Not quite LE CHAMPION, but it’s got a couple of points toward the Young Lions Cup.
It’s possible to tell a lot about a game developer by the elements they include in their games. NuChallenger, the three-person creative team behind Treachery in Beatdown City, are clearly fans of late 80s/early 90s pixel brawlers, RPGs, and the art of pro wrestling. What they’ve poured that love into is a solid Switch game with a bit of a learning curve and almost too many references.
Beatdown City, aka East Fulton, is home to a wildly multicultural population of people who fight at the drop of a hat and don’t discriminate on gender. The game sees you control three characters: the quick, strike focused Jamacian-American Bruce, the balanced police chief’s daughter Lisa, and community organizer/inactive heavyweight wrestler Brad. And stop me if this sounds familiar at the start of the game: President Orama has been kidnapped. By ninjas. It originally appears that he has been kidnapped by people connected to corrupt mayor Mike Moneybags (who illegally got a fourth term), but it turns out to have been perpetrated by the “Ninja Dragons.” The game’s original concept was written in 2009, which explains a lot of the references like the mook who makes frequent references to “Steiner Math.” Another mook refers to former wrestling world champion/UFC also-ran CM Punk, while the save points are a food truck called “Farooq’s Damn Halal.” Since the game was also Kickstarted with a funding level of “design an enemy” it’s mandatory to beat up Harmonix CEO Alex Rigopoulos (or a facsimile thereof) during the story. And yes, someone does drop a “Thanks, Orama” at one point, which was about the point where the references moved from cute to eye-roll inducing.
When not dealing with the story, the game provides a hybrid of RPG combat and brawling. The trio of characters move across an overhead map, and run into various modern annoyances—hipsters, tech bros who are also bikers for some reason, and crooked cops all show up early on—who need to be beaten in order to continue through the city. Combat is from a side view reminiscent of Double Dragon, but the basic attacks won’t last long. The chosen—or in some story scenes, forced—character and the enemies have an HP bar that needs to be worn down through combos. The combos themselves run off two meters: the length is determined by a cooldown meter that restores somewhat quickly, and the available attacks use a “FP” count that starts relatively low but can be boosted by getting extra hits in the combos or knocking down the enemy. Defending can use a portion of the cooldown meter to attempt to counter the attack (lower chance) or FP to try and reduce the damage (higher but not guaranteed) chances. The named attacks are divided between strikes and grapples, which can have their accuracy modified by attacks and status conditions including the RPG standby of “Blind.” Enemies often focus on countering one type of attack, which led to me relying on strikes a lot early before transitioning to grapples with Brad and Lisa during the mid-game and not using Bruce as much.
Figuring out which attacks work on characters can be frustrating when you lose the coin flip, and there were times it would take two or three losses before I would figure out a combat technique that would defeat the enemies. There isn’t traditional leveling either; only by beating a stage did the characters get a few extra FP or hit points, and I don’t recall ever getting both. There are plenty of food trucks on the maps for saving, but it’ll be necessary to watch the HP of the characters since most enemies after the first world are usually good for lopping off 30-40% of a character’s max HP. Add in the “grudge matches” that force a character in, and it leads to a lot of burning of healing items.
East Fulton is as multicultural as the New York City it’s based on, which lends itself to a wide variety of character designs. Thankfully, Beatdown City doesn’t disappoint on this mark, presenting at least thirty different types of enemies to get Brainbustered or repeatedly punched in the face. There are some neat sight gags in the battle backgrounds, as well. The music is a solid chiptune sound that would fit right in on the Super Nintendo. Originally the game as shipped was experiencing some issues with freezing and loading anything beyond the first map if the game was on a microSD card, but the version we reviewed (version 1.0.1) didn’t have either of these bugs, so it’s good to go technically.
If you’re down with all sorts of in-jokes and spent way too much time online in the late 2000s, you probably already picked up Treachery in Beatdown City. If you’re still on the fence, it’s a brisk experience with a unique style of gameplay, and the dialogue is as skippable as you need it to be. It’s a good debut game from a studio I’ll be keeping an eye on going forward.