Video Game Review: Double Dragon Neon
Game: Double Dragon Neon
Developer: Wayforward Technologies
Platform: PS3 – Playstation Network, Xbox 360 – Live Arcade (Reviewed)
Price: £6.99 on PS3 or 800 MS Points on Xbox
Ahh, the Eighties. A time when you could call your friends “dude” or “bro” without being ironic. A time when men were action heroes and women were props to be punched in the stomach and kidnapped. In videogames.
Double Dragon Neon is a glorious throwback to that bygone age. An age where a videogame’s plot and story were something scribbled on the back of a cocktail napkin, achievements were a thing undreamed of, and difficulty levels were high enough to make EVE Online look like child’s play.
A remake/re-imagining/homage, Double Dragon Neon updates the sidescrolling brawler just enough to cater to the tastes of today’s gamer, but no more. It keeps what passes for a story: Marion, girlfriend of one of the Lee brothers, is kidnapped by some bad dudes. As with the original game, it’s up to the Lee brothers to get her back, either solo or in wonderful co-op. And again just like the original, should you play co-op you and your bro will be fighting over the same health items and weapons and trying not to get in the way of each other’s attacks.
The graphics are bright, colorful and dripping in neon. Characters and enemies are clear and easy to make out on screen, even if they do take up quite a lot of real estate, leaving you with little room to maneuver. There’s a pseudo-3D effect to the graphics which helps make everything pop out, even if the game doesn’t really do anything with them.
I mentioned it’s a throwback to the Eighties, but exactly what do I mean about that? Well, don’t go into it expecting a modern brawler. There are no regular checkpoints for example; if you run out of lives, you go right back to the start of the stage to do it all again. You won’t find your character zipping around the screen like he’s on skates either; even the sprint move feels a little sluggish. Even the music pays wonderful homage to the eighties,with guitar riffs, power chords, and synth solos all over the place. You can download it for now from Soundcloud, and I recommend you do so. At the very least, go listen to it.
In an effort to pacify the modern gamer, some new mechanics have been included in the game. Collectables are dropped by enemies, which unlock new abilities and offer bonuses of various kinds to your characters. Achievements and trophies are there for the taking. Shops are dotted around various levels for you to stock up on lives and buy extra collectibles if your enemies aren’t being generous in their death throes.
It’s not perfect. It does come with flaws, but these are flaws typical of the whole genre, and not the game specifically. Some enemies have attacks that can’t be dodged, others are invulnerable during certain animations. Levels based around environmental hazards – jumps, traps, bombs – can be painfully hard due to the characters’ sluggishness and some slightly dubious collision detection. It would be nice to have seen the game do something a bit flashier with the graphics, outside of the occasional enemy spinning in from outside the screen. The inclusion of offline co-op but no online co-op play is also a rather large oversight. None of these problems are game-breaking however.
It’s easy to make a brawler hard by cheating; make it unbalanced, give the enemies plenty of cheap, high-damage moves, drop the player in and boil until they ragequit. Look at some other reviews for Double Dragon Neon, and you’ll see people accusing it of this fault, but I can assure you they’re wrong. The game is hard, but not brutally so. It’s not unfair; while enemies are tough, they have recognizable patterns. Learn them, remember when to dodge, and success is yours for the taking.
If you hate the Eighties or you’re looking for something quiet to relax with of an evening, Double Dragon Neon probably isn’t for you. If, however, you’re in the mood for a defiantly old-school brawler that will chew you up and spit you out with nary a thought, but also reward hard work and careful play, then this is the game for you. Go pick it up, even if you’re on the fence.
Follow Craig’s intermittent tweets @d20shapedheart