The beat ‘em up genre is one that has largely gone the way of the dodo. Gamers who grew up during the gaming industry jump start that Nintendo brought probably have fond memories of playing games like River City Ransom, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, and the like. The genre largely had little much in the way of depth or variety, but was great for playing with friends or just random people at arcades.
Spyborg is a Beat ‘em up for the Wii developed by Bionic Games, a studio consisting of several former lead designers from Insomniac games, Obsidian games and Blizzard, and published by Capcom. The game original found luke warm reception when it was originally announced, resulting in a change from an action game with puzzle elements to a straight to form beat ‘em up.
The game has a fairly unique art style, a bit more welcome than the typical characters seen in the genre. The main characters are cyborgs with a number of robotic limbs and weaponry. Each main character is nicely detailed, as are the levels to a degree, but the enemies suffer from largely the same downfall as the entire genre. Most of the enemies look largely the same, with simple weapon or palette swaps dictating a change. Somewhat annoyingly these “new” enemies are constantly introduced when you see them for the first time, despite largely being the same as the previous doppelganger.
There isn’t really much new in the game, both in respects to the genre and to the console’s controller. Three characters to choose from, two per level that you can swap between. You have the slow but strong brawling robot, the quick but weak female ninja, and middle ground leader of the pack soldier. Their moves are largely the same with the special being different, and the strength or speed of their attack differing between characters. The two attacks can be combined together in a chain, but you’re often better off just slamming the normal attack button. Instead of bettering the normal recipe they stuck with the same one, resulting some pretty repetitive and uninspired combat.
Each level has waves of enemies coming at you, which you need to destroy. It’s a pretty simple equation, but the game seems to believe that its a slower game than it actually is, adding a blocking and dodging element to the game. If you’re like going to be using the block the most out of the defensive abilities, and usually have a poor time timing it eventually choosing just to kick the enemy’s ass as quickly as you can try. The number of enemies the game sends at you only makes this sloppier and more hectic.
The use of the Wiimote’s motion controls and targeting reticule is perhaps the most perplexing addition to the game. As is usually the case, the motion controls often respond poorly, either resulting in you needing to over-exaggerate the motion or trying to remain as still as possible to get the next move just right lest the game take you breathing as the full motion. Luckily this feature can be avoided by changing the function to using a button instead of motion.
As you progress through the game you’ll quite frequently notice out of place shapes in the levels. These shapes are hidden items, or switches that you need to make appear using a feature that utilizes a targeting reticule. At first it was an interesting little element to the game, and quickly became a bore. You target the shape, hit the A button, and either the B button after that or swing your controller down, depending on if you choose motion control or not. During the first act this is use solely for finding boxes or switches to extend bridges, but after that point you have to use this feature to show hidden enemies so you can attack them. Unfortunately, this feature cannot be disabled or changed, so it just becomes a nuisance.
The beat ‘em up genre is not one known for being easy, largely due to being a big arcade favorite aimed at getting you to spend as many quarters as you can. Despite not being an arcade game, Spyborg is still difficult, and the curve is fairly unfriendly. The first level is forgiving, and easy, allowing you to progress through it with great ease. Shortly after that the enemies become bastards, hell bent on killing you with their droves of robotic destruction.
Spyborgs is a beat ‘em up stuck in the past. The game borrows far too heavily from the genre, mimicking nearly every element of the genre as it was a decade ago. Nearly identical enemies, one button attacks, largely generic characters, and a steep difficulty curve create a frustrating experience, rather than one of nostalgia. The choice to use motion controls and a targeting reticule for certain elements in a hectic brawler is strange and a rather dated concept on the Wii. Unless you’re aching for a new game in the same dated beat ‘em up genre, I would suggest avoiding Spyborg.