Friday, November 26, 2010

Beat It, Beat 'Em Ups.

I stumbled across a free little beat 'em up not to long ago. Okay I admit, it was an x-rated one... I was looking for smut, so sue me. But that's not the point. Although I do question a game that basically makes you avoid doing the one thing you want to actually see in order to win... but anyway. Playing it a little I was reminded of all that is wrong with beat 'em up games. Now I don't think the genre is necessarily bad, hell one of my favorite games River City Ransom and Shadow over Mystara are basically a beat 'em up crossed with an RPG, and honestly the RPG bits could be removed and you would still have a solid game (less so in Shadow over Mystara, where half the coolness is the stuff you can get, but I think it still stands true). There are just a few things that annoy me that beat 'em ups do that I really hate. So I am going to make a list for all the game designers out there that read my blog. Which by my calculations is none at all. Well screw it, I'm doing it anyway.


5. Linearity
Often in beat 'em ups, you do nothing but go forward with no side paths or exploration, often without anything but wave of wave of attacks. Maybe it's just me, but I found the open world approach of River City Ransom and the branching paths with hidden rooms of Shadow over Mystara a lot more enjoyable.

4. Boss enemies with insane priority and range.
Yeah I know a lot of beat 'em ups were coin eaters but I would like to have bosses that are possible without dieing 50 times or using that cheap flying kick move over and over. A boss who you cannot frigging hit except by cheesing the system is not a fun boss.

3. Illogical invincibility frames.
One annoying thing about beat 'em up games is that under certain conditions, such as during some attacks or when knocked to the ground or other things, players and enemies will take no damage from anything and will not react to attacks, regardless if it would be logical to be able to hit them. One thing about River City Ransom that made it fun is how BRUTAL the fighting could be, largely because you could air-juggle enemies and hit them on the ground, things you usually cannot do in most beat 'em ups. Usually, combat in beat 'em ups is more like hitting them, waiting until they get up, and kitting them again, or having some enemy do it to you, which is in the end little better then turn-based combat. And that brings me to my next point.

2. Illogical knockdowns
In some beat 'em ups almost EVERY attack will knock you flat on your ass for no reason, or yours will do the same to enemies. There is no staggering or attempt at a sense of balance involved, just down you go. This contributes even more to the turn-like flow of some beat 'em ups, and takes away all sense of skill or stratagy when you are just knocking down enemies with a flying kick. Also the time you spend helpless on the ground is often just way too much as well.

1. Locking the scrolling for encounters.
Seriously, why is this considered a good idea? Not only do you not have the freedom to progress though the game as you please, enemies have an annoying tendency to go off the edge of the screen where you can't see or hit them. I know letting you blow past all of the enemies makes the game a tad to easy to just skip stuff, but at LEAST use locked doors or real barriers, and not this scroll locking bullshit. Heaven forbid make your levels more then one long linear sequence of encounters and instead actually think about obstacles now and then.

(It occurs to me that 3 and 2 could apply to some fighting games also, but much less so because they tend to have very short knockdown times and usually don't abuse invincibility frames THAT much.)


  1. Oh geez, I look away for a week and there's 5 blog posts. You've had a lot to say lately, haven't you?

    Anyway, What do you think of No More Heroes? Both one and two, if you've played both. They're the only beat-em-ups I can stand, for similar reasons as you've said, but they still fall into a few of the problems you complain about than I agree with (stupid invincibility frames, constant knockdowns (especially in 2), linearity).

  2. Well I was only really covering oldschool-style 2D beat 'em ups. Honestly I think No More Heroes and games like it don't even count as beat 'em ups. They are just too different. I rather call them "hack 'n slash". Not that I don't think there are a few common problems that creep over from beat 'em ups.

    But anyway, I don't play next-gen games. I have a Wii but never play it. So no I haven't played them, though I saw a LP and lots of other stuff for 1. Not to interested in the games to be honest.

  3. I feel like you would if you tried them, though :( They can't be that expensive from Gamestop or whatever.

  4. I really can't be bothered to fiddle with getting my Wii set up, saving the money, and going out of my way to a store, all just to pick up a game that however quirky and fun it's story looks, it's gameplay looks like another Devil May Cry, and I never even finished the first one of those.

    I admit I am getting cranky and old and set in my ways, but unless a game is for the PC and free, or for my PSP or DS I can play in bed, I am not going to bother with it. Period. And from what I have seen so far, I am not missing much.