The absurdly titled F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch begins in Torch City; a dirty, dieselpunk dystopia, inhabited by anthropomorphic animals, and a few years prior to the beginning of the game invaded by the robotic Legion and their 'Iron Dog' army. Our hero is a gruff rabbit named Rayton - a former ace pilot in a slump, struggling to deal with defeat in the war.
When his only friend is taken prisoner by the Iron Dogs, Ray has to come out of retirement for one last job to infiltrate the enemy stronghold, armed only with his wits and his massive, mechanical fist. Rayton sets off on this 2D Metroidvania adventure, punching his way through the Iron Dogs forces in battles that are easy to deal with at first but quickly escalate, and soon it becomes apparent that even standard encounters pose a significant risk if you're ill-prepared or careless.
At times, F.I.S.T. looks astonishing. There were moments when we found our thumbs idling over the controller as our eyes wandered, seeking out the small details that have been lovingly baked into each backdrop - from grimy, industrial cityscape, to snowy, mountain village.
It's a world that is fascinating to behold; a cold, grim, metallic slum inhabited by humanoid animals - cats, rats, rabbits, bears - that affectionately refer to each other as 'furtizens' rather than citizens. The tale isn't groundbreaking by any means, but the flesh versus machine narrative is expertly complemented by the striking visual style of Torch City, and it makes for a compelling playground.
F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch is a stellar Metroidvania adventure set in a beautifully realised world, replete with challenging combat encounters, rewarding exploration, and some spicy platforming action. Rayton Rabbit might be of diminutive stature, but he's punching well above his weight here in what is one of the best games of 2021 so far.