Published on December 24th, 2017 | by Lee Davies
Review: Squareboy vs Bullies: Arena Edition (3DS eShop)
Format reviewed: 3DS eShop
Other formats available: Switch, PS4, PS Vita, Steam
Developer: Rohan Narang
Publisher: Ratalaika Games S.L.
Website: Official Website
Someone needs to teach those Bullies a lesson in pain, so why not let it be You?
Squareboy vs Bullies is an old school beat ’em up by Rohan Narang that follows the titular Squareboy and his quest for Justice! For far too long the bullies have gone unpunished and with no one else to put them in their place, Squareboy finds himself standing up against them to do what is right, not just for himself, but for everyone the bullies victimized. Will you help Squareboy fight off the Bullies?
Squareboy is waiting at the bus stop, whereupon two Bullies show him the meaning of boredom and pain. Finding his his way to a dojo, and the game’s first level, he is rapidly trained by his Sensei to become the Bully annihilating weapon of mass destruction Squareberg requires. Simple story, simple but cute graphics, overly simple game.
Levels vary from a dojo and the streets, to docks, ships, construction sites, and the Bullies hideout. Fourteen in total span a varied locale, but the variety is spoiled by the very simplistic graphics and backgrounds, but enhanced by the 14 different tunes throughout that have you toe tapping along with them. The stills of the game in action peppered throughout this review look far better than what’s on offer in the 3DS version of the game. Each level can be completed in under 5 minutes, so the 14 levels fly past far quicker than you would expect. So, what else does Squareboy vs Bullies offer to keep longevity and the player interested? Well, to be honest not much at all, with only 1 player able to progress through the Story Mode, and the same on the much touted Arena Mode, with its paltry 4 challenges, all asking the player to defeat a set number of Bullies, there’s little to go back for. Even the 26 achievements, from using combos to defeating bosses and total numbers of Bullies, can all be very nearly completed by a single playthrough of the Story Mode. The player’s willingness to retread old familiar ground is not enamoured by the wonky controls that plague the player throughout the game.
Squareboy’s movement is controlled by the D-Pad, the better option, or the Slide Pad. Doing so moves him around the fixed screen in view until all Bullies are defeated, an arrow then flashes to progress the level, walk in that direction and scroll the level, until more Bullies come for another dose of smack-down. Not talking about fighting yet, but just moving around the game’s arenas can be problematic to the point of having to boot up another game to make sure the D-Pad and Slide Pad on my 3DS were operating properly. When an arrow appears to direct you to the next onslaught of Bullies, if you press a direction too soon, that is before the screen flickers into position, it literally shifts half a centimetre across for no reason, then Squareboy won’t move. You’ll have to let go of the D-Pad to recentre it. Then reapply the direction again before he’ll register that input. This happens every single time, after defeating an area of Bullies and the appearance of the directional arrow, and after moving past that arrow and arriving at another area where Bullies appear, as well as the screen readjustment. Every single time. It becomes exceptionally frustrating, when beginning a level and having two Ninjas facing you down, press to move a little too early and you’re going nowhere, the enemy gets the drop on you, and your square face eats dirt. I wish it were, but this is not the only mechanical fault with movement. At 5 points throughout my playthrough of the Story Mode, Squareboy was impelled to walk to the far top right corner of the screen and keep walking in that direction, nothing would allow him to change his possessed trajectory, except pausing the game, and then unpausing, whereupon he returned to normal.
Combos are as easy to pull off as the visuals dictate they would be. From pressing the Attack button, A, 4 times in a row for a simple flurry of kicks and punches, to jumping with B and attacking for a formidable drop kick. Offensive melee can be enhanced with presses of the D-Pad to enable uppercuts, back punches, spin punches, spin kicks, and even a dash attack. If near to an enemy, pressing B will let you grab them, not very responsive and quite arbitrary when the grab would happen, then unleash a fury of knees, or a throw. The last move of note is the counter that gets you out of scrapes by pressing both A and B buttons after taking damage. Squareboy will spin uppercut all Bullies in his immediate vicinity and the result is that all the bad guys end up kissing the ground. Enemies sometimes drop melee weapons like baseball bats and chains, but this is nowhere near as fun as it should be. The combat is simplistic and might have been a little more fun if the same annoyances of the movement control didn’t rear its ugly head here too. The attack button A isn’t always as responsive as you would expect, and sometimes pressing it resulted in no onscreen corresponding action. Once again, I’ve checked my 3DS, and its condition, by playing Monster Hunter 4U, which I’m pleased to say operated perfectly.
Once you’ve taken all the faults with Squareboy vs Bullies movement and fighting abilities into account the game plays like a My First scrolling beat ’em up. Drop Kicking is a sure fire way to slowly but surely work your way through the entire game in a single play, and after that there’s little incentive to make you want to come back. Do yourself a favour and download a far superior old school beat ’em up like Final Fight 3, or Streets of Rage 3D from the eShop.
Squareboy vs Bullies: Arena Edition (3DS eShop)
Summary: An old school beat 'em up that misses its mark with a lack of longevity, single player only, broken movement, and overly simplistic fighting mechanics (also borked).