If you were a kid in the late Eighties you probably remember Double Dragon as a fixture of arcades and corner shops, and the recipient of numerous console and computer ports. It is arguably the most famous side-scrolling brawler of all-time, introducing genre staples like co-op play and the ability to pick up power-augmenting weapons to pummel the enemy.
Double Dragon on the iOS is a completely new version, featuring all-new graphics, a re-jigged story and intermission sequences, and a brand new game engine. Well, it’s new to us anyway -- it’s actually an enhanced port of a version originally made for the Zeebo, an obscure and inexpensive console aimed at the Latin American market.
The revamped visuals look fantastic. The characters are smoothly animated, there’s an abundance of detail in the environments, and the game sports a gritty -- yet colourful and distinct -- look that fits the story’s lawless, post-apocalyptic feel. The addition of special skills and a combo system also adds a new level of depth to the gameplay, so even to a veteran it still feels surprisingly fresh.
Simulated D-pad-and-button controls are an irritatingly prevalent feature of iOS games, but there’s really no other option for a traditional brawler like this. The lack of tactile precision can be a pain -- you’ll sometimes need to carefully position your character to hit enemies on certain planes, pick up objects, and dodge attacks, all of which are made harder than they should be. A simplified control option offers a partial compromise, but it restricts some of the more complex fighting skills and detracts from the variety.
As such, I can’t recommend using it, because Double Dragon offers a decent amount of content for this platform at this price. The standard game modes offer limited continues, so you’ll need to run through and practice a few times before you’re able to clear the game completely. There are many playable characters to unlock and secret skills to uncover, too, and it has full Game Center support so there are also plenty of achievements to earn, some considerably more difficult than others.
Whether Double Dragon is worth your time entirely depends on how much you’re willing to put up with non-tactile controls in a game involving lots of button pressing. The action is undeniably solid, the graphics and music are excellent, and the numerous unlockables and modes will keep you coming back - but it’s all for nothing if you can’t get past that initial control barrier first.
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