Monday, 30 December 2013

Second Wind

While recently many of the games I've reviewed have been commercial releases, punted out by corporations and professionals that produce multitudes of games and such in vast numbers. I thought I'd review something with skill and talent in that hasn't be blighted by the "Triple A" touch of video games I like to refer to as "Thrown enough cash at it to solve a 3rd World Country's starvation issues" and instead is made simply by a few people, with little more behind the motivation beyond the fact they WANT to make the game.

I really should review INDIE games a lot more. There's a lot more variation in the different games and yes, there's a LOT of crappy ones, but the true gems shine even harder for that matter. When you do find something that glorious, you cannot help but be impressed by the concept, the originality, the execution or all of the aforementioned aspects at once.

This one is a flash game from what I can tell so far. It might be available on other formats though as far as I can tell, it's just on flash. But what a game it is.

A little background, Rogue-likes, as the name suggests, are any games that fit a model identifiable with the game Rogue. In which you wander around a dungeon that's randomly generated and continue to progress to harder and harder levels, taking on harder and harder enemies while collecting weapons, items, spells etc to level up and hopefully get to the bottom and win the game. In a manner of speaking. Second Wind, takes the bare bones of this concept and removes the structure of dungeon floor space by having everything that happens as a randomly occurring event.

For example, on the first level, which is set in a dungeon, you'll explore places and perhaps happen upon a monster, an event of skill/strength, shops selling either weapons, armour or health potions, Non-Playable Characters that have their own interactions and quests, or one of the many avatars for what qualifies as Gods within the game itself. Finding one could mean finding another one in the next move, or not finding another one for the next 20 or so movements. So you could find a text that explains a snippet of the world you're in, and never see it again for the next 30 games, or bump straight back into it the next time you press "explore" but that's random number crunching for you.

This does get annoying when you NEED to get to a certain location in order to progress to the next level.

Each enemy is a parody or rip-off of other enemies found within similar games. Usually accompanying the enemy is a very out of place description, something jovially cutting about the genre and then something equally humorous to found when defeating said enemy. For the most part it's very light hearted on the humour and will often give you a chuckle (assuming you GET the reference) the first few times you fight the adversary.

Given the RPG roots, there's the usual Health, Gold, Level for each character. Health being the main decider between "alive" and "dead" though you can return once from death as part of the eponymous "Second Wind" ability. Your character will have 3 abilities during any fight depending upon which character you chose, of which there are around 20 different types of character from fighters to magicians, martial artists to knights etc. You'll also have Dexterity, Power and Armour ratings which will determine how much Armour Penetration you can do, how much damage you can do and how much damage you can soak up, in respective order.

The catch is that there's a BIG difficulty spike from the first level to the second level and you'll find sometimes that going too soon will result in you fighting enemies you cannot harm because you cannot get past the armour. OR you'll have to rely upon other attacks/abilities that will bypass armour entirely. Such as the Parry technique for fighters, that will return a % of damage back onto the enemy but you have to survive the damage first of all. So if you really cannot damage an enemy, you'll have to run and lose cash or die (and sometimes you can't run at all, because you lack the stats to succeed in running away like a prick).

Story wise, you're someone who has ventured into the dungeons of a world ruled by several Gods. Your purpose to rise to the higher levels, transcend realities and battle the Gods of the world. How you play and how well you do will determine whether you ruin reality or rule it as either MasterMcShitBag or a nicer person. Though the criteria for meeting such endings isn't entirely clear as to getting the best ending or middle ending, though the worst endings are clear for either joining the last boss or losing to him. As it turns out, the best ending is met by killing the last boss without killing any other Gods, which makes it a rather herculean task as the deaths of the other Gods will anoint you with the huge stat boosts that will allow you to fight the last boss on relatively fair terms.

Thankfully you can continue repeatedly in the third level as it's purported to be some form of ascension and as such, leaves you on another plane of reality where you can respawn ad infinitum. It doesn't make it mean much more than repeatedly having your arse handing to you.

Though there's a fairly enjoyable story, it is hidden within "pages" that can be found as random events, detailing the events before the game, leading up to the game and the circumstances found now that shape the course of the protagonist. It can however be entirely bypassed and the game becomes "Whose balls do I break next?" while running around looking for more fights to get stronger and stronger. In these senses, it does become a grind fest and most people will find that, as the monsters get stronger, there becomes a limit at which experience is not gained as much and that is the game's way of telling you to move the hell on and kill the bosses already of that level.

The music within the game has become one of the few games where I've actually sat and done nothing in-game just so I could hear the music playing, particularly for Boss fights and the Final Boss fights. It's a suitable mix of epic and exciting that leads to a satisfying build up, though if you're too overpowered, can detract from the overall expectation of wanting a long, solid battle.

That having been said, it's not going to be everyone's game. You really have to have an affinity for a) grinding through levels to get to higher points and a rather expansive knowledge of tropes for, and around, dungeon crawlers, rogue-likes and other such games, but mainly anything closely associated with Dungeons and Dragons (the tabletop game, not the cartoon series... Even if Eric was whiny, but the best character out of the bunch). However for those that DO get this genre, as esoteric as it might be, there's a rather witty wealth of game contained within that will make even the most ardent player sit back and chuckle softly with a wry smile upon their faces.

Though having said all that... I now want to watch Eric and his shield running around, being sarcastic.

Monday, 23 December 2013


If you're the kind of person considering throwing yourself under a bus, or under a car; if you're the kind of person that thinks the long walk off the short cliff/pier is a good choice; if you're the kind of person that feels that parachuting without a parachute into a landfill site topped with explosives is a more preferable thing to do; if you're the kind of person that feels that running chainsaws need to be deep-throated and if you're the kind of person that has read this far and feels like topping themselves... this game really isn't for you.

Limbo, depending upon your interpretation and religion or insight into the afterlife, is usually defined as a half-way house between dying and getting to an after-life. Sometimes it's an eternal state of just "being" determined as neither good nor bad, sometimes it's a form of temporal punishment to balance out minor sins before being given the keys to the afterlife. In this case it's a very stylish platformer, rich in variety and physics based puzzles that wouldn't be too far from home as a Flash game, but instead we get it on various formats.

The story has been used a few times, someone dies and a grieving loved one takes a trip into the afterlife to go and get them back. Though this entirely belies the fantastic artwork and picturesque scenery of the game. You control LargeHeadBoy with his odd gambling gait and incredible jumping powers of... not that much, as he traverses an epic quest into Limbo through lands unknown heading deeper and further into the world created and facing off all manner of creatures, spiders, brain slugs, other kids, traps, traps and traps.

You've NO weapons, NO power ups, NO way to defend yourself save for the environment around you. Sometimes switches can be hit, boxes moved and things climbed upon but that's your entire arsenal in a very dark and dreary world.

And what a dreary world it is. The entire game is in black and white, by which I mean greyscale but saying that tends to give the wrong impression of the game and its achievements. While travelling through the land of Limbo, there's plenty of scope to see the rich environments and backgrounds the game has to offer, usually before having to avoid being cut up, squished, impaled and god knows what attacking you at inopportune moments, or even drowning. Yes there's plenty of ways to die in this game and you'll likely see most of them.

Travelling from forests and craters, industrial areas, cityscapes, abandoned buildings, to the point of being within infernal machines of an immense size and scale, the game can likely be beaten within a few hours from start to finish on a first play through. Each trap usually has a specific way of getting around it, getting past it or through it in various means and guises. Sometimes the traps will fake you out, like the Squishers where landing on the button triggers the trap and kills you while the next Squisher will kill you if you DON'T land on the button in that funny little (read: fucking annoying) way of twisting the rules that designers like to do.

Sometimes you might get past a trap and not realise it but for the most part, you'll inwardly congratulate yourself every time you make significant progress and overcome a particularly odious little trap. Some require hitting X and getting to Y before it's too late, others are just making sure you're not stood at point X when Y happens and in the final acts of the game, timing and planning become almost essential. Some traps however are fairly obvious though the most awkward ones have to be the brain slugs, a set of unavoidable instances where you'll be forced to walk forwards until meeting sunlight and then turning around, while having to navigate blocks, crates, platforms and traps until you're able to locate something that can eat the brain slug back out of your head. Otherwise you're brown-bread. It's an interesting take on the trap settings but does have that awkward drawback of forcing the player ahead at a pace that isn't their own and in a game like this, feels like you're either being rushed forwards or being arbitrarily instructed to get your arse in gear and move the hell along.

The game is bleak, don't get me wrong, everything might look impressive but at the same time, oppressive. The eternal darkness of the game getting more and more foreboding the deeper you get into Limbo and the less friendly the area looks. Especially once the spinning saw blades start up, electrified floors and so on, make their appearance and then everything looks like it's out to get you, including machinegun nests which do seem a little out of place at times. Though that's nothing to say of the rather determined giant spider back near the start of the game.

Yes, arachnophobics might want to skip the first part of the game. It's a biggy and the size that would take up a whole house if it spread out. Yes you're on the menu. Though don't expect to win throughout on skill, the control system is sometimes a little unresponsive and you don't always quite get the run-up you thought you might in some of the more treacherous leaps and bounds you have to make, which leads to a rather frustrating series of deaths that you KNOW are not your fault.

Graphically, the game is proudly wearing the "Art" style and makes full use of its lack of colour to tease and titillate the player, hints of lighter grey become rays of sunlight and seen less and less in the later levels and areas of the game, while at times the game can be a little difficult to identify what something is and what can be used or not used when almost everything is jet black in the foreground. But that is expected when you're trying to go for the doom/gloom and dank approach to the style. It works for the atmosphere but not always for the functionality of the game itself.

Though no atmospheric game could be complete without the soundtrack, of which there is little of one. It's much more ambient than boasting a soundtrack in the conventional sense. It all adds to the theme of oppression and overbearing undertones that build to a crescendo accompanying most of the more difficult and drawn out instances of traps and gauntlets that need to be run to progress within the game. The final puzzle set in the game featuring gravity switches and perfect timing, brings the music crashing into silence in a rather jarring and fantastically accompanying visual aesthetic.

Having said that, it does feel short as a game. A lot of pride, attention and bleak detail has gone into the game and rather than repeat things over and over to pad the game out, it feels that the game was half finished before a deadline and they decided to bring it crashing to a halt through a plate glass window. (Hidden reference there...). Which leaves you oddly satisfied to have beaten the game but a longer for more, not so much more in regards to the plot and the final revelation, but to see more tricks, traps and crazy environments that the game has fantastically delivered up to this point.

Part of me wants to learn more about the setting, more about how this place came to be, who the kids are at the start and if they're like you; wandering a world in search of something but lost their ways and now descend into a medley of chaos and 'Lord Of The Flies' children, how the huge city came to be and why it's so rundown, why the world is still mechanically running with nobody around to run it (not that we can see anyway...) but then I'm also reminded of a little point I bring up every now and then for back stories that aren't explained. Is it ever explained in Little Red Riding Hood as to how the Wolf can talk? No. As such it need not be explained here either, though in this game, I do want to see more which is a rarity for myself.

It's this level of intrigue that both adds and subtracts from the game's appeal, it encourages one to run through the game again to find more visual clues, if we're going on the idea that anything seen is pertinent and valuable and nothing is pointless, there is reason for everything as part of the bigger picture and whole. But at the same time, it's a little on the short side and you'll find yourself racing through chapters later on without even realising it until suddenly you hit the glass ceiling of the game and realise that this is it, it's all over.

As for wandering through Limbo, there's more dangerous (barely) and less visually satisfying games that try the same thing. Certainly worth a look if you want give Limbo a try.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Retro, Generations and more bitching from me

"Retro - defined as being involving, relating to, or reminiscent of things from the recent past."

But what does it really mean to us in the gaming communities. Retro graphics, retro games, retro styles and jokes, are they really being "retro" with new games designed to look like old games or are they just going for the cheap buck "ooh it looks so old" like some hipster pricks jumping on a bandwagon because they can't cope or manage to do current generation graphics and effects like their friends are doing from the same graduation school of game making. So do we judge by generation? But that itself is a tough one to define.

Is it anything on previous generation consoles? Do some consoles get to be called "retro" or having an interest and preference in such consoles, become a retro interest? Consoles are much easier to define in generation thanks to the improvements in bits from 8 to 16 to 32 and such. Or simply the consoles released close together defining them as a generation of consoles. Easier but still some gaps in the net slip through there. While PC gaming is still PC games but do we judge them on how old the game is? The style of the game? Whether it uses the latest bollock-crushing graphics card capabilities? Or if the internal programming architecture uses specific graphic libraries or not?

It's a bit of a conundrum and no amount of debate and rationalisation is going to fix it for the masses, there will always be ill-informed opinions, people supporting those with even less knowledge on the subject and then it becomes accepted as truth within that community which then clashes with another community when the two become aware of each other.

Taking consoles into consideration, one could argue that various consoles pair up with each other to form "generations", an example being the 8bit era of NES and Master System, 16bit having the SNES and Megadrive, 32bit having the Saturn and Playstation and so on. However the pairings and groups fall apart when there are inequalities in power under the hilt. Such as the involvement of the N64 against the Playstation, do they get accredited as being the same generation? Are they grouped as being the similar time span or should they be separated on account of being 64bit and 32bit respectively. The lines begin to blur with the release of consoles being intermittent and jumps in technology taking different routes and directions.

If one were to say that generations of consoles are taken as the next sequential console for a company, then we could argue that Famicon and NES are 1 generation, SNES is another, N64 is next, then GameCube, Wii and Wii U. Comparatively PSX, PS2, PS3 and soon at the time of writing PS4 would only be 4 generations of console assuming we're looking at this like some technological family tree. It doesn't match and it doesn't pair up comfortably with newer consoles like Xbox, Xbox 360 and soon the Xbox One, 3 generations but nobody is going to say that the NES and Xbox are the same generation.

Sega doesn't help matters by having released a 32X add-on for the Megadrive, to then release the Saturn before bumping up to 128bit with the Dreamcast before the end of SEGA's home entertainment career in consoles, arcades however still thrived for significantly longer and software began developing on other consoles but I digress. The timing of such releases stopped the synchronicity of generations and threw a lot of it into disarray, grouping consoles into generations would be more an arbitrary process determined by one to two individuals with pandering groups following their decisions. Much like fashion, one or two pricks determine what is in fashion, but rather than ridiculing these people, flocks of sheep bray praises and hand over money to them. Not quite the same situation here, but people are enabling this kind of decision making.

Consoles can be grouped in the means of processing power, or in terms of technology, which is ease with the 8bit era, 16bit era etc, though lines blur with the 32bit and 64bit tech before it steps up to the modern tech where diversification has made it almost impossible to compare consoles because of the differentiation from one console and another. While I also admit that discussing 8bit consoles and talking from the 1980s point of view is easy enough, I'm neatly sidestepping Colecovision, Atari 2600, 5200, C64, ZX81 and now throwing home computers into consoles/game machines. While I'm at it, let's discuss Jamma boards and arcade technologies from late 70s to mid 90s and lump the Neo Geo into the discussion for someone to organise and determine which generation matches what.

How would we go about that?

Home consoles started as lights on a screen before catching up and surpassing arcade technologies. Eventually getting to the point where you could put a credit in a machine for 10mins of amusement or go BUY the game in a store for your home console and play it for as long as you want with likely, more content. Which generation of console pairs up then with various makes and models of arcade machine? Some will prefer to keep them distinct from each other but then consoles like PSX and Dreamcast seemed to have direct 1 to 1 conversions of arcade games, while the Megadrive port of Bubble Bobble is almost indistinguishable from the arcade.

I could argue the same distinctions for mobile phones. If I JUST look at Apple and its series of pods, touches, phones and pads, each one has several generational iterations with usually little difference between each stage of "evolution" for want of a better derogative term. Few would argue the differences between iPhone 3 and iPhone 4 but the differences between iPhone4 and iPhone4S however, are they worthy of being similar generation or next generation and to which generation of iPads do compare or even iPods for that matter. Then take into account the other smart phones such as Samsungs, Blackberries, Androids and the organisation becomes less apparent and clear. Given some of the apps and games available out there, such as Infinity Blade when it was first released and was mind-blowing to be shown working on apple machines, where do we place the machine in the generational divide?

Would it perhaps be better to say that a Game or Software is retro when hardware becomes too awkward to determine it as such?

Does a game become retro because it uses less advanced technology than the games available at the time? Some would argue that with flash games being made that are more in focus with using limited colour ranges, blocky graphics but are superseding the retro framework by having advanced effects and calculations in the game that wouldn't have been possible at the time when the game appears it COULD have been made. Does that still make it retro?

In a games market of First Person Shooters, does having top-down shooters make you retro? The uses of sprites over polygons make you retro? Not really, no. Given some of the hand held games consoles are still using sprites to make games, allowing companies that don't want to utilise 3D graphics the chance to make sprite based games instead, letting them get a foothold in the industry with the ability to draw instead, cannot be a bad thing and doesn't decry it as retro. Merely as a sensible alternative choice.

Taking a step back, looking at the PC generation of gaming. It could be considered easier to determine generations of games by the Operating Systems on which they're programmed. But that falls apart for the Linux systems and not everybody wants to discuss Dos and Windows even though they're at the forefront of most Personal Computers in the home. Though even with DOS, games from Space Invaders to Doom have been programmed for it, up to Duke 3D and Blood. Are these retro by definition of the engines they use in their games or that they're run on DOS? So do 3D games like Quake, which run through DOS primarily before we even start talking about ports to later OS's, still count as retro or just "old".

Going further into issues, do 3DFX games count as retro, compared to OpenGL or DirectX backing libraries? What of games designed to run on DirectX 6, or 8? Or 9? Before we get into the field of DirectX10 and DirectX11 and beyond? At which point does a game become retro there? And furthermore, if a game is taken such as Doom, is modified with custom made files that give it 3D rendering, light sourcing, pixel shading effects and so on, does it cease to become old and retro in the new light? Assuming it was sufficiently retro in the first place.

Some will argue, some will debate but there's always going to be loopholes and differences in understanding and appreciation. Some will happily determine that their favourite old game is "retro" because they think that's what it means, and will debase older games as being too old and new games as "not retro".

Is there a time limit on games and consoles before they become old/retro? Does it mean that it has to be a game or machine that's between x and y years old? Or something modelled on the style of x and y years old? But if Retro is reminiscent of something old, could all modern FPS being retro imitations of games like Doom? Or is doom too far gone to be considered retro in the fast moving pace of progression in technology these days?

Would a round number be sufficient? For example, retro in gaming and technology is any tech that was made more than 10 years ago? So for any modern games and machine to replicate styles of gaming and designs of hardware, from 10 years back, are retro in consideration of today? Or is it just old shit that needs to move the fuck along?

But then, there's the problem. Retro is to be styled on something that is old. Not to BE old in itself. Retro fashion is modern fashion designed and based around old fashion, it is not in itself, OLD, but new designed to look old.

The very argument that old consoles are "retro" is entirely backwards, they are just OLD. Retro games would be modern games that look or are styled on old games, rather noticeable on the indie development scene where a lot of games are made with more fresh looking graphics and slight game play modifications, but ultimately are new games that look old. Whether intentionally looking that way or through limitation of the programmers abilities (not to say they're incompetent, but just lack the resources to produce their vision). Few games these days ARE retro, these are games made in recent memory that deliberately use old graphics, audio processes etc, to make an old looking, old styled and old ambience within a game. These games are the true retro, not banding around the word like it's some sort of fashionable shield to defend that these people don't have the current systems and games and claiming that liking old stuff makes them "retro". It doesn't. It makes you someone who likes OLD stuff.

Retro City Rampage, is a game that is just as retro as you could actually get. A modern game, using antiquated graphics imitation (new but looks old). Plays like an old game, looks and sounds like an old game but was coded and produced recently, is the exact definition of Retro in gaming. Anybody claiming retro for old games, is claiming it incorrectly, they're just old. That's not a bad thing in itself; liking old stuff isn't an issue (unless you're into granny porn but that's another problem in itself) and shouldn't be shunned or hushed down because it's old. But calling old stuff "retro” is just a smack in the mouth waiting to happen.

And before anyone asks, no, Duke Nukem Forever is not retro, it just took a long time to make and looks old.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Double Dragon Neon

There's a wave of this situation running through, not only video games, but the movie industry as well. This being, the almost accursed situation of the Remake. While films have been around long enough for people to see the 2nd and 3rd wave of this happening, Gaming is getting to the point that games themselves are starting to be re-made for the modern era of gaming. Granted that some games are updated for each generation of console or next iteration of PC gaming, but sometimes a game that's been left to the side for a significant period, are now being picked up and made into (almost) the same game as before with bumped up graphics and new features. Double Dragon Neon is this for the original Double Dragon, but at the same time, goes way above and beyond just a simple remake.

This game, firstly, is so heavily saturated in the 80s you'll be expecting Rick Astley to turn up and slap you repeated in the face with a Sinclair C5 while strumming a guitar made out of a Commodore 64 machine. Ok perhaps not that 80s, but certainly disco 80s with the over-the-top neon colours that now heavily populate this version of Double Dragon. Even if nothing else, the game will be heavily show itself through a rather large abundance of references to 80s paraphernalia and the original game while also introducing one of the most memorable villains to grace a video game in quite some time, not for BEING a villain but for being one of the most amusing, self-referentially humorous and over the top behaviour and lines from any villain.

The plot, for those not alive around 1987 onwards, is that someone decides that Marion (excessively busty and leggy in this iteration) will make a great girlfriend for themselves and has her abducted, not realising that her boyfriend and his brother are "Double Dragons" who will punch, kick, combo, power move and use a variety of weapons and other such items to battle their way through the game and into the inevitable final showdown with Skullmageddon, who is little more than a modernised version of Skeletor from the He-Man cartoon and more Ham than a pig abattoir. To great comedic effect.

I'm serious, I couldn't stop laughing when I realised on pausing the game while fighting this boss, advised me to "punch me in the stomach while I'm swinging my sword and I'll stop! There, I just saved you a trip to the internet!". While in other times, was moaning about how it's ok for me to pause the game in a fight but not for him to do it. Throughout almost the whole game, he'll drop in every comment and hang every lampshade on any situation while punning everything he can about bones that one could think of. "Not very HUMOROUS!" to the point you can't help but sympathise with the supposedly ineffective villain until he under goes his entirely predictable, but equally welcomed, final transformation into ... Giga Skullmageddon armed up with blades and mechanics much in the same way most final bosses would transform into beefed up versions of themselves in other games from the original times (The 80's in case we forgot).

Game play is your usual brawl-em-up, punching kicking, throwing, block-countering while the specials are made up from collecting mix-tapes (and reviving your partner is done by winding the magnetic tape back into a mix-tape while using a pencil in the hole, only 80s people will get this one). Each tape can be used to power up specific special moves which do need to be selected in another menu rather than being learned as a move/combo. Which does interrupt game play somewhat but the trade-offs is the simplicity of the combat being just one button for the move. Statuses can be attributed in the same way in that you'll pick a set that can boost power but drop defence, balance all the stats, focus on massive defence but no real attack for the tank types, draining stats and health from other enemies at reduced stats overall, allowing for a multitude of game play types and techniques that either can be selected and forgotten or changed during the game, mid-level, to fit into the requirements the player might have for that particular situation.

The bosses are ridiculous in an amusing, Over The Top way, and just as filled with references and tropes as the final boss is. Ranging from Abobo in the original game, to a mega-man clone on a space station (everything goes to space in the end), giant plant based on Audrey 2 (with a shark head flower and dinosaur head flower... yep it's there) a giant tank based on an original Double Dragon 2 boss, Skullmageddon a few times for the sake of it. A few clones named on the typo made in the 3rd original Double Dragon (Bimmy and Jimmy, as if the spell check wasn't an option back then) and several other over-the-top characters and situations. Such as fighting against an upside-down flying helicopter, or sliding down a tundra on a plant's lower jaw, or fighting in space and breaking screens only for Skullmaggeddon to take the cost out of another minion's pay packet.

It's over the top and fun. The actual combat is slightly formulaic if you watch the movement patterns of the enemies, allowing you to goad them into specific movements, or rather disastrously, recognise when someone's going to be butchering you mercilessly because you know an attack is incoming and there's nothing you can do to counter it. Almost a death by slow motion. But there's enough there to mix up the combat itself and try some more impressive moves and techniques but people usually won't do that. They'll find a combo that works well for them and stick to it. Changing only if they encounter an enemy for which that method is entirely ineffective against.

The music tracks, composed/remixed by Jake Kauffman (known for the music in Retro City Rampage, Duck Tales remastered, Contra 4 and a whole host of other games over the last decade or so), certainly show their origins, most of which are remixes or retuning of earlier games' music, particularly of the first game, and given that oh-so-generic treatment the 80s is famous for and it hits the mark nearly every time, a little miss here and there on the more out-of-place levels and you'll realise those when you encounter them. Humour and sound bytes are rife in the game, in particular when Bill and Ted sorry... Billy and Jimmy, end up sounding like some "Valley-type, cool-dude" kids and manage to sound idiotic at the same time. Case in point, grabbing a baseball bat, slamming an enemy only to hear "Touchdown!" shouted to great enthusiasm. Its little tweaks like that and the other use of very bad puns that shine through with the pseudo-campy humour.

It can get a little awkward in places however, especially when it comes to the issue of the shops and the weapon smith. Each level on the map screen, where your character is personified by the Double Dragon 2 NES sprites, has details as to whether there is access to a shop or weapon smith. Shops sell items and tapes, such as food and health regens, extra lives etc. Weapon smiths take the gems you get from killing actual boss monsters and uses them to upgrade powers, which is all well and good but the shop becomes particularly annoying for this particular gripe. The gripe being, that the shops cannot be visited straight-away but must, I repeat, MUST be found in the middle of a level in order to attain the power ups required. The shops in this method are more annoying as not every shop has every item and some of the shops are in fact, hidden within levels i.e. on secret routes and within breakable entrances that one normally wouldn't seek to find. Only THERE can you buy more of the items to max out your abilities, stats and power moves. Rather than just walking into a shop.

Like one would expect. Each time I go shopping, I go to a specific shop and BUY it, I don't have to run through a level of death and carnage, facing down adversaries and dropkicking people through walls and racing around deadly tracks of blood, guts, gore and explosions... Except when I go shopping and need to take the M25... and arrive at Lakeside... Yeah I take that whole point back; it's still fucking annoying though to have to play a level to get to a shop.

The engine for the game however is fairly solid, except in circumstances where the game somehow manages to slam you into an obstruction, which causes damage, to bounce into another one, then into a 3rd one and results in your death by this point. Namely more possible on the higher difficulties and even more awkward is this pseudo 3D movement, in where pressing up would normally move you into the background on levels, and down moves you into the foreground. Some levels will START this way, but change to being entirely 2D and having NO means of moving back and forward, which then necessitates a change in tactic and means of combat that normally wouldn't have been an issue. When the game then punishes you for NOT being able to adapt to this arbitrary change soon enough, that becomes the dick-slap to the face from the game. Hardly fair and not in the slightest part enjoyable, even if you do like dick-slaps from non-game sources.

The game does feel awkward however with the lack of online support. It's a little odd when you realise that the original arcade game was released with online-support (buggy and laggy but THERE) and to not have it included in this game makes it feel like there's been a rather missed opportunity here for greater potential. Perhaps they've not been given rights to, or there's an issue with the network coding, or the game just doesn't translate well for netplay, all could be valid reasons but there's the fact that the game is missing one of the fundamental aspects of multiplayer in this day and age that, ought to have been included and increase the potential market for the game's fan base to those wanting to play it online with friends that can't turn up to the house like the old days.

Seems not everything in Double Dragon Neon is as revamped as it purports itself to be. While it remains a good solid game that sticks almost lovingly to the original source, the game does trip itself up a few times in relying too heavily upon nostalgia factors.