Can someone explain the button prompts before attacks

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I have made it through the tutorial in South Park The Fractured But Hole and I don't remember this coming up. Often when I am performing an attack a prompt comes up on the screen to press X. Sometimes I mash the button and it works and other times it fails me. What are you meant to do when the button prompts appear before attacks while in combat?

South Park: The Fractured But Whole
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There are only 2 different types of prompts that I have seen so far. One requires you to mash X or A before launching the attack. The second requires a well timed button hit. A circle will appear around the button icon and it gets smaller closing in on the button icon in the middle. Once the circle is almost on top of the icon, press the button and it will be a success. The icon for the button will get a little larger as soon as it is the right moment to press it. 

Hitting the button prompts successfully will increase the power of the attack, often meaning it is critical. 

Some attacks have multiple attacks so you will have to time all of the hits in a row.