Any child from the 80’s is bound to have some fond memories of Double Dragon. It spawned countless copycat games and most likely started the whole “beat-em up” genre. After a few years and some not-so-great spinoffs and sequels (we won’t get into that live-action movie…shudder), Brizo Interactive and Aksys Games have brought us a revamped version of the original game for iOS devices. And it’s safe to say that Double Dragon is back and ready for action, for the most part, but not without a few quirks.
The story and setting have been changed a bit, and now feature brothers Jimmy and Billy Lee living in a post apocalyptic world of sorts and running a kung fu dojo. Their childhood friend Marian gets kidnapped (no gut punching her this time) by “The Black Gang” (insert obvious racial joke here), led by the infamous machine gun-toting Willy from the original arcade game. This can’t stand, of course, and it’s up to the brothers to unleash their own special brand of martial art street justice to clean up the neighborhood, save Marian, and kick it old-school.
Brizo Interactive have done a good job making sure you’ll get your money’s worth from this update, as the game features completely redrawn artwork, reworked music, and even a few surprises. Most important are the two new control schemes which are formatted to work with the limitations of the button-free touch screen. A simplified system lets your button-mash to pull off special moves and attacks, while the normal system opens up all the special moves, but they’re harder to pull off. There’s also a character selection screen that hints of you being able to unlock quite a few characters to play as, but only select Jimmy or Billy are available at the start of the game. There’s also achievements you can earn throughout the game, as well as a Bluetooth co-op two player mode.
The game plays pretty good with the touchscreen controls, with a virtual D-pad in the bottom left corner and four action buttons (three on simple control mode) that include punch, kick, jump, and special action to the bottom right side of the screen (simple mode combines punch and kick into a single button). The special button is used to pull off moves such as the infamous tornado spin kick while jumping, etc. The classic weapons are back as well, such as the whip, oil drum, baseball bat, knife, and even dynamite. You also have a limit gauge which allows you to do more damage after you take a certain amount of hits. Once triggered, you can keep it from running out by beating up baddies as quickly as possible. There’s also an RPG-ish element to the game, as you earn experience points that level your moves up and grant you new ones after clearing a stage.
The only gripes I have with the game is that is doesn’t feel or move as smooth as it should, as the frame-rate stutters quite a bit when there’s a lot happening onscreen. I’m not sure why a game like this would push even lesser-powered iDevices (I played on the latest iPod Touch 4 hardware), but it would be nice to see an update patch help smooth things out. Also, it would have been nice to see true online multiplayer included, instead of limiting things to just Bluetooth co-op.
Double Dragon for iOS devices isn’t a bad game by any means, but it definitely could have used a bit more polish. Fans of the original arcade or various home versions probably won’t be disappointed, however, as there’s plenty of intense action, unlockable characters, special moves, and achievements to keep things interesting long after the last baddie has been KO’d. I hope a future update can help smooth out the game’s jittery frame-rate issues as there’s really nothing here that should be pushing even modestly powered iDevices to the limit, and possibly add much-needed online multiplayer for those without Bluetooth friends. But for now, there’s more than enough intense action and streamlined touch controls to satisfy fans of the franchise, with no quarters required.
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Bow Mobile Corporation