Well, talk about trying to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted. Or, in this case: reviewing the horse-themed video game after the studio responsible spontaneously dropped it in everyone’s laps with nary (neigh-ry?) a warning. Yeah, that old chestnut. See, Them’s Fightin’ Herds, the My Little Pony fangame-turned-semi-officially-endorsed-fighting-title, was originally assigned an October 18th release date. Fair enough, and technically this was adhered to. But then publisher Modus Games, crafty little buggers as they are, started dropping review codes (and even some legit copies!) way early. So expectedly, it threw off our content schedule.
Deadlines! Pipelines! Other assorted lines! These things are important to us, guys! Hence why we’re only just getting round to examining this ungulate-centric brawler. Do forgive the delay, readers.
Them’s Fightin Herds has been through quite the gauntlet getting from concept to our sweaty mitts. In fact, we even wrote an entire feature about its history. So, rather than recounting it, I’ll just direct you to that. Right: down to brass tackle – sorry, tacks. TFH is a multiplayer fighter where you’ll play as a selection of suspiciously familiar, but legally distinct, four-legged mammals.
You’ve got Arizona the cow, who looks like she’s been booted off the set of Home on the Range. Paprika the alpaca, who looks like she’s been booted off the set of The Emperor’s New Groove. And Tianhuo, a reptilian beast who looks… actually, she doesn’t appear to have come from anywhere in particular. These are just to name a few, and the six (yes, not a huge roster here) base fighters are all appealing to look at, thanks to MLP head honcho Lauren Faust lending Mane6 a hoof with the designs.
The fights themselves continue the visual splendour, animating beautifully and with all the fluidity of a Chuck Jones cartoon. Punches land with comedic zest, and there are goofy SFX/memeable reaction faces aplenty. In terms of controls, Smash Bros. it ain’t. Hammering one or two buttons repeatedly is often sufficient to take down an AI opponent, and also put paid to the couple of poor saps I managed to find after 10 minutes in a sparsely populated online lobby. I suppose they could have been computer generated replacements, in which case matchmaking might need looking at (although the inclusion of rollback netcode is nice).
The mane event
For those after greater depth, there are combos to string together, and doing so isn’t particularly difficult. Digging through the menus and playing the story mode, which basically acts as an extended tutorial, will teach you everything you need to know to deliver a smackdown when fighting someone semi-competent. Once again, these special move strings have a hypnotic rhythm to them, ably demonstrating there were no expenses spared in the animation department. There’s something for every violent occasion: launchers, air kicks for all directional inputs, ledge play, special projectile moves and so on. It’s just a shame there isn’t much incentive to ever perform them.
But ah, I must bite my
Findus burger tongue. The aforementioned story mode does go some way to alleviating these concerns, its structure taking more than a few cues from World of Light. You navigate an overworld – which, delightfully, gave me serious Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair vibes – and partake in a ludicrously over-the-top Kingdom Hearts-esque saga about temples, prophecies, keymasters and more fourth-wall-shattering meta moments than you can whip a riding crop at.
Your time will be equally divided between wandering this map, rendered in a pixel art style, and taking on a variety of combatants along the way. Aside from the core named cast, generic wolves and other creatures will be your punching bags here. Difficulty spikes litter the short-ish campaign, forcing you to engage with the deeper combo system and four-button mechanics on offer, which was much appreciated and gave my otherwise lethargic thumbs a workout.
Beyond these offerings and a couple of trial modes, though, there’s not much else in the package. Therefore, there really isn’t enough to recommend Them’s Fightin’ Herds if you’ve dabbled in the fighting genre before. Sure, it looks and sounds positively gorgeous; you can really tell a professional animator had a hand in it. The team at Mane6 deserve credit for getting this bad boy over the line at all, really, given that development was more hellish than a heatwave in Hell itself.
Plus, the story mode will turn the heads of MLP devotees, and even the unconverted, with its whimsical and biting tone. However, when it comes to the actual mechanics, I can guarantee you’ll have played better before. So, if nothing else about the game captures your attention, I’d… ahem. Rein in your expectations.
Them’s Fightin’ Herds is available now via Steam and almost every console under the sun.