Everyone hates a bully. They prey on the weak, and use their power to get what they want. In Squareboy vs Bullies: Arena Edition however, Squareboy isn’t having any of that crap. He’s getting lessons from a Karate master known simply as Sensei, and he’s out to save all those who’ve had to stand against bullying. It’s a simple concept, and a fairly simple game, but it’s fun enough for a distraction.
The gameplay itself is about action combat, with A being jump and B being attack. Actions are augmented with the directional movement, offering moves like throws and dashes alongside kicks and punches – but with limited button use. As for movement, it’s relegated to the left analog stick. You can move left and right through the areas, but are also able to move towards and away from the screen. The trick is that you have to be on the same plane as your enemy in order to hit them.
The other control worth mentioning is the X button, which is set up for interacting with the world. Picking up items to throw at enemies or weapons to use is done with X, as is picking up a health pack (which is used when grabbed and can’t be saved). Throwing items or using weapons is then done with the B button, just like any other attack.
As for your mode options, the game features two; story and arena. Both can be played in single player or cooperative fashion – and being that the controls are simple, and single Joy-Con play is supported, it’s easy to pick up and play wherever you are.
Looking to the modes themselves, story is the meat of the content and has fifteen levels (including two that are entirely cutscenes) on offer. It starts by introducing you to your motivation, and progresses fairly naturally based on the loose story. It’s not the most interesting fare, but the gameplay is where it’s at with this one.
As for arena mode, it’s a series of four closed area levels (which unlock in order) with goals regarding the number of enemies you need to take out. Easy starts you off with twenty enemies to beat, with each additional step adding another ten enemies to its goal. They’re great modes to practice on, or go back to if you’ve only got a moment – and obviously you’ll have a mode that matches your skill with just a bit of playing.
As stated, both of these options can be played single player or cooperatively. Single player has you playing as a long Squareboy with one life and one health bar, while co-op adds a second (blue) Squareboy who has just as much presence as the first. The advantage here is not only in numbers though, as one player getting knocked out will still leave the other up and at ’em. If you want to get as far as you can as easy as you can, cooperative play is where it’s at.
In the audio/visual department, Squareboy vs Bullies: Arena Edition features simple pixel art graphics and retro chiptune style music coupled to simple sound effects and text-based dialogue. It’s old school for sure, and it works – making for a game that is both classically styled and modernly entertaining. It’s nothing we haven’t seen an approximation of before, but why fix what’s not broken?
Like many games of its style, Squareboy vs Bullies: Arena Edition is good – but simply not great. It’s pretty hard to mess up the beat ’em up action genre, and the developer seems to have strayed a little more towards the good than the bad here. The game may not have a lot of staying power with its limited content, but it’s fun while it lasts, and it’s incredibly cheap – putting it into impulse buy territory should you have a few dollars in your account. Not many games are in that territory at this point, so this one might just be what you’re looking for. 🙂