The earliest fighting games were gentlemanly affairs based on boxing and karate. Then some idiot gave the protagonist a baseball bat in Double Dragon and all hell broke loose.
Beat Street reasons such violent lawks should be on your smartphone – and optimistically has you control everything with a single digit.
Given that even 1987’s scrolling brawlers armed you with a joystick and a couple of buttons to thump, this could have gone terribly wrong. But Beat Street slowly eases you into its system of gestures and taps, giving you a surprising amount of control over the diminutive hero – much to the chagrin of the various enemies whose faces get repeatedly punched.
For some reason, these foes are anthropomorphised animals. Toko City has apparently been infested by gangs of psychotic rats and racoons, and it’s your job to give them a serious kicking. Sorry if you were expecting an actual plot – but at least Beat Street doesn’t stoop to having the hero’s girlfriend kidnapped by boring thugs.
To move, you slide your thumb. To unleash a flurry of kicks and punches, you tap the screen, to the detriment of anyone standing nearby. Additional options include moving into someone for a quick grapple, at which point you can tap to knee them in the face, or flick to hurl them at a cohort.
Beyond that, there are flying kicks and ‘supermoves’, the latter being activated by prodding a button that glows when your combo bar is full.
It all feels nicely satisfying as you march along, duffing up insubordinate animals that don’t know their place, presumably while PETA representatives look on in sheer horror.
And much like in scrolling beat ’em ups of old, you’re sometimes fortunate enough to find a weapon lying around, so you can unsportingly discharge your anger by bashing someone’s head in with a bat, a metal rod, or – for some reason – a broom.
That said, your enemies are no pushover. Although many have the intelligence of a lobotomised lab rat – one foe chucks explosives about, but is often caught in the blast – they grow in numbers and strength.
It turns out a giant rat armed with a machine gun, or a crazed flying-kick-happy raccoon, can cause an awful lot of damage. Funnily enough.
There are, however, a couple of snags. The first is that – like its forebears – Street Beat is a mite repetitive. Although the game shakes things up with new backdrops and enemies, you’re effectively mashing the screen to punch things.
More annoyingly, freemium antics whiff the place up a bit. The energy system doesn’t prove too irritating – if anything, it forces you to play in more palatable bite-sized chunks. But the game’s insistence on having you replay levels to unlock later ones, and some difficulty spikes deeply hinting you should upgrade your characters, can result in grind.
Still, that’s par for the course with much modern mobile gaming. What isn’t is smartly designed one-thumb punchy antics that feel like a lost arcade hit sneaked on to your smartphone. On that basis, Street Beat is a no-brainer download – unless you can’t stomach the thought of beating up hoodlum vermin.