Around the late part of the 1980s and the early 90s, scrolling beat-’em-ups were all the (Streets Of) rage. Indeed, it could easily be considered a golden (Axe) period for the genre, and many a player would happily bash their way through these games, hoping to reach the big boss finale (Fight – okay, that one’s a bit of a push).
Of course, those days are gone, and although, with misty eyes, you might download an emulator and some of your favourite classic brawlers, they never turn out to be as good as you remember. Their simplistic control schemes usually consist of little more than frantically bashing a few buttons and watching a few special move animations.
Despite the obvious reasons for the ailing health of the genre, though, it’s not dead completely, with the revived Gauntlet franchise being one notable example. Joining such, erm, illustrious company is Spyborgs, from Capcom.
The story is, frankly, an irrelevance, being as it is some paper-thin fluff about cybernetic soldiers and rogue agents. All that matters is that it means one of the three playable characters has a massive gun instead of an arm (Stinger), and one of the others is a giant robot (Bouncer). However, probably the most appealing character is the female ninja Clandestine who, despite being physically weak, is – surprise surprise – quick and nimble. The robot, of course, is strong but slow and the guy is somewhere in between. Yawn.
It’s not just characters that are clichéd, though; the gameplay itself is hardly brimming with originality either. You have two attack buttons (weak and strong), the ability to jump and also to block. Although you can perform different moves with different combinations of button presses and you can buy new moves as you progress, you don’t really ever feel like you’re doing anything more than randomly smashing the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. There are some motion controls, but they’re so annoying, you’re better off without them (fortunately, you can turn them off).
The blocking element is supposed to add some form of tactical element to the game, but it’s difficult to defend meaningfully when it’s so hard to follow what’s going on. Unfortunately, everything moves so fast, and there are so many things on screen at once, you often lose sight of your character. If you choose to abandon the block function, however, you will die frequently and have to start the level again. Take the difficulty level down, and you’ll never have to block again, but then the game becomes even more mindless.
Spyborgs is best played as a co-op game with a friend, and you can chain combos together and perform team finishing moves. If you do play with a friend, it’s a far more appealing prospect, and could be fun for a few hours. However, as a solo game it doesn’t really work; you get a computer-controlled companion, but the AI is so stupid, it does very little other than frustrate. There’s hardly any sense of achievement from completing a level, and the most overt thing you’ll have to show for your efforts is slightly beaten Wii Remote and a touch of RSI.
Buy Spyborgs (Wii)