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‘Double Dragon’ Review – A Surprisingly Fun Remake of the Arcade Classic

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About a month ago, we were somewhat surprised by the announcement that the arcade classic Double Dragon would be getting an enhanced iOS remake. I’m a huge fan of the Double Dragon series, both in the arcade and at home with the many console ports and sequels, and to be perfectly honest I wasn’t that excited by the news. I didn’t really dig the new graphics, and I was definitely not a fan of the virtual controller that took up the bottom third of the screen. I’m all for big name titles coming to iOS, but in this case it seemed that my nostalgia for Double Dragon was poised to get dragged through the mud.

Then last week, Double Dragon [$3.99] quietly snuck into the App Store, and with the madness of GDC coming to an end I’ve finally had a chance to spend some quality time with the game. Not only was I pleasantly surprised by just how much I enjoyed this new Double Dragon, but I’ll even go as far as saying that it’s easily my favorite beat-em-up in the App Store. It just goes to show that you really can’t ever judge a book by its cover.

Double Dragon on iOS is developed  Brizo Interactive, who are also responsible for the somewhat obscure version of Double Dragon on the Zeebo. The iOS version is loosely based on the Zeebo one, meaning that it has 4 levels that somewhat resemble the arcade originals plus 2 completely new levels unique to the remake. Also, there is a huge assortment of bosses and enemies to unlock in addition to the main characters Billy and Jimmy Lee, making for a whopping total of 26 playable characters.

The gameplay remains true to the Double Dragon series as you travel from left to right through the 6 levels section by section, taking on countless waves of thugs and squaring up against a boss at the end of each level. You can choose to take on the game solo or with a buddy in local Bluetooth co-op multiplayer, which is insanely fun and works like a dream in my experience. There’s also a Time Attack mode where you can play any of the 6 levels individually for the highest score and fastest time. All of these modes have associated leaderboards through Game Center, but unfortunately something seems to be screwy with that function as I’m not able to access any of them.

Despite the additional 2 levels over the original Double Dragon, the iOS version won’t take long to complete. Brizo compensates for this nicely by adding incentive to play through the game multiple times. There’s the 24 extra characters to unlock, and even though their move sets aren’t as robust as what Billy and Jimmy have, it’s still really fun to play through the game as one of the various henchmen or boss characters. There are also a ton of achievements to earn by completing all sorts of different tasks in the game. Even though the Game Center integration is currently broken, the achievements are also accessible in-game and I’ve been having a great time trying to get them all.

Given that Double Dragon is a button masher by nature, there have been concerns on how well this will translate to the touch screen. Thankfully the controls here are as good as virtual d-pads and buttons can be, which is to say that there is the occasional misfire but nothing earth-shattering. There’s even the option for either a 4 button control scheme or a simplified 3 button setup, which makes the game considerably easier to play but also limits which moves you’re able to do. Some players in our forums have complained that the controls are too small, but I personally haven’t felt that this is a problem.

What is a problem, however, is the awful looking overlay where the buttons are placed. This overlay takes up a good portion of the screen and can even block enemy positions or pits that lead to instant death. For the most part it stays out of the way, but when the overlay does block the action it can be an incredibly frustrating experience. An alternate overlay or even the option to increase the transparency would be a really welcome addition.

I am firmly a fan of this new Double Dragon and stand corrected by my initial judgment from our first preview. The redone graphics actually look fantastic, giving the game an almost comic book style that retains a retro feel. The controls are more than adequate and the fighting system is fairly deep, with experience earned from playing going towards unlocking an assortment of new moves. Coupled with unlocking new characters and achievements, there’s actually quite a bit to do in Double Dragon for such a fundamentally short game.

If the developer can sort out the Game Center and control overlay problems, I really wouldn’t have anything to complain about with Double Dragon. If you like beat-em-up arcade games and can deal with the changes from the original Double Dragon, you’ll likely find this version a highly enjoyable title. It’s currently on an introductory sale of $3.99 but will increase to $7.99 before long, so if you have any interest in the new Double Dragon for iOS then now might be the best time to pick it up.

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    Important note: iOS 8 is currently not compatible. New update coming soon.

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