27th Apr2018

‘Streets of Red: Devil’s Dare Deluxe’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Britt Roberts

streets-of-red-art

There’s something oh-so appealing about the simplicity of the side-scrolling brawler. From the golden days of Renegade, Double Dragon, Final Fight and Streets of Rage, the genre has a pick-up-and-play appeal that suits a quick blast of local co-op gaming (which I am a huge fan of) and, if done correctly, can be pretty much timeless.

In recent years, apart from remakes and re-releases the genre has been relatively quiet, especially from larger studios. It has fallen to independent developers to move the genre forward, refining the formula whilst subtly adding extra elements to give depth. The last game I played in the genre was Wulverblade (also on Switch) which was an excellent and extremely tough title that was steeped in British history. Streets of Red takes a different approach which makes the game just as much of a must-have title for fans of Beat ‘em Ups whilst also carving out its own niche.

The game begins as all games should begin (even you, Gran Turismo & FIFA), with a zombie holocaust. Four characters are selectable, each with their own traits and special moves. They are visited by a red fairy who bestows powers upon them that allow them to fight back against the zombie horde. The two we selected were Kingston, who is a bespectacled janitor , transformed into a combination of Shovel Knight and Arthur (of Ghouls n Ghosts fame) and Queenie, who becomes a sort of female, teenage Baby Head from Captain Commando. The game is RIFE with these gaming / film references which makes working your way through the levels that much more fun, spotting each nod as you go, in this respect it reminded me of Broforce (good).

The controls in the game can seem finicky at first but after a few minutes they become second nature. You have a standard attack a dash and various special moves that vary according to each character but uses your SP, requiring it to re-generate for the next use. It’s all well-balanced and the difficulty and amount of enemies scale depending on how many players are involved, combining this with the varying difficulty levels on offer ensures that you can tailor the game to your personal skillset.

The chunky, smooth pixel graphics are drained of colour to add to the post-apocalyptic feel with the brightest colour on screen being the blood and gore that splatters throughout as you battle your way through the levels. I was also impressed by the pulsing chiptune music that keeps the energy up (vinyl release, maybe?) and matches the game play perfectly.

The developers for Streets of Red have come also up with a novel way of recapturing the days of being in an arcade on a limited budget by incorporating a sort of permadeath feature. When you run out of cash and therefore lives, the game ruthlessly deletes your save file, giving you a pleasant flashback to begging your parents for one more 10p as the timer counts down from 10 to 0 on the continue screen, Ahhhhh.

As you smash through the zombie hordes you earn cash, the amount of which depends on how you killed them and how many you killed at once so for example by just hacking away at one with your standard attack, you’ll bag yourself a few measly coins but if you take out a group with a special attack, you’ll get some gold bars, sacks of money and a few extra bars on your SP meter….basically the cooler you are, the richer you are. At the end of each level you can either save your money to buy extra lives should you need them or choose one of three unlocks such as more powerful attacks, longer combos or a stronger defence, etc.

There is also an aspect of random generation in the game with levels being different on every play through, adding some variation which is welcomed. It’s possible to play through the game in a couple of hours but is definitely a game that is easy to return to whenever some friends are around, trying out different characters and more challenging settings. I’ll also point out that there is some slight use of bad language but when one of the enemies is a pregnant zombie that pushes babies out at you which then smash into the floor, it’s not really that important in the grand scheme of things.

In summary, Streets of Red is a welcome addition to the genre with enough new twists (including one that I specifically haven’t mentioned…) to make it a solid addition to your Switch library. It’s already become a regular whenever I have an 80’s action film day with my friends in the same way that Broforce was (where’s the sequel, Free Lives!?).

I shall leave you with a ‘brawler’ memory that stands out for me the most. There’s a game on the PS1 called Crisis Beat which is essentially Streets of Rage (but not as good) on a boat. There are three characters to choose from but only one of them I want to talk about here. His name is Keneth (not a typo) and he fights in a suit, which already looks awkward but he also does something else even more irritating….something that, when you are getting a kicking from the in-game enemies, really, really wound me up then and now. Yes….he spends the entire game fighting with his hands in ensconced in his pockets. Keneth, you think if you took your hands out of your pockets it would assist in a fight at all? Hmmm?

Right, I’m off to buy a suit of armour and a shovel.

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