Double Dragon EX
Double Dragon returns to cell phones for a much-improved sophomore effort, but there's still room for improvement...
When I first loaded up Double Dragon EX, I was disappointed to find that the game chugged along, with slow attacks and animations, like so many other poor mobile ports. I quickly realized that what was actually going on was that the gameplay speed was set to the slowest level in the options menu, however. EX's development team thoughtfully gave gamers the ability to set the speed of the action themselves, according to their own personal taste. After setting the speed to a higher setting, punches, kicks, head butts, and elbows flew faster than they did even in the arcade original.
The "EX" indicates that this mobile release isn't a straight port of any previous Double Dragon title, and instead acts as a "remix" of sorts, mixing and matching levels, badguys, and moves from all previous Double Dragon titles. I don't know enough about the franchise to recognize what was pulled from where, besidesAbobo, who is present in full force, not to mention multiple colors (beware the green Abobo).
One major aspect of the Double Dragon formula that was given some serious attention by the development team was the control setup. A very cool juggling system has been implemented, allowing you to continue to pummel enemies if you manage to knock them high into the air with an uppercut. The system isn't super deep - it essentially consists of mashing the elbow or head-butt buttons repeatedly to keep juggling the thug(s), but it adds a surprising amount of fun and strategy to the Double Dragon experience. I racked up a 26 hit combo once, which felt especially satisfying.
I can't help but think the controls could have been significantly streamlined, however. Movement is handled with the U, D, L, & R arrows, while punch, kick, and jump are mapped to 3, 6, and 9, respectively. That alone makes the controls complex enough to require two hands at all times, but there's much, much more. 8 crouches, and when crouched 3 and 6 now become new actions. The 1, 2, and 5 buttons are also used to perform various attacks. For those keeping track, that's seven buttons used to attack, and jump. Some of the added depth, like the juggles, is appreciated. But overall it's much too much.
The game's three stages all feature their own unique design, music, boss, and badguys, but they're still over too quickly. I cleared the entire game on easy in about a half hour. Medium and Hard difficulty settings and the adjustable speed up the replay value, however. Hard mode is almost devilishly hard. Enemies would actively work to surround me and interrupt my combos.
Double Dragon EX could have benefited greatly from another 2-3 stages and simplified controls, but the final product is still an enjoyable beat 'em up for new gamers, and a good trip down memory lane for Double Dragon fans.
What's Hot: Lots of gameplay options. Good combo/juggle system.
What's Not: Only three stages. Controls overly complex.