Bullying is something that we have all likely suffered from, and, for many, it can continue to overshadow their lives. Whether being called names, having their belongings stolen, seeing their religion mocked, or being shoved into walls in school corridors, it is something that many children, and parents, often struggle to work out how to overcome.
While many would encourage you to tell a friend, teacher, or parent when it happens, what they usually advise against is responding to the bullying or hitting back. Squareboy vs Bullies: Arena Edition takes that route, where, after bullies beat up Squareboy while he is stood patiently waiting at the bus stop, an old man spirits him away to his dojo and teaches him how to fight back.
That training will see you quickly grasp that the Left Stick is used to move around, that you can attack with the B Button, and that the A Button lets you jump. There are also more punishing combos that you can unleash, a two-page Move List on the pause menu lending pointers on how to perform moves such as a counter, dropkick, spin punch, grab, knee, or throw. It is remembering these moves that will help you take down bullies more swiftly on your quest for justice in Squareboy vs Bullies: Arena Edition, even if you can make it so far just relying on quick jabs.
Heeding you sensei’s wise words to no longer allow yourself to fear the bullies, you then set out across Squareburg to put them firmly in their place. Making your way between different locations in Squareburg, this old-school beat ’em up from developer Rohan Narang will soon see you pummel the hordes of bullies into submission.
It isn’t long before you are throwing tyres and boxes with bibles in to knock out your enemies in Squareboy vs Bullies: Arena Edition, applying health kits when made available to keep you in the fight. It is the counter move that soon becomes the most important, hitting the A and B Buttons when taking damage seeing Squareboy unleash an almighty uppercut to knock back his attackers.
Squareboy vs Bullies: Arena Edition soon throws in hardier enemies, whether that be those with luminous green mohawks that can swing meaner punches, fedora-wearing bullies that can fire balls in your direction with Tommy Guns, or the bully boss that wears a bandana that tries to slug you in the face with baseball bats. But, more variety and differentiation was needed, with the same model being used for the several enemy types over and over.
Built with retro appeal in mind, the pixel art in Squareboy vs Bullies: Arena Edition looks great if a little basic, and the energetic chiptune soundtrack is the perfect accompaniment to your quest. But, with only 14 stages, it won’t take long before that quest is completed.
And then there’s the new Arena mode, which recycles four of the same levels and challenges you to survive for as long as possible against endless waves of bullies. Take out the required number of bullies and you unlock the next arena, but, beyond that, it’s a largely unremarkable addition.
Squareboy vs Bullies: Arena Edition stands up to make itself known on Nintendo Switch, but, rather than choosing to pay homage to greats such as Double Dragon and Final Fight, more inventiveness was needed to make it memorable. There’s enough to entertain for a short while, but the repetitive design and lack of any real ambition hold back its potential – resulting in an average experience that’s little more than a pushover.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Ratalaika Games