If you’re a fan of side-scrolling beat ’em ups, you’re in for a treat with 99 Vidas, a real-time painting and decorating simulator from Hasbro. The latter part’s not true: it’s a beat ’em up from QUByte Interactive.
Legend has it that an artefact exists that bears the holder 99 lives. In the wrong hands, this could spell disaster for society as we know it. Fear not! The Guardians of the 99 Vidas (not a ™) protect the artefact, so The Avengers can get stuffed.
Scratch that. They lost it.
So, your duty, as one of the guardians, is to retrieve the artefact, save the world and get back home in time for lemonade and cake. It’s all based on a true story. It’s true.
An Origin Story
Any decent throwback side-scroller needs an intro sequence on repeat, and 99 Vidas doesn’t disappoint. It’s a game in beautiful Technicolor that give you a choice of four warriors to choose from. That’s the first curveball to phase us as there’s six, count ’em, characters from the select screen, plus another five to unlock. This is already better than the sliced bread I had earlier.
Each character has two stats: strength and speed measured on a scale of one to four; one being as hard as a wet flannel, four for the win. They have access to an element too; Earth, Wind and Fire, plus a bit of Bee Gees, and Marvin Gaye – a super attack, if you will.
Usually, I opt for the brutes as a polar opposite of myself, but I tried out Four Eyes, Catman and Hannah first. They aren’t their real names, but to protect their hidden identities. Except for Hannah. The character taking me through was Oak! (exclamation intentional) a Dr Strange cosplayer, but it doesn’t matter who you choose for the story, just your play style.
Hit Me Player
Controlling your characters is pretty natural, either using the analogue stick or d-pad to move them, Y button to punch, B to jump and X for kick. There’s a little tutorial video from the extras menu that shows you how to play which is relatively brief but touches on the combo element.
Build up your score by button mashing punch or kick, but for the real players out there, you can mix up the buttons to pull off a string of moves for multipliers. Double-tap in a direction plus punch or kick and you will complete a blitz move that can be mixed up with basic button combos.
It’s easy to pull off and makes you look like a ninja.
No side-scroller could be without broken bottles or baseball bats to caress the faces of onlookers, but 99 Vidas takes it one further with special moves. The first can be performed with R1, which uses your element and a cheeky little attack. It does eat into your health though.
The second is the super attack. Made up of two bars, you press the A button for a devasting move that will make your enemies fill your pants. Max out the bars by defeating the waves of enemies, but you can use this attack when only half full. Just be sensible with it. Violence isn’t always the answer.
Hey, I Know You
Each stage is the traditional stroll from left to right and hitting anyone who approaches you, and features some gorgeous scenes. The character models are great too, and 99 Vidas feels like playing a 90s arcade game in your living room (or toilet if playing in handheld).
After a good old scrap, you retire to an upgrade shop after each stage where you can increase your health and learn a new move (the classic left, left, up, down, pick your nose, Y button). Focus on one move, and you really will see an improvement in hitting power.
There’s a continuous nod to classic titles throughout the game and 99 Vidas fires on all cylinders for video game crusties and retro whores everywhere. There are little nods to Final Fight, the Streets of Rage 2 soundtrack shows up on the second stage and even hints at The Simpsons arcade game – arguably one of the best arcade games ever.
There’s an evident football theme at the start; you have a lot of thugs sporting team shirts, and when you kick them, they roll and hold their knee like one of these footballing ‘alpha-males’. Schmucks. Even the first boss is a ripped version of Maradona – he also wears an Argentian top.
But it’s not all football references. There are characters like Alice (that bird from Wonderland), carrying a dead rabbit, King from Tekken (for copyright reasons, his name is Tigra) there’s even a reference to a Japanese comedian affectionally known as Hard Gay. I’d say look it up, but you might want to set up a VPN.
More Than One Way To Punch A Henchman
There’s a silly amount of features to choose from in 99 Vidas – from local play (for up to four players) to online play. Even the extras have features other than volume control and subtitles. Take your pick from a fan art gallery, tutorial, credits… erm.. ok, there’s still a lot of features and difficulty levels.
There are even in-game achievements. Is there anything they haven’t thought of? There are eight pages in total that you unlock through each playthrough. One of my personal favourites was called A winner is you. Anyone familiar with Dragon Ninja will get the reference. If you’re not familiar with the title, now you are.
One thing worth noting is 99 Vidas is old school in nature when it comes to gameplay, so even on the easiest setting (Izzy), there are no continues. Once you’re dead, you’re not alive and in fact, dead. There’s also a friendly-fire option from the in-game menu, in case you want to ‘accidentally’ hit your mates. I’m having a Double Dragon relapse.
I could go on, but I’m wary of the word count, and allegedly gamers don’t read. Let’s sum it up then. 99 Vidas is bloody brilliant (there are no blood effects, I’m British with good teeth, and that’s ‘what we say’). The single-player mode is fantastic, but the game shines more with a friend or two.
99 Vidas isn’t a spin-off or a retro title that’s cashing in on the market, this is almost a tribute and testimonial to what it was like to play back in the arcades, and eventually on home consoles (though they were never as good as the arcades of Neo Geo). The genre continues to bounce back, but forgetting what type of category the game pigeonholes into, 99 Vidas is a great standalone game that will bring you lots of joy, punching people in the face, smashing them over the head with a broken bottle and lighting them up. I hear this is being made into a Disney Junior series with live-action.