Them’s Fightin Herds, by Mane 6, Inc. is the biggest ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ game I have played all year, and I loved it. Masking itself as a cutesy animal adventure, and it somewhat is, this is, in fact, a fighting title that certainly brings the heat.
While being a fighter game, there is actually a Story Mode slowly being rolled out with a loose narrative attached to it. In a world where all hooved, grass-loving creatures live in harmony, the peace is slowly but surely ruined as a prophecy of the return of predators comes to turn and shadows of themselves return… hungry.
These ungulated (hooved) animals now decree champions from the wide corners of their land and must take up arms and bare-hoof box the enemies that threaten their peaceful ways. It’s all very basic stuff, but the dialogue is ladened with puns to do with western frontier-like cows, stoic deer, and timid lamb characters, making it worth the read.
The core gameplay is in a fighter style with the typical 4 button range of attacks. Utilising a light basic attack, mid-ranged, heavy, and even magic-like ultimates based on filling a bar that depletes. Like most rosters, you will find it much better using the Dpad, but it isn’t locked to this with the left stick also an option for movement, jumping, and low attacks. With a very limited roster of 6 playable characters, each sports their own quirks and styles of play. In a very ‘My Little Pony’ way, these herd animals utilise a lot of magical techniques.
Sprinkled amongst the Story Mode are mini-games that teach you some mechanics for platforming sections. This is done as you traverse a retro 16-bit, RPG-style environment as you run into encounters that lead to fighting matches. While I loved the RPG traversal, I actually found the platforming parts irritating after a while and very touchy in controls on Xbox; I was just content with the exploration parts as the encounters were much more entertaining.
There is also Online Play, with a cute little hub for interacting with players from around the world and changing outfits. This is where you can test your skills against players around the world and fortunately, every time I dipped in, it was heaving with people. Due to the GGPO rollback netcode, these matches were actually seamless in connectivity and flow. I actually enjoyed Online play much more than the story mode as it was just nostalgic fighting at its best and simplest.
Arcade mode is where you can fight against the CPU in a tower of increasing ability, and it has one of the most comprehensive training areas in the ‘Practice’ area that I have seen in an arcadey fighter; it’s impressive. It is full of complex move stat tables, combo lists, damage levels, and tutorials for you to master this game.
The animations and graphics are definitely the stars of the show. The gorgeously designed cartoons, the work of cartoon producer Lauren Faust, are cute, bright, and cuddly. Don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security as the vigorous gameplay and cutscenes pack the characters full of attitude and whimsicalness. The audio complements the artwork well too, with synthy jazz upbeat tones driving the fights.
There is just so much about this fighting title they just do right, being highly accessible to beginner fighting game players, or even having the scope to be super entertaining for seasoned pros. There is so much to do in Them’s Fightin Herds that I just hope they keep adding content along the way.
- Interesting characters
- Energetic/fun fighting mechanics
- Seamless connectivity with fight styles
- Online play
- Comprehensive practice arenas
- Gorgeous graphics
- Jazzy audio
- Cool RPG traversal in Story mode
- Small roster to work with
- Narrative so far basic
- Touchy controls on Xbox in mini game platforming