What do you get when you combine Streets of Rage’s refined fighting mechanics with Final Fight’s penchant for bare-chested machoness, while adding a squirt of Dynamite Cop’s utter absurdness? The answer is a rollicking good time. Super Punch Patrol, incidentally, is another answer we’d gladly settle for.
This Switch exclusive scrolling brawler comes from the team behind Gunman Clive and Mechstermination Force, borrowing the sketchbook art direction of the former while favouring 3D characters and backdrops. Imagine gritty city street and bare-chested ruffians drawn using a three-pack of coloured ballpoint pens and you’ll get the gist.
Yes – we’re aware we’ve already used the description ‘bare-chested’ in this review. Super Punch Patrol is delightfully campy, with a roster full of dungaree-wearing bearded brutes looking for any excuse to show off their pecks.
It leans heavily on Streets of Rage’s core mechanics, sans being able to summon a missile-firing patrol car. It’s a far more streamlined take, however. The move set features just the right number of attacks – including a health bar-draining super move – to give the experience sufficient depth without plying superficial bloat. If you go looking for them, you’ll find nuances too. The dodge may not seem advantageous when playing on the cakewalk practise mode, for instance, but it certainly comes into play when limited to just three lives.
The three playable characters – a sprightly punk, a hulking brute, and a nimble femme-fatale – play differently, each having a ‘forward-forward-punch’ dash attack. The SoR comparison is valid for other reasons – Selma has a “Grand Uppah” style uppercut, while going toe-to-toe commences a grapple, leading into either a headbutt, shoulder throw or slam.
It’s pleasingly coy with the rest of its influences, masking them with a side-line of silliness and nods to the studio’s past works.
Every attack is accompanied by a string of pleasing whacks and smacks, and while the hit detection (when attacking) is much looser than its peers, it’s no less satisfying to deal with several enemies in a row without taking a scratch. Time a strike perfectly and it’s possible to defeat some of the pleasingly daft mini-bosses in a blink. Weapons are also around to assist, including baseball bats and swords, while slices of birthday cake – complete with a candle – replenish health.
While the level design could be slightly more varied – this is a very traditional affair, right down to having an elevator stage – the wide-ranging enemy roster makes up for it. They make their entrances in all kinds of ways, leaping from manhole covers, dropping in from above, or charging across the screen. Occasionally they don new daft attire too.
We should note that Super Punch Patrol hasn’t been prised to take on the acclaimed Streets of Rage 4. This is a far humbler endeavour, being a love letter to the 16-bit greats. Hörberg Productions has clearly looked at what makes these games so memorable and cherished, before settling about created something that offers a distilled experience.
There’s no bloat or filler here whatsoever – it has a handful of stages, each with new dangers, culminating in a rough 30 min runtime. That’s on the easiest difficulty, at least – enemies pack a wallop on the harder setting, forcing you to approach each with caution and use pick-ups wisely. Even normal mode will test your mettle towards the end.
Unlockable costumes and online rankings round-off this perfectly formed package, with some extra outfits raising a wry grin. For five bucks (£4.49), Super Punch Patrol is an easy sell – a scrolling brawler paying homage to the 16-bit heyday while boasting a unique art direction.
Without question, this is 2020’s best budget buy. Feeling the pinch? You can rely on the Super Punch Patrol for a good time.