If you ever found old school beat ‘em ups have gotten boring, Treachery in Beatdown City might be up your alley. Taking place in a too-close-to-home reality where cities have grown out of control, it’s one of the most unique takes to the genre that I’ve seen in a while. The basic setup is that the president of the United States has been kidnapped by ninjas and it’s up to a trio of heroes to put a stop to it, by beating the ever living shit out of anyone standing in their way. Literally one.
Treachery in Beatdown City is really going for a very specific flavor of humor right from the get go, as the police chief takes it upon himself to fix things going on in his city as the mayor, a take on former NYC mayor and presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg basically decided to cut all funding to the police force, leaving things in an even bigger chaos than they were before the president was abducted. Luckily for the chief, his daughter Lisa is a tough as nails fighter who just happens to know two other brawlers, Brad, a wrestler, and Bruce, who loves dance combat, and they spring into action right away to set things right.
The basic gameplay is initially pretty much what you’d expect from a Double Dragon game, including the looks — more on the latter in a bit… I’ve got mixed feelings about it — but that quickly fades away when you initiate your first fight on the Super Mario Bros. 3-esque world map. Instead of simply mashing the ever living hell out of attack buttons and punch and kick your way through enemies, fights take place usually one on one, or up to three on one max, and they’re menu-based.
You get a slew of moves to use as long as you have enough combat points and action bars to invest. Every attack has a CP value to it, and they can only be pulled off as long as you have enough bars. Bars reload as you fight and move around, and the same goes for CP, which never starts at max, forcing you to build it up by mixing moves and getting an edge on enemies. New attacks become available the more you win, allowing for plenty of mixing and matching, which comes in handy when trying to juggle different enemy types, of which there are many.
Enemies don’t just stand around waiting for you to hit them, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Some don’t even attack you head-on, instead they buff their buddies and make it that much harder for you to come out on top. Depending on what kind of baddie you’re up against, you have to shake up your approach and prioritize targets on multi enemy bouts. Treachery in Beatdown City has a great encounter design that makes fantastic use of what it has up its sleeve, for as repetitive as it might sound at first when talking about a game where you move from fight to fight with only a couple of enemies at a time.
In that regard, it’s expected that you’ll run into repeat enemies often, but the mix-up in encounter composition makes up for it, forcing you to keep on your toes and maximize your combos. Since attacks sometimes cause status effects, the same benefits that can play in your flavor can also be used against you, which adds another layer of depth to the combat. Say you’re playing with Brad and you’re up against another brawler. They’re going to have the same pros and cons that he has, so it’s up to you to exploit your own weaknesses and destroy them before they destroy you. It’s really rewarding to get through encounters like that specifically, but the rest of the game doesn’t fall too behind.
I found myself making good progress in the first few hours playing Treachery in Beatdown City, but it got somewhat challenging eventually, which I was very happy to keep tackling and getting further in. Developer and publisher Nuchallenger has really put its chips down on how well this game plays in the long run, and it shows now that I’m a few hours in and haven’t gotten sick of playing it at all.
As mentioned before, this game carries a certain kind of comedic humor all throughout, and it’s pretty hit and miss. Some of the jokes in the dialogue are really good and even managed to squeeze a chuckle out of me, while others were very groan-inducing. Overall, I’m having a good time playing the out of combat parts of this game, but it’s definitely something that will most likely go over differently with other kinds of players.
Then there’s the art style which is probably my least favorite part of Treachery in Beatdown City. Funnily enough, my first contact with the game was seeing it being talked about ion Twitter, with people posting the box art, which is sadly completely different from the actual in-game art. Instead of detailed and really expressive higher resolution art, the game relies on NES-ish pixel art with various degrees of success.
While some of the up close shots of characters tend to look okay, others just look downright bizarre. When it comes to actual gameplay graphics, they never really grabbed me. Lisa’s sprite in particular looks drab in comparison to the tough persona she shows in up close shots or in the key art. You can check out some of the screenshots and see for yourself. Sadly I never really got into what they were going for and would much rather have something more faithful to their other art style.
My review copy for this game is on the Switch, and it works splendidly in both portable and docked modes thanks to how less intensive it is to play on the Joy Cons. This is a game you’ll want to play with a controller as I can’t see combining movement and calling out inputs to be really comfortable to pull off on keyboard and mouse.
Even if the graphic part of the game left me disappointed, it never got in the way of my enjoyment of Treachery in Beatdown City, which goes to show that strong gameplay design is the utmost important aspect in any game. I’m still punching my way through the big city as I’m writing this, but with the hours that I’ve put into it so far, I’m confident in saying that this is one of the most unique and enjoyable throwback projects you’ll probably get to play regardless of the platform you pick it up on.