The Kickstarter-funded game Treachery in Beatdown City puts an RPG twist on the classic side-scrolling beat ‘em up genre. In an alternate reality, President Blake Orama has been kidnapped by ninja terrorists. Lisa, Brad, and Bruce have been tasked with taking the law into their own hands and rescuing the president.
The story and dialogue are ridiculous. The situations and characters are quirky and at times over the top. The sense of humour and the absurdity of the story will not be for everyone. It mixes some of the ridiculousness of early imported games from Japan with a splash of more modern commentary. While I found the style to be abrasive in the beginning, I did find myself slowly warming up to the silliness as I continued playing the game.
Treachery in Beatdown City takes the standard side-scrolling beat ‘em up and adds an RPG style combo system. Players travel across a mostly linear overworld path to fight enemies and find items in dumpsters.
There are two fighting styles, grappling and striking. There are three characters to cycle between, a tough grappling specialist, a striking glass cannon, and a well-rounded character. The balance between striking and grappling could use a little work. Strikes will be the bread and butter for most of the game as grappling’s success is based on how much health an enemy has. Grapples do have the potential to do an incredible amount of damage, but it often feels like an afterthought than a main focus.
The RPG mechanics are reminiscent of action points based JRPG systems. The player character has two resources needed for action. Fight points are generated over time and through chaining special attacks together. Each special attack is assigned a certain FP cost based on its power. Action points are generated over time. One point is used for each special attack, counter, quick attack, and item use. I enjoyed the gameplay’s more thoughtful pace that outright discourages button mashing.
Treachery in Beatdown City offers a decently large cast of enemies to fight. Each one falls under an archetype like support or sneaky. Each archetype has its own weakness, abilities, and attack patterns. Most of the enemies are interesting, but the runner archetype seems completely pointless. While the cyclist at least drops some health as a reward, the runner seems to do nothing but run around the screen aimlessly. The different enemy types combined with the three player characters offer much needed variation in the gameplay overall, but the game does a poor job conveying each enemy’s archetype beyond the initial tutorial. I would prefer to see a clear icon by the enemy’s name instead of memorizing each type through practice.
The user experience is a bit of a mixed bag. The developers are extremely dedicated to the old school experience to the game’s detriment. Each character quickly develops a large repertoire of attacks that overwhelm the combo menus that are designed to have the traditional three rows per screen. Scrolling around became unwieldly, and I often found the lazy part of me favouring certain attacks simply because they were one of the first six rows. Positioning characters to avoid critical attacks to the back could be difficult when enemies were right on top of my character. It took a bit of experimentation to figure out the exact moment when I needed to turn around as the enemy passed through the player character. Instead of the pixel perfect positioning, I would have preferred to see a slightly more forgiving set up.
The game supports both controllers and mouse and keyboard set ups. To my endless annoyance, there is no way to change keyboard binding. While the game is enjoyable with either input method, I did prefer using a thumb stick in combat and the D-pad while moving around in the open world.
Treachery in Beatdown City’s art style is inspired by old 8-bit titles. The artists do an excellent job making the graphics feel right at home among old school arcade games, down to the small details like the PSAs used for the loading screens. The character design is much like the game’s story, over the top and often ridiculous.
The audio experience is enjoyable. The sound effects are period appropriate. The soundtrack is packed with excellent chiptunes. The game does need a few more tracks as the same couple of combat songs did get a little stale over time.
Treachery in Beatdown City struggles with a few quality of life issues and a story that will be a hit or miss. On the other hand, the game offers an interesting take on the classic side-scrolling beat ‘em up genre that encourages a more thoughtful approach to bashing in faces. Fans of retro inspired games and new twists on old genres will find a lot to like here.
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.