24th Oct2017

‘Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Phil Wheat

squareboy-bullies-screen

The console re-release of an existing mobile game, with added co-op AND “arena” modes – hence the Arena Edition tag – Squareboy vs. Bullies is an 8-bit style old-school side-scrolling beat ‘em-up that looks and plays like Double Dragon meets Super Meatboy. The game sees you play as the titular Squareboy who finds himself standing up against the local bullies of Squareburg to do what is right, not just for himself, but for everyone in town that the bullies have victimized…

OK, so we have a orange, square-shaped “boy taking on a bevy of larger, yellow, square bullies in hand to hand combat in a game that extols the virtues of NOT using violence before letting you unleash a beating on everyone and everything? Yeah… Honestly that sounds like an odd concept but it’s one that works to create a fantastic “cute ‘em-up”, which reminded of the days of the NES and the chibi-style art of games like Street Gangs (aka River City Ransom) and Mighty Final Fight.

Starting out with a brief training session with your sensei, Squareboy vs. Bullies sees players fight through 14 levels of beat ‘em-up action, facing a variety of enemies, each with their own quirks and particular way of fighting.SOme are stronger than others, some throw things at you, one even has a gun and tries to shoot you! And how do you tell these enemies apart? By their hair and/or headgear of course! Not that the difference mean much to veteran beat ‘em-up fans – given that the game plays pretty much like every other example of the genre it’s easy to pick up the best way to vanquish your foes – be it button mashing, trying to combo moves or countering. And thankfully, unlike some fighting games out there, the move list is short and easily to remember (and if you do forget a move, the move list is accessible from the pause menu).

Whilst the gameplay starts out easy enough, with a smattering of enemies that are quickly dispatched; as the game progresses, even into the early levels, the number of enemies increases and so does the amount of them that gang up on you at one time – which means you have to be prepared to pull off some swift escape moves and try and pick of the bullies in more of a one-to-one fashion. Which doesn’t always work; instead you’ll find yourself getting beaten to a pulp… Thank god then for the counter move!

Being able to escape crowds of bullies however does come in VERY handy when it comes to the new Arena mode available on the Switch, which pits you against wave after wave of bullies in what is, essentially, a survival mode where you must fight off as many enemies as you can before you run out of health. Of course beating the bullies is much easier in two-player co-op, which has also been added to the Switch iteration, adding a extra layer of fun to the game compared to the mobile version – there’s nothing quiet like two-player couch co-op beat ‘em-up action and Squareboy vs. Bullies captures that pleasure fantastically.

Ultimately Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition is a decent, if short, beat ‘em-up that is ideal for the Switch – the marriage of the consoles portability and the more casual nature of the game is a perfect match. I just wish there were more levels for this Squareboy to kick ass in!

**** 4/5

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