By Scott Ramage / June 25th, 2020
|Title||Treachery In Beatdown City
|Release Date||March 31st, 2020|
|Genre||Beat ’em Up, RPG, Strategy|
|Age Rating||T for Teen|
I’m all for experimenting with genres, particularly mixing them in new or unusual ways. In this case, when I first heard there was a beat ‘em up on the Switch with tactical combat elements, my interest was immediately piqued. Nuchallenger blended those together and formed Treachery In Beatdown City, sporting a retro-style presentation and a penchant for dark comedy. As for how well this combination worked, let’s take the plunge.
Treachery In Beatdown City takes place on the mean streets of East Fulton. The streets got that way because the mayor, Mike Moneybags, locked down the city and disbanded the police partially due to a lack of funding. Why else did he do this? Because ninjas kidnapped the president, of course! With thugs, punks, drunks, bikers, meatheads, preppies, yuppies, joggers and deranged ex-officers running wild, former police chief Santiago enlists the help of his daughter and a couple friends to help take back the city. As is already apparent, Nuchallenger makes several references to older beat ‘em ups, and they certainly don’t end with the game’s premise.
While it pays homage to classic beat ‘em ups, Treachery In Beatdown City certainly doesn’t play like them. Every fight happens at specific points on an overworld map, denoted by an enemy walking in place menacingly. They start with the player and enemy appearing on opposite sides of a street-level zone, then beat each other up until one loses all their HP. Where this game differs greatly from normal beat ‘em ups is the action and FP system. Yes, you can stroll up to opponents and throw punches, but that alone won’t deal anywhere near enough damage. The player has a bar split into three parts, with each section being one action the player can take. The FP count is tied to a menu listing various attacks or actions the player can take like blocking, attacking, grappling and using items. Both recharge slowly over time, but fill faster when the player is being more aggressive and landing more hits. A series of attacks will give combo bonuses, boosting the FP count and action bar faster. It’s bizarre at first, but since it rewards going after enemies the pace of play stays fairly high. A few fights in it was virtually second nature to me.
It’s easy to get complacent graphically for a game like Treachery In Beatdown City, but Nuchallenger did their best to keep things fresh as time went on. Yes, sometimes backgrounds for some fights will look the same, but they change enough while moving through the city to not elicit a groan from fighting in front of the same buildings over and over. Also, they added little details like referential graffiti and posters to said backgrounds to make them feel like more than just random soulless buildings. On an entirely different note, they added different portraits for different emotions to every enemy with spoken dialogue, taking the caricature-like drawings to a borderline cartoonish level of expression. Contrasted with the much more down-to-earth portraits for the player characters, it certainly helps get across just how crazy things have gotten in East Fulton.
Treachery In Beatdown City features three playable characters, each with their own preferred fighting style. Brad is a former pro wrestler whose best attacks are grapples, Bruce is a striking-based Capoeira fighter, and Lisa is the best-of-both-worlds character who trains in boxing and MMA. Everyone starts with a limited move list, but earns more attacks, plus extra HP and FP, as the game progresses. Some function as short combos while others can give various buffs or inflict debuffs on an enemy. This includes grapple attacks, which can be countered if used at the wrong time. There’s a lot of leeway for linking different moves together, so long as you have enough FP to do it. One of my favorite strings of moves involves a defense debuff, followed by an accuracy buff, followed by either a three-hit combo or a strong knockdown shot.
Decent playable characters mean little without a solid cast of cronies to beat up, and thankfully Treachery In Beatdown City has that. As I alluded to near the beginning of the review, enemies vary wildly. Not only do they vary in appearance and personality, they vary in fighting styles as well. Some are brawlers. Some mostly use grapples. Some dodge strikes before inflicting status effects. Still others sit back and buff other enemies in the area. There are even joggers and bikers who don’t attack at all; they’re just there to annoy you. These different units get introduced slowly throughout the game, sometimes alongside other units, and force you to think about what character to use for each encounter. At first fights will involve one enemy, but as time goes on they’ll get stronger and appear two or three at a time. Sometimes they’ll have weapons which deal massive amounts of damage. Other fights will start with two people and once they’re dealt with, two more will appear. Difficulty ramps up steadily throughout, so by the hour mark most fights won’t be walkovers. However, the game isn’t excessively harsh. If you lose a fight, the game lets you try it again and gives back any items that were used in the last attempt. Also, there’s a full heal and save point every four or five fights at a food truck called “Farooq’s DAMN Halal,” one of many, many wrestling references throughout.
On top of that, each character has a fair amount of interactions and dialogue with the various enemies inTreachery in Beatdown City. Granted, most enemies are one-note caricatures that make you want to punch them in the face, but since that’s the point of the game I’m okay with it. As for the “dark comedy” aspect, these interactions are where it usually shows up. Frequently lampooned targets include social platforms like Instagram and gig sites like Fiverr, as well as the people who frequent them. However, since the three playable characters include a Hispanic woman and a black man with the Jamaican flag on his gear, those also become fuel for the face-punching fire. There’s even a segment involving a former cop talking about protesters which hits a very different note now than it did when the game first released. All that being said, nothing crosses the line to become outright offensive and the dialogue exchanges are written well. I have a solid two dozen screenshots on my Switch of one-liners and accidental self-deprecation by some of the more vapid opponents.
Sound-wise, Treachery In Beatdown City complements its look. By that I mean it’s loaded with chip tunes and those chunky hit sounds that might show up in an NES beat ‘em up. The music helps keep the action going by staying uptempo for fights and map navigation, but becomes almost comically serious during conversations. If that sounds like an insult, it’s not; I love hearing serious music as someone laments how their social media accounts don’t have enough followers.
I really don’t have much to complain about in Treachery in Beatdown City, except the ending. It comes out of nowhere and isn’t really an ending, since it segues into a second episode which isn’t available as of my writing this, though the developer has teased its release recently. I’m of two minds on this: I’m glad that there will be more to the game, but I’m also a bit let down at the lack of resolution. Just don’t drag this out for way too long a la Shenmue and this won’t be a problem.
Treachery In Beatdown City well surpassed my expectations. I was skeptical of the combat system and how long it could hold my interest, but after nearly six hours I find myself wanting the second episode to drop the moment I finish typing this review. It scales up nicely in difficulty and sprinkles in new moves, new enemies and new tactics at just the right rate to keep things interesting the whole way through. I’m usually the “wait for a sale” type and not keen on episodic games, particularly ones that cost $20 on the Nintendo eShop, but even if the second episode somehow bombed I’d still be happy with what the first delivered. Here’s hoping that wherever the game goes from here, it involves even more fighting and a healthy helping of Farooq’s halal.
Review copy provided by publisher.
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