Make Mine a Double

Double Dragon Neon Screenshot

HIGH The sense of style is pitch perfect throughout.

LOW No online co-op.

WTF There's no way in hell that Skullmageddon earned his helicopter pilot's license.

If there's one thing that never goes well for nefarious villains in video games, it's kidnapping the loved ones of protagonists—or really, kidnapping anyone, ever. Mario goes completely mental and starts jumping on the heads of mushroom-shaped minions, Link ventures out with stabbings in mind, and the level of retribution exacted during the course of Bad Dudes vs Dragon Ninja is almost too horrifying for a sane mind to dwell upon.

Arguably the most classic revenge tale of all is resurrected for Double Dragon Neon. Billy and Jimmy are chilling in their garage whilst their dubiously shared love interest Marian hangs around pointlessly outside and—bam! Up strolls generic Williams thug #2287287 to slug her in the gut and cart her offscreen over his shoulder, just in time to escape the heroic duo emerging from their garage with a lust for punching thugs in the face. Heads will roll for this outrageous transgression, mark my words.

Perhaps surprisingly, Double Dragon Neon is not what anyone could call a serious game in any way, shape or form. It manages to remain reasonably faithful to the original right up till the point where Abobo busts out of a wall (to yelps of glee worldwide), and then promptly takes a serious turn for the weird and awesome, none of which will be spoiled here.

Combat, thankfully, is solid. As well as the standard collection of punches and kicks, a dodge function has been added. If timed correctly, this dodge grants a short lived bonus to attack power. It encourages timing along with the usual act of simply hammering buttons to pummel foes, and is a welcome addition to the mix.

Along the way to reclaiming Marian, Billy and Jimmy will also acquire a bunch of decidedly brittle weapons such as baseball bats, knives, whips, grenades, shuriken… hell, a lot of funky little items that can assist in the breaking of bones and tearing of flesh, at least until they've caved in two or three skulls and immediately explode into dust.

More importantly, however, they can now also get their hands on mix tapes from treasure chests and fallen enemies that enhance their stats and confer special powers upon them—chucking fireballs at foes, upping the enemy drop rate, performing bodacious spin kicks, stealing health upon making contact with someone's solar plexus, or just plain summoning rampaging dragons to end the day on a sour note for the bad guys. The only drawback to the mix tapes is that there's just room for one passive stat enhancement and one special move to be active at a time. The limitation on passive tapes is understandable, but it'd definitely be preferable to have a couple of special attacks at hand to suit each situation rather than having to swap each out as is required.

Naturally for a Double Dragon title, teaming up with a friend is a great way to experience the game. The brothers can share health and magic power by high-fiving one another, or revive their fallen companion by… winding up their mix tape (with a pen!) should the worst happen. On the other hand, it's insane that there's no online co-op available. It’s downright baffling that a game centered around the exploits of two excessively violent brothers prancing down the street smashing skulls together would omit this feature entirely.

The other main issue with Double Dragon Neon is that it's a very short and repetitive game. Arcade style two dimensional scrolling brawlers often are by their very nature, though Billy and Jimmy's latest adventure does at least liven things up with a bunch of utterly whacked out setpieces dished out at regular intervals. Even so, the main game will only take most players a few hours to see through to its conclusion and utterly fantastic end credits sequence, with replaying on higher difficulties and leveling up the character's stats seemingly being the main reasons to return—though the superb soundtrack, cool visuals and gratifying core gameplay make doing so a fun, if slightly limited experience.

Double Dragon Neon comes as a very pleasant surprise. The combat is solid, but the overall tone pushes it beyond its fairly standard gameplay to deliver a consistently amusing and enjoyable experience for anyone with even the tiniest hint of nostalgia towards the eighties. It may leave some particularly soulless players cold, but for anyone else… let's just say that it's really pretty radical. Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

—By Darren Forman

Disclosures: This game was obtained via paid download and reviewed on the Xbox 360. Approximately eight hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. Twice, even. Two hours of play were spent in local multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains suggestive themes, partial nudity and fantasy violence, which is completely awesome. The game takes a very lighthearted approach to smacking someone in the face with a baseball bat, but it might be a good idea to think long and hard before handing it over to particularly impressionable youngsters. Also, the artists over at WayForward despised being bottle-fed by the looks of things.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing: The gameplay remains much the same, but the loss of the dialogue quips and frankly incredible soundtrack comes as a real blow to the game. There also seems to be no option to enable subtitles.

Darren Forman
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