Romy and Michelle have nothing on these guys when it comes to High School reunions.

Behold the side scrolling, 2-D brawler. The beloved genre of yore, the original button masher capable of rending a right thumb into pleading submission. We salute you, simple but oh-so-capable gameplay type.

Final Exam is certainly a welcome addition to the genre. Four selectable characters each with a favored skill set, heroes buoyed by a cache of discoverable weapons and bonus area to keep things interesting. There are the usual suspects of playable friends: the strong and silent bubba, the weapons toting amigo, the explosives happy buddy, and the well-balanced and feisty lady friend.

Like most side scrollers, no plot to get in the way. Our four closet pugilists – on their way to a high school reunion- instead discover monster armageddon…the green, slimy, long tongue, and oodles of spiky kind. Final Exam finds our heroes fighting from over and underground location to location, and with it fending off the hordes of gooey badness, one chained combo at a time.

Attacks are likewise of the common side brawler variety. Standard and alternate weapons (to include air juggling and downward smash), also sidearms and explosives. The ability to pick up and throw monsters off ledges and/or into each other adds a nice third fighting wrinkle. Our heroes control capably, thankfully no irritating input lag in sight: an unfortunately far-too-common occurrence in a genre where timing literally is everything.


Final Exam’s art team does a stellar job, its characters and backgrounds beautifully rendered. In its presentation, the game reminded me of underground Kickstarter hit ‘Sullivan’s Sluggers,’ a brilliant display of campy, heavy metal-esque horror art interspersed with a 1960’s animated feel. Sound effects are equally up to task, simple but well sampled character and monster grunts plus damage sounds.

While a solid foundation and then some, Final Exam unfortunately falls short once we starting building the walls and windows.  Presentation can’t mask uninspired level design, where missions force characters back and forth through the same areas and artificial task advancement. Related, the game does a terrible job in handling its navigation up and down level areas, an awkward up/down + circle button combination that never truly works. This hits home hardest when a character is seen holding gas cans over his/her head while climbing ladders (sans hands, of course). Ladies and gents: do not attempt this at home.

Enemy attack patterns have similar Swiss cheese holes. Lumbering baddies are 2-3x (speculative) faster than the hero crew, a key hiccup when protagonists get picked off on aforementioned ladders. Similarly – and while attacks are extraordinarily responsive – monsters absorb far too much damage to include surviving multi-floor falls sans scratch.


Collectively, Final Exam devolves into a monotonous button mash against hordes of monsters on navigation Ritalin. Despite different skill sets, our four friends don’t help matters much. They all employ the same weapons, meaning zero diversity in gameplay experience in exception to ability to dish out or absorb damage. That spiked baseball bat gets old really fast.

The above criticisms admittedly confound. Nearly 25 years ago, ‘Golden Axe’ understood and embraced the benefits of diverse characters and enemies, giving the title a slew of replay value plus a much-deserved pedestal among even today’s generation of gamers.  Similarly, current side scroll brawlers – Shank 1 and 2 come to mind – offer a slew of challenge and enemies, never feeling formulaic despite far-from-perfect overall experience. Simply put, there’s so much better out there…and has been for some time.


Final Exam presents as yet another downloadable diversion versus bona fide gameplay experience. It has a solid artistic foundation to draw from, but falls well short in both gameplay and diversity of experience. [6.8]

  • Beautiful environments
  • A rare side scrolling brawler
  • Poor navigation
  • Uninspired level design
  • Lack of character diversity
Quote: "Final Exam has a solid artistic foundation to draw from, but falls well short in both gameplay and diversity of experience."
Reviewed by Paul Stuart | 11.07.13 | Platform Reviewed: Playstation 3


Final Exam

Mighty Rocket

Mighty Rocket Studios


US Release
October '13


X360, PS3

$9.99 US
Co-Op MP
5.1 Surround
HD 480-720p