Double Dragon II: The Revenge

Set in a post-apocalyptic New York, the story of the classic arcade game Double Dragon was simple: your girlfriend had been abducted, and, since stealth games hadn't yet been invented, your only recourse was to beat scores of lowlifes to a pulp and send them flickering into the void.

It was a great game back in the late '80s, and it spawned inevitable console ports and, from these, sequels. We'll be honest, though: we hadn't banked on them showing up on mobile. While it's important to never say never, we were sceptical about the ability of developer Qubic to squeeze the muscular flailing limbs and clinking weaponry of the series onto a phone.

But it's managed it - at least in the shape of Double Dragon II: The Revenge - and made a surprisingly good job of it too.

There's no kidnapping sub-plot in Double Dragon II: The Revenge. Instead, the premise is simply that crime syndicates are running amok in post-apocalypse New York and you, Billy, have had enough, so you're heading out into the streets in your blue muscle-vest and knee-high boots to sort everybody out.

Let's start with the graphics, which, while fine, are far from perfect. Not only are the sprites and animations crude, but the backdrops are riddled with petty errors such as the fact that the lines on the road retreat to a perspective point at odds with other lines on the screen, in the Picasso-like way that children draw 3D objects.

Even more odd is the fact that the road markings continue onto roofs, which is just silly.

These peccadilloes aside however, Double Dragon II actually looks solid. It's not particularly flashy, but then, being a retro title, it doesn't need to be: all it needs to do is look like a game from the period, which it does. In general, the bulbous, colourful sprites stand up very well on mobile.

Part of the reason we never expected to see Double Dragon on handsets is that we assumed it would be too difficult to get the controls working on a meaningful range of devices. Qubic has in part confirmed this expectation, since the controls for this game rely on the presence of a good quality D-pad or thumb-stick.

We had absolutely no complaints on the K800i we used for this review, but if you're playing on a less cooperative handset, control might be an issue. Nevertheless, on the K800i everything's fine. You use the thumb-stick to move Billy around, while '7' and '8' let you jump up or diagonally across, and '*' and '0' let you punch and kick.

Bizarrely, the buttons are context-sensitive, so that when you're looking right '0' is punch and when you're looking left it's '*'. While we're sure this decision must have made sense to somebody at some point, it's deeply counter-intuitive in practice, and will see you blundering into several smacks in the face until you get your head around it - particularly since the kick points backwards rather than forwards.

You can execute jump kicks by jumping and, yes, kicking. Cleverly, if you press kick at the top of your arc you'll spin around in mid-air, while if you wait till you're descending you'll extend your leg more conventionally into the faces of your opponents; and this is by far the most powerful move.

Mashing the buttons in close-quarters, meanwhile, sees you leaping with your knee out, a move that will extract you from several inescapable scrums and, just as often, propel you from the side of a building against your wishes.

Double Dragon II is an extremely difficult game, largely because jumping from surface to surface requires pixel perfection and, even when you're on solid ground, it's all too easy to launch yourself off again. The combat is manageable, so it's all the more galling to see life after life go up in smoke when you're in the vicinity of a deadly drop.

Nevertheless, practice makes perfect, and this shouldn't necessarily deter you. So while it's difficult to fully recommend Double Dragon II - even more so to those who don't have a phone with a thumb-stick - anybody interested in retro beat-'em-ups and bizarre vintage curiosities won't be disappointed.

Double Dragon II: The Revenge

Despite being graphically flaky and having unintuitive controls, Double Dragon II is a serviceable conversion that does a good job of capturing the original's look and feel
Rob Hearn
Rob Hearn
Having obtained a distinguished education, Rob became Steel Media's managing editor, now he's no longer here though.