Squareboy Vs Bullies: Arena Edition
Developer: Rohan Narang
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Release Date: 7 December 2017
Price: $4.99 / £4.99
Reviewed by Phil Myth
Squareboy vs Bullies is an old school beat 'em up in the Streets of Rage style, that does offer some satisfaction for fans of retro brawlers, but can occasionally feel a little repetitive.
Taking place across 14 levels, you play as Squareboy who, after being beaten up by some equally angular Bullies, gets trained by a Sensai to go on a revenge mission. As you travel across building sites, ship yards, and the streets of Squareburg, you'll stand up to the Bullies and deliver 8-bit fury to teach them a lesson.
Each of the levels look bright and colourful, and the character design is varied enough, if a little odd, to keep things interesting. The chiptune soundtrack is arguably the coolest part of the presentation, and really puts you in mind of the classic old-school beat 'em ups of yesteryear.
That said, whilst the enemies vary in aesthetic, they only really come in two varieties: those that throw things, and those that don't. Of the former there is some variety in design, but whether they're throwing baseballs or hammers, the end result is the same.
The latter bunch of Bullies will either come at you with their fists, or armed with a bat or chain. If you manage to disarm them, you can pick up, and briefly use, these weapons yourself. You're not quite as quick when you're using them - and they severely limit which moves you can execute too - but they do have the bonus of knocking Bullies over in one hit, as well as the potential to swat enemy projectiles back the way they came.
Similarly, there's no real nuance to how you dispatch each Bully. It's very much a case of mashing the attack button until they're beaten to a pulp. There is a small selection of attacks and combos you can pull off if you're so inclined, but they are in no way essential to success.
There's also the possibility of grabbing an opponent, though the hit box can be a little temperamental at times which can occasionally lead to you taking an unanticipated pummelling. That said, I managed to make it all the way to the final level before dying for the first time. Needless to say, in terms of challenge, there's not a huge deal in the main game.
Post game however, the 3DS version (and the port for the Switch) adds an arena mode you can explore. Basically, you'll just fight wave after wave of bullies until you die. There are four different arenas you can tackle, each one with a higher bar for 'clearance', though to unlock the fourth 'insane' arena you'll first have to complete the initial trio.
These offered some real challenge, particularly the second two, and I started to feel myself looking to string together more combos and pull off more complicated moves in order to stay alive for longer and increase my high score. There were still some minor frustrations of being caught in a group and taking a monumental beating, or hit boxes not being 100% accurate when using some weapons, but by and large, this is where Squareboy shines the most.
Overall, much like it's characters, Squareboy vs Bullies is rather simplistic, and it's easy enough to breeze through the main story without breaking a sweat. Fortunately though, the arena mode found in the 3DS and Switch versions make for some rather satisfying beat 'em up action. That mindless yet comfortable violence combines with an undeniably charming presentation to make Squareboy far more entertaining than, given it's basic construction, it really has any right to be.
Pros & Cons
+ Delightful presentation
+ Simple yet satisfying combat
+ Arena mode offers a real challenge
- Story mode is rather easy
- Frustrating, though infrequent, hitbox issues