After an initial release on mobile devices, Squareboy vs Bullies has made its way towards the Nintendo Switch and the Playstation Vita. Dubbed Squareboy vs Bullies: Arena Edition this time around, it’s an 8-bit inspired brawler that can be picked up at a budget price point. Here’s our look at the Vita version.
The side-scrolling brawling is one of the most enduring arcade genres out there. Classics include Double Dragon and Golden Axe, and I’m personally fond of Final Fight as well. We don’t see many of them these days, but very recently we reviewed the first ever VR-enabled game in the genre as well – Bloody Zombies. The Playstation Vita sadly doesn’t have a lot of games to choose from within the genre, with Dragon’s Crown probably coming closest since Muramasa Rebirth isn’t strictly a 2D brawler in the Double Dragon sense either.
Does that make Squareboy vs Bullies: Arena Edition a welcome addition? It certainly fits the formula very well and doesn’t waste time letting you know what kind of game it is. All the genre tropes are accounted for, with bats to pick up and use, different enemy types, health pickups and a variety of moves to attack and get you out of a tough spot. There’s a plot too, but it doesn’t amount to much more than you being a kid who’s had enough and is ready to stand up to a whole bunch of bullies.
The game features a very retro-heavy visual style which is clearly inspired by games that came out for Nintendo’s original Game Boy handheld. These were themselves simplified versions of the arcade brawlers that inspired them (like Double Dragon and Renegade), so you’re not picking Squareboy vs Bullies: Arena Edition for its graphics – nostalgia is the main draw here. Never having owned a Game Boy myself I would have preferred a visual style closer to the original Double Dragon games, but I’m sure it’s different for Nintendo veterans.
The simplified visual style means that there are concessions on other fronts as well – enemies look quite alike despite having different attacks and weapons, and the amount of animation is limited as well. This can make gameplay feel a tad clunky – as I’m sure it did on the Game Boy as well. It’s definitely a step up from the mobile versions though, since using a d-pad and face buttons is a far superior way of playing a game like this when compared to the touch screen controls in the original version.
Like the arcade game that came before it, Squareboy vs Bullies is a relatively short game – with 13 stages to battle through before you reach the end. Once you become comfortable with the controls, which are well explained but can be tricky to execute at first, completing the game won’t take you too long. There’s not too much reason to return after that, as unfortunately a Vita brawler doesn’t allow for local coop like many of the classics in the genre did. For this I’d recommend playing the Switch version if you get the chance, since it’s supported there.
The lack of alternatives on the Vita doesn’t make Squareboy vs Bullies: Arena Edition a must-buy title if you enjoy side-scrolling brawlers. Perhaps it’s due to its mobile roots, but the game feels a tad too simplified for my liking. Luckily, it has a budget price point to match, and if you’re eager to play something new on your Vita then it’s a functional little beat ’em up that’s inspired by the classics. Just don’t expect too much and look elsewhere if your Vita library doesn’t have the likes of Dragon’s Crown or Muramasa yet.