There sure is a lot of rage on these streets.
Super Punch Patrol is simultaneously a bold new genre for Gunman Clive and Mechstermination Force creator, Bertil Horberg, as well as exactly what you’d expect from one of his games. Super Punch Patrol knows exactly what it wants to be, a 16-bit era beat-’em-up, and executes on that goal perfectly. While it brings with it some of the dated elements of its inspiration, it is hard to ignore just how perfectly it encapsulates its source.
As one would expect from a brawler that could grace the Super Nintendo or the Sega Genesis, Super Punch Patrol follows three police officers in a town run by crime. Jorts, leather, suspenders, and skateboards permeate the character designs in a delightfully accurate satire of games like Streets of Rage. Even the playable characters themselves follow the traditional beat-’em-up trinity: the middle of the road dude, the fast acrobatic lady, and the giant strong guy. Outside of its use of polygonal graphics, everything about Super Punch Patrol feels like it was ripped straight from the classics. The best part is it isn’t just impersonating them; it nails the mechanics perfectly. It honestly might feel more like Streets of Rage than the recent Streets of Rage 4 does.
Levels are multi-phased, with the player passing through a couple environments before reaching a boss, and levels are extremely varied. One early stage had me skateboarding across a bridge, fighting other guys on skateboards, and knocking yet more guys off of motorcycles. I had to pause to laugh when the stage started as it was so ridiculous but so perfect. I did occasionally find that the time limits placed on the levels were sometimes very harsh, and that I needed to rush to get through them in time. One level in particular forced me to brute force the boss rather than waiting through his pattern in order to clear the level. Fortunately multiple difficulties are available as the base difficulty is also very accurate to the classics. You have limited lives and continues, with no saves. While I appreciate the “get good” attitude, a slightly more modern friendly mode might have made for a nice addition. You can play the entire game with a friend, which helps a bit with difficulty, but it’s still no walk in the park.
Super Punch Patrol sports what I suppose I would call Horberg’s signature art style. Everything looks like a living sketchbook. It looked great in Gunman Clive, but Super Punch Patrol absolutely takes it to the next level. Every stage, character, and item is beautifully rendered, and the game looks fantastic in docked or handheld. The music and sound are likewise excellent. In particular, the death cries of enemies are heavily bit-crunched, making them sound just like something I’d expect to come out of my Sega Genesis.
Super Punch Patrol is very clearly a painstakingly accurate love letter to classic beat-’em-ups. What's fascinating is it manages to invoke this without the need for a throwback art style. It draws on its inspiration in gameplay rather than presentation, which is very refreshing. Of course the difficulty will scare some off, but fans of the genre will absolutely want to give Super Punch Patrol a shot. Grab a friend, and fight your way through these crime filled streets as you punch your way to justice.