Double Dragon Review

Double Dragon

If any one type of game belongs in players’ hands at every hour of the day, it’s not the puzzle genre, as so many "casual" developers would have you think, it’s the side-scrolling beat-em-up. Pow! And if there were a contest to determine which franchise best defines this ever-essential genre, then Double Dragon would most certainly be a top contender. How fortunate, then, that Aksys games has re-envisioned this classic brawler for Apple’s iOS, but does the modern take on the game do the franchise justice? Pretty much.

For those who are unfamiliar with Double Dragon, the game is as simple as this: Billy and Jimmy Lee receive a letter that their beloved Marian has been kidnapped by the Black Warriors. After that… it’s on. The two fight their way through streets, factories, etc. in order to rescue her, often using chains, whips, bats, and knives to combat the throngs of rival thugs and martial artists standing in their way. It was never anything deep or philosophical, and this iOS release keeps it mostly the same, with a few updates for 2011.

Double Dragon

Like many iOS titles, perhaps the biggest challenge for Double Dragon is its virtual control setup. While they are for the most part functional — the d-pad is actually surprisingly responsive — the combination of the "face" buttons’ size and layout can lead to many missed commands. During my time with the game, I found it necessary to focus on the buttons nearly as much as the action to ensure I would fire off my own attacks before catching a variety of boots to the teeth. Perhaps making all of the buttons the same size or rearranging them so that punch and kick were not across the world from one another would have helped make combat easier. In Auto mode, with only three instead of four buttons, this problem is minimized.

The stylish dashboard on which the buttons are placed also diminishes the experience. Rather than simply overlaying the d-pad and action buttons on the screen, Double Dragon features a control dock area that occludes the lower potion of the screen. This allows enemies and weapons to disappear from time to time, and can hinder the flow of play.

The final gripe with Double Dragon is the precision required to properly align protagonists Billy, Jimmy, or any of the many unlockable characters with their enemies on the screen. The planes on which characters move in this version of the game are paper thin, so only a slight difference in depth between the player and his opponents will result in plenty of missed punches.

Double Dragon

Setting these issues aside, there’s a lot to like about Double Dragon for iOS. First of all, it’s still Double Dragon, still accessible and enjoyable from the outset by virtue of its general design, and still available either as a solo or cooperative (via bluetooth) endeavor. And although it is still Double Dragon, this iOS refresh puts a shiny veneer on the old game, adding attractive, manga-style art for cutscenes and boss conversations, plus crisp in-game graphics that make the environments and enemies come to life on a Retina display. Animations, too, are noteworthy, especially for bosses. These colorful characters are all unique and all bring differing patterns of movement and attacks to the table.

The basic combat mechanics have also been updated. The number of techniques available to Billy and Jimmy is unexpectedly high, and although its unlikely that a player would make use of the full catalog during normal play, it’s nice to know that its there for those experimental moods. The aforementioned Auto mode, while limiting the scope of techniques, makes it very easy to string together combos using just one button. Other than that, beating up thugs just doesn’t seem to get old — until the lack of a save feature makes you replay the first level over and over again.

Double Dragon is a solid little beat-em-up that is definitely worth having around on your iOS-powered mobile device. It has its share of niggling issues, but still offers good entertainment value, especially for nostalgic gaming veterans.

3 out of 5


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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