I've been practising kung fu for about 25 years, studying a variety of disciplines, swinging a host of different weapons, and taking more punches than I care to count. Out of all the different styles I've studied and lessons I've learned, the truth I've come to realise about martial arts is that they’re essentially very simple: you just have to practice them diligently for a very long time.
Master Liang He Qing summarised kung fu in one quick and accurate phrase: "There are no secrets. Practice, practice, practice."
My Brute fits Master Liang's doctrine perfectly. At first glance this rather unusual fighting game boasting role-playing elements seems shallow and uninvolved. 1.7 million players having already toyed with a free web version, however, suggests hidden depth to this unique title.
Your quest for martial prowess begins with the creation of your own personalised character. You can tweak variables like gender, clothing, hairstyle, accessories and a bunch of other aesthetic elements to ensure that no two brutes look the same.
More important than looks is the style of pseudo-kung fu in which you choose to enroll. There are three different styles to choose from, which form the basis of the fighting moves your character learns in their martial career.
The role-playing aspects are a little more prevalent than the fighting, which is an automated system based on the abilities and experience of your character - not unlike the automatic turn-based combat scene in classical Japanese role-playing games. Your task, therefore, is to guide your Brute’s growth through careful training and, as Master Liang says, practice, practice, practice.
Each day your character can take part in up to five different bouts, fought asynchronously against other people's Brutes from around the world that are of a similar experience level. You'll win some and lose plenty, but lessons and experience and gained from both. You pick up new special moves, weapons, and even animal sidekicks to enhance your kung fu style through daily training.
Your experience and prowess are also enhanced as other My Brute players join your dojo and you become a student of other people's disciplines. Doing so unlocks new arenas, weapons, characters, and a host of other goodies depending on the skills of the dojo's sensei.
This social aspect of My Brute is very similar to the range of online mafia games that are so popular on the iPhone, only with a much richer, and perhaps a little more seamless, graphical interface.
There's no denying that it takes a little while for My Brute's colours to shine through, but once they do you'll be checking in on your dojo as regularly as you check your email. It's a quick game - jump in, throw a flurry of kicks and punches, then jump back out - it demands that you practise regularly (meaning every day, ideally) to master your martial craft.
Each character might be restricted to just five fights per day, which doesn't take long to get through, but you are at least able to create up to eight different fighters in your dojo, and their individual evolutions will be quite unique since it's very much based on the opponents they face.
It's also worth pointing out to fans of the online web-based game that French developer Bulkypix has put together a superb, pixel-perfect adaptation for the iPhone. Obviously the online multiplayer aspects are fully retained, though it's a completely separate system to the web game, with no interaction between them.My Brute begins life on your iPhone as a very basic, uninspiring showcase of cartoon combat, growing through diligent practice into a surprisingly addictive and tensely entertaining game. Remember Master Liang's doctrine and before you know it your virtual dojo will rival the Shaolin Temple.