You're getting your head kicked in. There are three guys surrounding you and every time you focus your attention on one of them, it only gives the other two a free opening to swing a punch at you.
You try to block or counter one of their attacks, but doing that tires you out and that gives someone else the chance to continue the assault. No matter what you try to do, you're destined to end up on your backside.
Suddenly, one of the three foes decides he's had enough and starts to run away. He oddly opts to run into a corner and keeps running into it, galloping on the spot in a ludicrous manner. The other two enemies slowly continue their beat-down and as you curse loudly while your last slither of life is unfairly stolen, you glance over to the corner and see the third foe, who's still walking into the corner, glitch right through the wall and disappear into the scenery. Welcome to the world of Double Dragon II.
The above scenario genuinely happened to us ten minutes into the game, and it wasn't a freak one-off occurrence. Double Dragon II is an abomination of a game, one that will actually make you angry as you play - angry that the game is so horribly imbalanced, angry that it feels more like an alpha demo than a finished product, and angry that someone actually had the gall to decide "yup, this is ready" and release it, robbing 800 Microsoft Points from anyone foolish enough to be swayed by nostalgia or to think it's from the same studio that released the excellent Double Dragon Neon last year.
You can tell you're in for a miserable experience as soon as you start the game and are presented with one of the worst tutorials in recent memory. Instructions are accompanied by a grumbling, murmuring voice with an echo effect applied, a disinterested voice that doesn't even say what it's supposed to (as evidenced when you turn the subtitles on) and instead decides to treat the English language with the same contempt that the beat 'em up genre is treated with throughout the rest of the game.
Combat makes us livid just thinking about it. You're limited to a standard punch combo, a standard kick combo or switching between the two. Both are ultimately useless though because, as previously explained, initiating a combo inevitably leads to someone else feeding you a knuckle supper. Want some extra power? You're invited to hold the RT button as you pull off a combo - apparently this makes for more powerful moves but all it seems to do is give your final punch a slow motion effect.
As if the suicide combo gameplay wasn't frustrating enough, there's also an absurd stamina meter which has you exhausted after a few punches, leaving you even more exposed to the group you're fighting and making it even more likely that you'll be chewing pavement before long. You can block with LT (which is temperamental), and timing it right lets you execute a Perfect Guard, which in theory opens your enemy up for a counter-attack. Incredibly, Perfect Guards also drain your stamina, so your reward for countering an enemy punch is knackering your character and - you guessed it - leaving him wide open to attack from someone else.
The temptation is to say "ah, but, this is a remake of an old game and old games were just harder back in the day". No. Stop it. Just stop it right now. That's pish. The original Double Dragon II, while tricky and clunky, was still a decent fighter for its time.
Most retro games were difficult in a way that encouraged you to master and ultimately overcome them - the NES Mega Man games were a shining example of this. Then there are games like this that are needlessly difficult due to bad game design, where no amount of practice will ever prevent you from getting hit with cheap attacks over and over again.
The game clearly knows this too, chucking 20 credits at you from the start in the hope they'll be enough to let you make it kicking and screaming through its 15 levels. Of course, by doing so it's making a hell of an assumption that you'll have the saint-like patience to put up with its countless inadequacies and sloppy bugs for long enough to get to the end of the game. The only thing we found more taxing was writing this review while resisting the urge to scatter a navy's worth of four-letter words over it.
Rarely these days do we get to play a finished game (allegedly) that's so full of bugs, riddle with glitches and horribly imbalanced. Double Dragon is a motorway pile-up of a game, and as such while there's an obvious temptation to rubber-neck and check out the damage, under no circumstances should you approach it.
An absolutely abysmal excuse for a beat 'em up that offers no redeeming qualities whatsoever other than a metaphorical dunce's hat you can wear for owning the worst game on Xbox Live Arcade.
- It makes us appreciate other games more
- Frustrating, cheap, unfair combat system
- Bewildering, game-ruining stamina meter
- Looks and sounds like a bad pre-alpha prototype