Were you also one that grew up playing brawlers? Pouring tons of time in to arcade style brawlers, trying to get good enough to get paste that pesky stage? I know I use too. I use to play a fair bit, all kinds of styles, Mainly Golden Axe was my favourite as a kid and later in life Scott PIlgrim Vs The World opened my eyes to the genre all over again beyond that Double Dragon Neon was a great time sink as a played a lot of that. When I got the chance to review 99Vidas I was so happy to play a game that harkens back to my childhood and some of the best co-op style games for a 2 to 4 players, a genre offering great couch co-op. I go to a friends place every sunday for a gaming session, our way of keeping connected from high school, I was so excited to be able to play 99Vidas with a friend… Sadly I was quickly awakened to the fact that 99Vidas is low tier brawler that draws inspiration from the brawlers of the past, except it draws inspiration from all the wrong points.
99Vidas is a game made in unity by the Brazilian game company QUByte Interactive in association with the Brazilian gaming podcast 99Vidas. Taking the cast and their loved ones and putting them into this old school style Beat’em Up. The game also strived to modernize the Beat’em Up genre, sadly it doesn’t feel like it was modernized by any means.
There are 3 modes, Campaign, Versus, and Survival. This review is mainly focused on the campaign so I will touch on the Versus mode here. The versus mode in 99Vidas is pretty boring. You pick one of the stages from the campaign and then battle it out, health pickups drop down and they fill a fair bit of health meaning fights will tend to go to timer and not to loss of HP. The versus mode is actually quite boring. Plays like normal but health pickups make it boring as it will almost always go to time. The survival mode is unlocked after beating the campaign and is just a simple survival mode, nothing special.
One way they tried to modernize the game is by adding upgrades to the game that can be purchased after each stage. This is nothing new to Beat’em Ups. The upgrades are for your combos and to buy lives, as this game runs on lives like old school games. Scott Pilgrim Vs the World came out long before hand and had a better upgrade system. There is also Unlockable characters, to get these characters you have to beat the game with all previously available characters. While this would be ok normally and you can do this in easy mode, it just doesn’t feel worth it.
One other problem I have with with the upgrade system is if I play a few characters and upgrade moves if I have a friend come over and wants to play they cant use those upgrades I have worked to unlock. Upgrades are based on your logged in username and the the save file in general. If I have a fully upgraded character and want a friend to jump in fresh they have to start fresh making a barrier to entry harder to pull people in as you would be far more powerful than them, there is no shared upgrade points.
The plot and dialogue of this game is poor and laughably lazy. The plot is the generic big, bad, bald rich guy with a goatee steels this powerful artifact, called 99Vidas, that controls the elements and is using it to control life and death. You are one of the guardians of the 99Vidas and have to go and get the artifact. The game takes place over 6 stages and 2 bonus stages. At the end of each stage you encounter a boss with sub-par dialogue. Dialogue basically wrapping up to say something along the lines of “I have been instructed to make sure you don’t make it to our boss!” In the whole game there was only one good joke, it was at the beginning of the stage 5 boss. I won’t spoil it so you can go and watch a let’s play of it.
The art in 99Vidas is really good. The characters look nicely detailed in all of their pixel art goodness, the background and level is just gorgeous. Hidden in the background of 99Vidas is references to bosses in the game, and games of the past. Very noticeably at the the very beginning of the first level is a garage door that opens and closes to show a red car, this is obviously a reference to Double Dragon. The colour and contrast in the levels are truly beautiful. There are 2 bonus stages in 99Vidas that come with different art styles. The first is a child’s sketchbook look, with all the colour pencil and washed out looking characters. The other is a neon like walkway with a city in the background making everything look like it had its colour switched to negative and the environment keeping the negative look but neon cyberpunk. The animation is this game looks good but doesn’t feel all that good. You can basically input a combo twice in the span of doing it once, making it feel not that responsive. Each character has an element to them, once a combo is upgraded it starts to incorporate the element into the attack. These elements have no actual purpose to the game but work as part of the aesthetic of the game, look good but serve no point other than for the lore.The game just feels slow and floaty. As beautiful the animation may be it doesn’t feel snappy for a game like this.
The next just ok aspect of the game is the music. I won’t go on and on about the music because there really isn’t much to say, The music does match each stage, and it does change throughout the stage. The biggest problem is the music is not anything to write home about, it feels like background music, nothing spectacular, nothing that stands out. I spent anywhere between 10 – 15 hours playing 99Vidas and for the life of me can’t remember a tune, just remember the beach stage had a good tune.
One aspect of the sound that was incredibly aggravating is the noise that would come from a PS4 controllers speaker. If you picked up food, points item, die, or use a blitz attack a loud obnoxious noise would come from the controller. There are settings to change the volume of sound effects and music but no settings to change the audio coming from the controller. Many times I found myself smooshing my thumb over the speaker to muffle the horrible, distorted noise coming from the controller, which is sad because normally I like the small touches like that.
The worst part of 99Vidas is the gameplay itself. It feels unbalanced and cheap. Let’s start with the controls. There is a punch, kick, jump, special, and super button. There are two main combos. P,P,P,P and P,K,K,K. The game says the kick is slower but stronger than the punch, but I found the P,P,P,P combo was by far stronger than the P,K,K,K combo. Another move you can do is a blitz attack by double tapping a movement and then hitting an attack button, these are basically your dash attacks that have some range. Blitz attacks are incredibly weak. There are also two jump attacks, jump punch and jump kick. The jump kick just knocks enemies down and the jump punch stuns them for a brief second. The only attacks I used through the whole game were jump punch and the P,P,P,P combo as the others were basically useless. The Blitz attack using the punch button was really only good for destroying a few crates or hitting enemies at a distance. The Special attack can be used by hitting R1 on the controller or pressing both Jump and Punch. This was a area attack that costed some of your life. It was pretty useless but got triggered a lot, due to bad programming and slow combos. If an enemy grabs you there is no way to shake them off and move away, but instinctively I would mash the jump button to try and get away once im free. The game would, I assume, glitch and use the special costing me life. I would also do my P,P,P,P combo and then try to jump away from an enemy closing in from behind, due to the slow combo I was unable to jump and instead triggered the special attack losing more life. This was incredibly frustrating and lead to me getting hurt or dieing a lot as my life was being lowered drastically. Another move you can do is grab people by walking up close to them. By not having a designated grab button or using an attack button to grab I would find myself stalled out standing somewhere not sure why my combo isn’t working, which in turn would get me heavily damaged or killed. The one thing about this grab is you can inadvertently throw people across the area instead of doing a combo, rarely is this helpful. The Super is a 2 stage super. 1 bar is week compared to the 2 bar.. You hit circle and it deals damage to all enemies on screen, this came in so handy.
The enemies while look cool are sponges for damage later on, seemingly programmed horribly, and cheap. The enemies tracked the player so very well that if you were to move vertically often they would only be off by a couple pixels making it seemed that the A.I. was tuned to keep them at a certain range even when moving side to side they often kept the same distance between you and them. This was even more apparent when you would see three enemies all move in unison as they track your movement. The enemies also didn’t have much for combos, they would hit you to stagger and then hit you again just as your stagger broke leaving you unable to move. This became worse when there are multiple enemies. Them hitting you breaks your combo, grabs and blitz attacks. When your surrounded it is nearly impossible to fight without losing half or more life as they just beat you into stagger and keep you there, Again back to the A.I. tracking your movement made it hard to try and train them or get around so all were to one side, seeing as some would sometimes if not often stay the one distance away and move as you do. Another very annoying aspect is they have their own Blitz attacks. These can not be stopped or interrupted. If they Blitzed into you doing an attack they would plow through you breaking your combo and leaving you on the ground. Often these attacks would be triggered with next to no anticipation or telegraphing, making it incredibly hard to dodge if you were to close to them, also with slow combos you were guaranteed to get hit. Some enemies also like to stay back and use their blitz attacks often. Along with this telegraphing and anticipation leads into the bosses. The bosses are not fun, there is nothing to make them feel fun. There a couple that take time and a few retries to learn their patterns but their patterns are also fairly random. As the fight goes on and it gets harder they will spawn in 1 or 2 basic enemies which are notorious for holding you for the boss to hurt you and breaking your combo. These enemies just prove that the bosses were designed poorly. Their attacks have such little anticipation and telegraphing that I could not figure out the pattern for a couple of them. The way to beat bosses mainly was to put them in a staggered state by certain means depending on the boss, usually you had to avoid or hit them at specific times till they are staggered. If you hit them at the wrong time they would instantly retaliate with an attack that would always hit. The last boss on the other hand had no stagger and no pattern that I could discern, leaving it to seem like you are forced to hit him a once or twice and then get damaged, which sucks when you have only so many lives and then have to restart the stage when you lose them. The bosses were a chore to face instead of being fun. Some had attacks that were impossible to dodge or you had to be lucky. One boss would climb up off screen and drop down on you. Usually there is a shadow on the ground to show where they are and it shrinks to give you a sense of timing, but not this, I could never get the timing down and even if I was sprinting and jump I seemed to get hit perfectly on my head 90% of the time, again the 1 to 1 tracking of the A.I. I feel I have spent enough time droning on about the awful gameplay so I should move on.
99Vidas is a poor example of a Beat’em Up on gameplay. The art is amazing, the music is generic, the level design is ok if not frustrating. The game goes for $13.49 and I can strongly say it is not worth it. I got this game for free for the review, hell I choose it to review for the love of the old Beat’em Ups. I wanted to play this at my friends and see what the co-op is like. Even at free a would not recommend this game. Very quickly my friend became angry with this game and I had to force him to play more to help get some gameplay in for the review. This is a game that would not even be good to subject your friends too. There are let’s plays online and if you really want to see the art that is how you should do so. There are so many other better Beat’em Ups such as Scott Pilgrim Vs the World, Double Dragon Neon, Any rerelease of old sega Beat’em Ups like Golden Axe or Streets of Rage. Go and get Dragon’s Crown as it offers so much more and is a really good Beat’Em Up also get Mother Russia Bleeds, another pixel art Beat’em Up. You can even go for stuff like Diablo 3, it’s fun with friends or even Gauntlet would be closer to the Beat’em Up style but have the top down/isometric look. If your playing by yourself Odin Sphere Leifthrasir offers far more in art, exploration, gameplay and story, although its 2D side scrolling platformer Beat’em Up. But I have to say you must stay away from 99Vidas, it’s not worth the frustration, and your friends will not want to play, or learn they don’t want to play quickly.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.