Fights in Tight Spaces stuffs a lot of good into a small package

From its title, Combats in Tight Spaces extremely kindly lets you understand precisely what you’re entering into. Initially, whatever looks extremely basic. Representative 11, a black and white figure, falls into a little area like a train vehicle, house terrace, or jail cell. Then, the gamer exists with a series of cards. If I select the ideal capabilities, and place the Representative properly, I get to manage some sweet relocations. Play my cards incorrect, and I wind up kissing the pavement and returning to the start of the video game.

However there’s an unexpected quantity of depth to Combats in Tight Spaces; it’s the type of video game I can bet a couple of hours, close, and after that I discover myself opening it back up once again within minutes. The roguelike’s smooth and stylish design is paired with a sluggish, systematic technique video game that rewards creative thinking. Whatever that Combats in Tight Spaces does not have in narrative breadth or level range, it comprises in fiendishly creative Into the Breach-like fights and firmly tuned mechanics.

Fights In Tight Spaces

Image: Ground Shatter/Mode 7

The story of Combats in Tight Spaces doesn’t matter. My spy handler informs me Berlin has “a ninja problem,” which’s all the description I get. However that’s actually all the description I require to begin. I fight through a series of levels, starting with some lowly bikers and working my way up through prison guards and tougher foes like ninjas and European hitmen.

Each level is turn-based, and I use my cards to navigate the small environment on a grid, and launch attacks or defend myself. For instance, I can kick a goon back towards the bar, then shift towards him and smash his head into the bar for big damage. Or, I can vault over a table, put on a counter-move that triggers on an enemy attack, and prepare to flip the guy who will definitely attack me next turn.

I can use a pre-made deck or build my own. Of the pre-made decks, some are defensive, based on grappling or using counters to deflect enemy damage and return it with a hit. Others are about using a knife or my feet and fists to dish out damage and get the bad guys before they get me. Luckily, there are occasional slow-mo, slightly zoomed in highlights that show Agent 11 smashing a guy’s head or landing the perfect shot.

Fights In Tight Spaces - The Agnet fights a pair of bikers in orange and brown against the background of a stark white boar

Image: Ground Shatter/Mode 7

The enemies I face change my strategy; someone with an assault rifle has different skills than a beefy goon. Some enemies auto-attack if I move close to them, and others queue up abilities to fire off on their turn. Ideally, I want to stay out of their attack range and area of effect abilities, and if I’m actually clever, I can use the environment to my advantage. Soon, I start getting my opponents to kill each other by shoving a guy into his buddy’s attack range, or I just boot them off a railing and into oblivion.

As I advance, I get smarter. Every time I win a fight, I get a new card to add to my deck. But there are also less obvious ways to advance. First of all, I have to make sure I’m balancing my deck with enough movement, attack, and defense cards. If I utilize movement I can stay safe, but I burn down combo points and make it more difficult to win bonus achievements. If I use combat, I can clean up fast and get bonuses, but I put myself at risk since my health pool remains consistent between fights.

Every time I go through a run, I have to make choices on how I want to proceed. The roguelike has a limited overworld map for each level; I can choose which fight I want to take, or swing by the gym or hospital to exchange money for permanent power upgrades. If I choose an Event, I can get a big advantage like a cool new ability or some extra health, or I can end up in a scenario where I lose money or health.

Fights In Tight Spaces - The Agent throws a couple of purple suited men down the stairs

Image: Ground Shatter/Mode 7

I can also sometimes choose Enhancements, which are powerful abilities. One Enhancement, which causes my Agent to take three damage points at the start of each turn, compensates by healing her to full at the end of a level. But the Enhancements are an area where developer Ground Shatter could have swung for the fences a little more; most of them are just straight increases to stats, and it’d be nice to have some more “out there” effects that change my strategy significantly.

Overall, though, Fights in Tight Spaces is a surprisingly engaging little package of a game. Losing on Suave difficulty is especially forgiving; I can abandon a run, go back to the map, or start the level over every time I die. When I abandon a run, I get a chunk of XP, which allows me to get more cards and decks. I’m always learning and moving forward, and so losing feels pretty fair, especially because there’s a solid range of difficulty options.

Winning, on the other hand, just feels fantastic. Whether it’s kicking a samurai over a balcony railing or diving at a lady with two shotguns so I can kick her in the face, there are tons of satisfying little moments. Fighting is fun, and doing it in a tight space naturally leads to nicely cinematic moments. If you’ve been craving the little-scale, ramped-up chess feel of a title like Into the Breach, Fights in Tight Spaces is a fantastic game that packs plenty of punch.

Fights in Tight Spaces was released on Dec. 2 on Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. The game was reviewed on PC. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, however Vox Media might make commissions for items acquired through affiliate links. You can discover extra details about Polygon’s principles policy here.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.