I love games that give a nod to the 80s and 90s. I still remember how big the retro-craze was, with games such as Super Meat Boy, Megaman 9 and Contra 4 entering the scene and stealing it. However, while it is nice to give a callback to what once was, it does not excuse poor quality or lack of innovation. Scott Pilgrim, Charlie Murder and Castle Crashers knew they could pay homage to the old, and still create something new and personal. However, Devil’s Dare is another story.
Dodge, attack, dodge
After selecting your character, you are thrown into a side scrolling beat ’em up, where you have only one direction to go towards, and plenty of zombies and monsters to kill. Your characters can attack, charge attack, use 3 different special moves, dodge roll and run. The special-moves are limited by your SP bar, which fills up as you kill or get hurt. If it runs out completely, you will have to wait until it fully recharges to use any special move again, which I found more strange than smart. While you can get out of harm’s way with a good dodge roll, you will most likely be caught in a combo by your enemies, where a break-move can be done which is similar to your standard special move, except it costs more SP. SP moves can also be done against multiple enemies for a fatality move and getting more items as a reward. Instead of coins and bags of money giving points, here you can actually buy extra-lives or stat-upgrades at the end of the stages. These are randomly selected, so hopefully the 4 items you get to choose from will be in your favor.
The characters feel different enough from each other to give you a thought on whom you want to select, but their moveset is very limited. Most of the time, the special moves felt worthless with the exception of one, and since they have only two form of attacks otherwise, you will get easily bored in this repetitive journey. The enemies do vary slightly, but it only comes down whether you should dodge or attack first. Your attacks can also easily stun enemies if you don’t finish a combo, and it is easy to abuse. Unfortunately, the enemies can do the same to you, even if you perform a break-move, which is ridiculous. The bosses put up more of a fight, but are barely memorable due to obvious and clear patterns. That is except for one unique element. After the first stage you will be taken to a hubworld, where you can choose one of 4 stages. Each time you choose one stage, the others will be longer and have tougher bosses. This sounds like a neat idea for replay-value, but the stages only get longer, with bosses getting rather more tedious with longer patterns and more health. After this, there are a couple of last stages and boss fights, which made the whole game take under 2 hours to finish. It is so weird how it proclaims to be in tone with the arcade games where you had to use quarters, when the game is so short and getting money is not much different from extra lives like in other classics. It also proclaims to be a tough challenge, but it comes off like that only due to the lack of extra lives instead of through clever design.
Gameplay score: 4/10
Paying homage with missteps
From the start of the game to the end, it had a bunch of references to Zelda, Megaman, Zombies Ate My Neighbours, Nightmare on Elmstreet and the list goes on. While the animations for the characters are good, the variety in enemy-design is well done and using the pixel-art is a welcomed choice, it is uninteresting with its lack of creativity and relying heavily on nostalgia and poor references. The stages are the worst where every area feels the same, despite being set in totally different places. I even forgot I had left the sewers and was in Manhattan at one point.
What is even worse is the choice of colors. It tries to be somewhat akin to an old movie, with dark and brownish colors, but the only real color the game has, red, does not get to pop out. If they had went for more black and white or even brighter colors, it could have gone such a long way with it instead of looking so dull. The voice acting is decent, but unfitting due to the pixel-presentation and the music is generic and repetitive rather than anything else.
Presentation score: 4/10
Better to spend quarters elsewhere
There are unlockable characters, but due to the game not changing much despite of this, they feel uninteresting. Survival is just you killing every monster that shows up, highlighting the repetitive nature. While co-op can help somewhat, the game is so average that it does not add much. You can’t even play online.
Extra score: 4/10
Devil’s Dare has really no idea how to innovate and relies heavily on nostalgia. It is not necessarily terrible, but it is such a bore to play through, with no interesting elements. It has some creative concepts, but no thought on how to use them well. You are better off with just about any well-known beat em ups. Even the original Double Dragon comes more recommended.