When you think of classic beat-em-up style games, Double Dragon has to be high on your list. Double Dragon was one of the early beat-em-up games that made going to the arcade with your friends worth your while. The NES port changed things up a bit, with only one person playing at a time and Jimmy, one half of the Double Dragons, serving as the main villain. As consoles advanced, the game inevitably advanced, allowing more enemies on the screen at once, and bringing co-operative play back. Now, the Double Dragons hit the iPhone.
The iOS version of Double Dragon sees Billy and Jimmy return with updated graphics, updated/remixed sounds/music, new levels, and more. The “cutscene” graphics have a very anime/comic book style design to them, which is incredibly evident when females are portrayed. The gameplay graphics are what you’d expect from a classic beat-em-up, but far removed from the original arcade and NES versions. The sprite resolution is good and the gameplay animations are very smooth. To put it succinctly, this ain’t an ugly game (for the most part).
Wait, “for the most part?” Well, the control area (the part of the screen that houses the directional pad and action buttons) is disproportionately large compared to the viewable space on the screen. Easily the entire lower one-third of the screen is dedicated to the control panel. This wouldn’t be so bad if the actual play area didn’t happen to extend down into the control area. It does, though, which means that your play area is larger than your visible area. It’s not very practical. While the action buttons are sized well and have a decent amount of space between them, the directional pad is too compact and sensitive for my disproportionately large thumbs. While this is more the fault of my thumbs than the game, a more simple or less sensitive directional pad would help those of us who don’t have fingers the thickness of #2 pencils. Otherwise, I don’t have any problems with the gameplay or the graphics.
The story is basic: Two guys with a mutual love interest, Marian (spelled Marain in one of the exposition scenes), must fight the evil Black Warriors gang to rescue her and go back to doing whatever two guys with a mutual love interest and a Kung Fu dojo do. The story never really moves on beyond that, and to be honest, it doesn’t need to. The game is entertaining enough on its own to manage without much of a story; hell, it’s managed without much of a story for almost 25 years. The writing in the game is…not great. There are pieces of Engrish sprinkled throughout the cutscene narration, as well as a typo or two. The dialogue between your character and the level bosses both before and after you fight them is always very…hm…let’s just say you’ll find better dialogue while watching professional wrestling. Again, though, it doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the game. If anything, it gives you a bit of a giggle at just how bad it can be.
The game is short, only offering six stages, but there are plenty of perks that keep replay value strong. There are various difficulty levels, though, that once beaten unlock a ridiculous number of playable characters. Double Dragon is also tied in to GameCenter, so there are quite a few achievements to earn, if you’re into the mobile achievement thing. Last, but not least, are the game modes. Obviously you have the standard single player game mode for gaming on the go, but you also have a Double Dragon mode and a Time Attack mode. Time Attack mode is fairly straightforward: beat the level as fast as you can, then try to beat your previous time. On its own, this should be enough to keep you playing more than just once or twice, but I guess that wasn’t enough. Double Dragon mode connects two devices via Bluetooth so that the Double Dragons can play co-operatively. Each player gets his own screen while combining their efforts to defeat Machine Gun Willy and save Marian. The single player Dragon mode is fun, but Time Attack and Double Dragon are where you’ll spend most of your time.
Overall, it’s a great game. Brizo Interactive did a great job building it, and Aksys Games did an…entertaining…job localizing it. If Time Attack and Double Dragon weren’t included, I’d balk at the standard $7.99 price tag, but those bonus modes will definitely get you your money’s worth. On top of that, the game is on sale as a limited introductory bonus at $3.99. If you like beat-em-up games, and you want something you can enjoy for a while to come (as long as you can get past the large control area/small d-pad issue), you need to pick this game up. It is available now in the iTunes store for iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad, as long as you have iOS 4.1 or later.
|Large control area|
|Large control area|
Small directional pad
Cases of Engrish