Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition (NS, Vita) Review

Squareboy vs. Bullies originally released on mobile platforms. Now, it has been given two dedicated platform releases in the form of a Nintendo Switch and PlayStation Vita update with this new Arena Edition. Let's see if this tale of revenge has more to it than it seems!

Revenge is a dish best served squared.

What happens when you're a weak Squareboy, and you get roughed up by some bullies at school? You seek out to toughen yourself up by heading to the dojo to learn the self-defense, fighting know-how to protect yourself if an incident like that occurs again! But what happens when you decide to take on those bullies that beat you up on and come back to find their fellow bullies destroyed your master's dojo? You go medieval on their 8-bit bully butts. That's the premise of Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition, a game that has just arrived on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation Vita's digital marketplaces. For five bucks, does this beat-em-up have more going for it than its "been there, done that" story?

In the beginning, two Bullies beat Squareboy up,
but by the end of the game, Squareboy will beat down over 300 Bullies.
Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition takes Squareboy all over the city in search of bullies to beat up and revenge to serve. If you're familiar with any kind of beat-em-up, then you should not be too surprised by what's on offer with this game. Though, maybe how basic Squareboy vs. Bullies is will make you surprised in a negative way, as you're just moving through environments, defeating waves of enemies with pugilistic power, and occasionally using the bullies' own weapons against them.

That all sounds nice and most of the time it's relatively competent and innocuous. However, movement and combat feel a bit too clunky in the control department. Every move in the game, from your punches and kicks, to your dashes and uppercuts, are all utilized by hitting one attack button. It's just that the direction of the control pad or the analog stick (or in some cases, the amount of times you press said directions) when you instigate an attack affects which move you pull off. The upside with this control setup is simplicity and accessibility. The downside is frustration with trying to perform one move and then you accidentally initiate another.

There is also the problem with every button being used as an attack because Squareboy would play much better if some of the attack commands weren't all tied to the same button. It's understandable why the devs didn't go this direction in an effort to cater to players of all ages, but it made it for me that I oftentimes happened to be too close to an enemy and accidentally grabbed them instead of straight up punched them. This would result in me getting surrounded by foes, having a significant portion of my health taken away in the process. Considering you only get one life per level, and it can make five minute levels where you die at the end due to cheap attacks from not being able to successfully get out of a combo all the more irritating.

Squareboy's the captain of this ship now.
Sure, the controls can be quite aggravating, but how do the levels in Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition end up being? Unfortunately, they do little to excite as well, simply being devised up of straight side-scrolling affairs where you move from left to right (or, to add some much-needed variety, right to left) and beat up the same enemies over and over again -- this time with a bad guy wearing a bowler hat and this time with a baseball cap-wearing bully who chucks baseballs at you. There are also no level hazards of any type, so all there is to worry about is those baddie bullies.

Meanwhile, the backgrounds are banal and don't much offer eye candy to look at. This makes the 13 levels in the game quite tedious to battle through. Thankfully, there's no real reason to play Squareboy's adventure through a second time (unless you somehow find ennui fun) because by the end of the adventure you'll have most, if not all trophies unlocked anyway. Even that's not implemented in the best way because when a trophy's unlocked, there's about a one second freeze in gameplay before the notification icon pops up.

As a beat-em-up, Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition is competent but unremarkable. It has small style but limited substance, making it a game you'll quickly forgot about after playing, even if you desire to see it to the end. (I did not.) On storefronts with much more appealing and rich gaming experiences, Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition just doesn't compete.

[SPC Says: D]

Review copy provided by Ratalaika Games.

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