Originally released back in 2006, Toribash (@toribash) from Singaporean developers Nabi Studios is a free-to-play fighting game in which you and your opponent simultaneously take turns adjusting various joints on your characters’ bodies to perform moves. You’re able to contract, extend, relax, and hold each joint as you mix-and-match contortions in an attempt to throw a punch or kick. For the uninitiated, the game is insanely hard. For the skilled, it allows for some extremely slick and cool looking fights to unfold.
Up against a training dummy, you can spend time getting a feel for how each change affects your body, and learn the ropes of the physics. Eventually, you too can leap into the air and spin-kick the head off your opponent… then take your skills online to get absolutely demolished. At least, that’s how it goes for me.
Its unique brand of fighting is hard to put down, as it allows for some extremely satisfying moves once you begin to wrap your head around the way your ragdoll adjusts to every ab and elbow twist. Executing each turn over a series of frames, the game exponentially increases the number of frames passing per turn as a round progresses, forcing you to think further and further ahead as to how your movements will play out, as well as your opponent’s.
Thankfully, the latest iteration of the game features a tutorial which has a very snarky Sensei teaching you the basics of fighting: throwing punches, grabs, kicks, and so on. Existing in the world of modern games, Toribash now offers a ranking system to try and pit you against opponents on the same skill level as you. There are also online rooms you can join, allowing you to spectate among those who may be many belts above you in skill.
Should the standard sparring leave you wanting more, the game features an insane number of modded modes that range from fighting in myriad locales such as rooftops or bars, to the more surreal, in which you turn into a bear… thing, or are launched at your opponent on a pair of beams that ultimately crush you. Further still, there are mods that introduce different weapons such as swords or knives, if the default mano a mano action isn’t quite to your taste.
Overall, the game is a delightful package. I can’t even begin to count the number of hours I’ve spent with it over the years; mostly giggling as I gib the dummies with grotesque murder machines. Certainly, there has been no better time to get into it than now, given the addition of the tutorial and refined online modes. Be wary, though: there are those out there that have been honing their skills for over a decade. Brace yourself for some dismemberment and death upon going online, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. At the very least, it’s always a blast to watch each tick go by, as your body is torn asunder, your limbs pour waterfalls of blood, and your head is drop-kicked into the void.
An interesting sidenote: the game was also released for the Wii back in 2010. While I never played it, I’m sure that many have, and it would be remiss of me not to mention it.
Catherine Brinegar is a trans game developer and filmmaker who explores the surreal and abstract in her work. Beyond her creative endeavors she enjoys losing herself inside other worlds, interactive and not. Finding inspiration in everything, Catherine aims to see all the world has to offer, through the continual conversation of art. You can keep up with her on twitter @cathroon.