99Vidas from QUByte Interactive
From Double Dragon to Streets of Rage and Golden Axe, the side-scrolling beat ‘em up has been a relatively static genre; the mechanics remain the same today as they were 20 years ago. The likes of Castle Crashers reinvigorated the genre by infusing it with RPG elements, a trick first used by Guardian Heroes many years before. 99Vidas brings a classic side-scrolling action experience, but does it do anything new? Perhaps more importantly, does it need to?
At first glance, 99Vidas is as traditional a beat ‘em up as any other; the endless progress from left to right, countless enemy types to punch until they flicker away in a broken wreck on the ground, boss battles against physically uncanny titans who tower over your character…99Vidas doesn’t break the mold. It does, however, make use of leveling and unlockable characters to provide a sense of progress – features which ensure the game feels well fleshed out.
A simplistic story which wouldn’t feel out of place in ’90s gaming gets 99Vidas started; a malevolent enemy has stolen a powerful artifact which, combined with his army, will ensure his conquest of the world. It’s all very tongue in cheek, setting up the lighthearted tone of 99Vidas. Naturally, the four initially available heroes are the guardians of this artifact. Their mission: its retrieval.
What’s Your Elemental Damage, Brah?
The starting character choices are divided by element. There’s a fast but weak lightning fighter, a slow but very strong earth hero, and both fire and water, each of whom balanced. I was drawn to the fire guy for his nifty scarf and, well, fire powers. Having tried each hero, there is reasonable variety in combos between each character, and their special attacks offer some unique possibilities.
The action of 99Vidas is smooth and engaging; it was enough to remind me of the perfect design choices behind Streets of Rage. Combos chain satisfyingly and there is always clarity in what is happening on screen. Bosses pop up throughout each level and always pose a fresh challenge with some unique tricks up their sleeves. 99Vidas can get very challenging, but upgrades to characters are retained across play-throughs, ensuring that there’s always a sense of advancement.
Party Like It’s 99
99Vidas succeeds completely in conveying a 16-bit aesthetic. The visuals and music both support this goal with style. The game goes beyond surface detail, though, regularly poking fun at its retro roots. One early boss, for example, is drawn to appear more 8-bit in design and the characters comment on this, mocking his out of date appearance.
99Vidas is a well crafted 16-bit brawler that feels simultaneously like an homage to – and at times a parody of – classic beat ‘em ups. It doesn’t do anything particularly new or unique, but in the end, there’s plenty of room for more high quality beat ‘em ups, and of course there’s no need to fix something that isn’t broken. It also comes with a versus mode and online functionality, broadening multiplayer possibilities. 99Vidas is fun, has plenty of unlockable characters and a good number of challenging stages, an easy recommendation for fans of the genre.
99Vidas is available via Steam.
Watch the official trailer for 99Vidas below: