The story starts out in the Benny Arcade Expo one of the biggest gaming events of the year. After two years of waiting, a new game is ready to be announced, but just like that, the world goes from bad to worse, with the convention getting overrun by monsters. A red fairy turns up and gives our characters the power to fight back. This is in return for the souls of the monsters killed.
Lots of Homages
The game begins with you as the player able to choose from Kingston, Anthony, Queenie, Jackson, Jonathan or Axel so six in total. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses. The story has just enough charm to warm you to the game and I liked it, short and sweet. Throughout the game, there are plenty of homages to films, games and even a famous reviewer, none other than Jim Sterling, who you can defeat as a boss in the game. Other than that I don’t want to spoil any of the great little homages this game has in store for you.
The audio in the game I think is rather good. It’s not going to knock your socks off but then it doesn’t really need to. It does enough with its various sound effects and music. I love the backing track in the selection screen as it’s obvious which film it’s from. The levels themselves have backing tracks which keep you flowing throughout the game and a lot of the music is reminiscent to films from the 80s which I loved.
Visuals and Performance
The developers Secret Base took inspiration from its own early flash game called Bitejacker and the look and similarity is uncanny. They also drew inspiration from Metal Slug in terms of the sprites being expressive and there being excessive violence. The look of the game, seeing as it’s based on horror, uses a monochromatic look with a Night of the Living Dead style. I really like the look of the game and being a horror fan myself this was right up my street. The use of gore is appropriate here with the style this is going for and it looks great. The inspirations the game has taken from are there for all to see and it resonated with me as I grew up playing and watching many of the games and films this drew inspiration from.
The game runs nice and smooth on the Switch for the most part and I only encountered a little slowdown but very rarely. It looks crisp in both handheld and in docked mode. The only thing I found a bit disconcerting was when I was in the middle of a massive combo and would hit the enemies multiple times, with each hit the enemy naturally falls back across the screen. As I continued my combo they would eventually end up out of sight where I could still hit the enemies but I would not be able to see them as the camera would not move with the action. The camera only moves to the next part of the level once you have taken out all the enemies on screen. This was mildly annoying and hope it can be patched as I like to see what I am hitting.
One look from the outside at a game like this and it’s easy to judge such games as just another shallow beat-em-up harking back from the 80 and 90s. If you look closely into games from that arcade era, the one thing that made them so addictive was putting your money in and your playtime only lasting a few minutes at the most due to their difficulty. To continue you would have to put more money in to get further. When these games were converted to home console and no money was necessary to progress, only then did it become apparent at how much some of these games lacked depth.
Simple with depth
Streets of Red didn’t want to be just another shallow side scrolling beat-em-up. The game is simple but quite difficult to master and while button mashing will get you so far, mastering the controls, crowd control as well as knowing when to pull off the right combos to take down as many foes in one go is going to win you the day. The better you do the more cash in game you make. The more cash you make the more soul tokens you can buy which are basically your continues if you die. Back in the old days it would have meant a quarter or here in the UK 10 pence. So I love the twist here using virtual currency to be able to up continues.
You can also upgrade some of your moves with your hard-earned virtual currency which helps later on. The game rewards players for doing well with virtual cash and this is what also makes it super addictive. On my first playthrough, I tried classic mode which is a medium difficulty level which still allowed me to unlock the achievements within the game. I bought as many soul tokens on my run as I could afford as permadeath was something I didn’t want! I ended up using three of them. Achievements include completing the game with the good ending or killing 500 monsters for example.
Characters to suit your playstyle
Two hours later I had just about completed the game and got a good ending which I was kind of happy with but I was far from done. Jackson was my favourite character, it was something about him being called the teen ninja which appealed to me. He also uses a more traditional fighting method favouring hand to hand combat. Being able to string moves together was a pleasure with this character. There is a character here to suit everyone’s play style, want to use a gun then choose Anthony who uses a rapid-fire weapon but also has some great special moves. Choose Jonathan for more close combat but with a shotgun and use Kingston for some hilarious shovel kills.
On my next run through I tried both Queenie, who rides in what seems like a mech but is slow, and Axel, who was more to my taste and looks as if he was based on Zelda with his shield and sword but again he didn’t suit my play style, so I didn’t take to them. So I went for Antony who was a nice change up in being able to kill enemies from afar. Each has their strengths and weaknesses and it’s all about mastering them. They are nice and varied so it keeps things fresh. In expert mode, you can place bets before the level begins for bigger rewards and I loved that, for 600 bucks all the mobs and bosses become elites but the rewards become much much bigger. However, if your not skilled enough or have not learned the moves properly you may ‘chicken out’ and make less money. The more cash you make the further you will get as the money keeps you in the game, even though its virtual. It’s a nice twist because back in the day you needed real money to keep going if you were not skilled enough.
Controls are tight and accessible to all
The control scheme is kept simple and has been based on games such as Streets of Rage. This keeps things accessible with most moves being quite easy to pull off. There is a blue SP meter used to pull off the special moves. There are 4 chunks available and you need 1 chunk to pull off a special move or in the midst of taking damage you pull off a devastating attack using 3 chunks. Using special moves is essential for keeping your combos going so it is imperative that you use your blue meter wisely. The blue bar fills up the more enemies you destroy and quicker if you can take out multiple foes at the same time which the game loves telling you about! It also makes it easier for players to reach the more fun parts of the game quickly without having to spend hours and hours learning the moves. The challenge comes, certainly in expert mode, in knowing how to manage the crowds of enemies and when to string moves together to kill enemies while keeping your combo meter up for bigger rewards. Kill many enemies together and the reward is, larger drops of coin and food to keep your health bar up.
Solo or with friends is a blast
The game is fantastic for playing solo or with friends because the game adjusts the difficulty accordingly. Having to restart the game is not going to be to everyone’s liking, but the game does a very good job in rewarding players who are willing to take a little more risk. I like the systems implemented here as they feel well balanced and it’s a game I am having fun playing over and over again, whether it is for just 5 or 10 minutes or a longer play through.
You could say the game is a Roguelike as it contains Permadeath meaning your save will be wiped clean if you perish hence the importance of managing your money and buying up those Soul Tokens but unlike most games of that nature, Streets of Red doesn’t have randomised levels. Here you can choose which levels to tackle meaning most runs will be in a different order even though the level itself will always be the same. Having the choice adds some freshness to each run which is always nice.
Bosses are great fun too often based on horror movies, other games or a certain reviewer, the one and only Jim Sterling. They are quite difficult but also nicely varied and I never got bored beating up on them.
The game is $7,19 or £5,03 currently with 20% off on the Switch and quite honestly for this price, I cannot think of a better game to spend a fiver on. If you are a fan of side-scrolling beat-em-ups then do yourselves a favour and buy this game because it’s honestly a bargain and tremendous fun. I have put in two hours to complete the game and another two trying to complete it in expert mode. I have put in more time trying it in co-op mode which is also fun. If that’s not enough there is also a fun survival mode to keep you entertained.
So the replay value is there even if the game is quite short but who can complain about the rich fun content you get here at this price.
Great Visual Style
Good solid controls and mechanics
Fighting characters off screen is a bit of a pain
A little more story would have been nice