Platform: PlayStation 4
Review Date: 6/17/21
An admirable and ambitious attempt to expand the "Streets Of Rage" formula, with multiple endings, branching navigation, and tons of unlockables. Unfortunately, the execution falls a bit short and betrays its low budget indie roots. The cryptic story revolves around a bunch of mutants who are intent upon enslaving and/or eradicating the human race. Three characters (Gal, Ricardo, and F. Norris) fight back against their tyrannical overlords in order to save humankind. Or something. It's not very clear what the goal is, other than to crush your enemies as you climb your way up to the top of the command chain. In addition to the side-scrolling beat 'em gameplay, the game has numerous nods to SOR including special magic attacks, motorcycle gangs, a tropical beach with ninjas and kickboxers, and a harrowing elevator ride that features all of the enemy types that you've encountered so far.
It's a fun and frantic game to play, and the action is fast, fluid, and furious. The controls are simple and tight, although throws and parries aren't as precise as they should be. Enemies gang up on you from all sides, which often causes you to lose track of your character and resort to desperate button mashing. The colorful pixel art is gorgeous and the character designs are cute, but the super-low resolution hurts the presentation. The game was designed for a 320 x 180 pixel screen, which makes it look extremely chunky scaled up to 6x on a normal HD TV. This also makes the text very difficult to read. While this is true to the era that the game is honoring, it's a frustrating limitation. Simply doubling the resolution would result in a huge improvement, although perhaps at the cost of performance, depending on how the game was coded. The soundtrack is excellent throughout, and definitely a highlight of the game.
The game presents a considerable challenge, and even on the easiest setting the last third of the game becomes nearly impossible. There's also a mid-game level on a floating raft that is ridiculously hard if you're playing as Gal (my favorite character), which makes you wonder if QA even tested it. Fortunately, there's a shortcut to bypass that area, but it might limit which endings you get. However, since I never made it to the end, the point the moot. Overall, if you're looking for an old-school arcade experience in the vein of "Streets Of Rage," this definitely scratches that itch and works up a sweat. While it has numerous shortcomings, it's still very fun to play as long as you can manage your frustration towards the end.