, although SnoutUp is also pointing the spotlight at other species with games like Bunny Goes Boom and Toaster Swipe (when will the rights of sentient toasters be recognized?). Iron Snout continues the developer’s penchant for painterly cartoon visuals and piggy mayhem, so if you’ve played any of their previous titles, you’ll know what to expect with this one.
Much like Bacon May Die and Cave Blast, Iron Snout features a frankly adorable stylized cartoon pig doing battle with evil forces plotting to destroy him. The game has more in common spiritually with Bacon May Die than with Cave Blast, though; if you’ve played Bacon May Die, imagine its protagonist fixed in one position rather than being able to roam around the map and you’re most of the way there.
Let’s back up a bit. Iron Snout is effectively a cross between rhythm-action games like Dance Dance Revolution and beat-’em-ups. From the former, it takes its direction-based control scheme and emphasis on timing, while from the latter it pilfers extended combos, different enemy types which require different strategies, and weapons which can be picked up and used against enemies for extra damage and combo points.
In Iron Snout, you’ll face off against waves of increasingly dangerous bad guys. The player controls their powered-up pig with the arrow keys, with each one corresponding to a different direction from which enemies are coming. Each wave is seamless, so there isn’t a point where one wave ends and another begins; instead, enemies will just keep coming, with the number and danger factor increased as the game progresses. This organic feeling of progression means that the game never drops its frantic pace, ebbing and flowing as threats escalate and players respond accordingly.
With movement a distant memory in the mind of our pig protagonist, you’d think that the game would start to feel stale after a while. This isn’t the case, though; there are a number of factors that prevent Iron Snout from stagnating despite its lack of movement. Enemies are nicely varied, with each different wolf type requiring a different response to its moves. Some wolves carry knives, which must be dodged depending on whether they’re thrown above or below your pig; others are flying above you on rockets, and others still vary their pace or attacks depending on what you do.
All of this goes together to create a game which is as strategic as it is cathartic. Mash buttons endlessly and you’ll feel great at first, dispatching enemies left, right and center. Eventually, though, your indiscriminate button presses won’t amount to anything, and enemies will easily get the drop on you and punish you for your inaccurate timing. Iron Snout eventually demands pretty precise and specific timing from its players, so missing one enemy could mean the difference between life and death.
The joy in Iron Snout lies in discovering its many different internal interactions. Shooting down one of the aforementioned rocket enemies results in that enemy spiralling down and crashing into others, ridding you of two threats at once. Dodging a thrown knife at the right time can mean that the knife careers towards an enemy who was approaching from the opposite side, putting them down quickly and efficiently. The core mechanics of Iron Snout reward good timing, but it’s clear that SnoutUp also understands that when things get frantic the player can’t be punished too harshly for panicking and trying to dodge all incoming attacks.
There isn’t a huge amount of Iron Snout, but it’s very easy indeed to recommend what is there. The core control scheme is tight and hits that perfect sweet spot between being simple to learn and difficult to master; getting into the game is straightforward, but there’s a huge amount to learn and discover once you’re there. Combat is really all Iron Snout has, but when it’s this solid, that’s all it needs.