A remake of the original 1988 arcade game, this XBLA title is so painfully awful that it makes you disproportionately grateful for every good beat-'em-up game you've ever played.
After a tutorial littered with spelling and grammatical errors spat me out into the game proper, I took control of either Billy or Jimmy Lee. I can't recall which - both are entirely forgettable. I'm made vaguely aware that the brothers are on a quest to avenge the death of their girlfriend - evidently they share more than their horrendous fashion sense.
And so I fought, stage after samey stage, goon after replicated goon, for fifteen levels. Attacks are a matter of simply mashing a combination of X and B, and occasionally holding RT to do a power attack - which uses the exact same animation as a regular attack, only slowed down. For some bizarre reason, you have a stamina bar in addition to a health bar. With one or two opponents, this isn't much of a problem, but Double Dragon II likes to throw crowds of enemies at you at once - probably to distract you from what a terrible time you're having - and once they surround you they will simply beat you into the ground, over and over again. Blocking is slow, dodging is pointlessly fiddly and Perfect Guards, which are executed when you block at a specific time, also use up stamina and so leave you completely open to a fresh wave of attacks. It isn't that it's difficult, it's just terribly imbalanced.
The fighting is inexcusably sloppy for a beat-'em-up, but if that wasn't bad enough, every so often the developer felt the need to throw an unnecessary quick-time event into the mix. These sequences are abysmally signposted and utterly pointless, and offer all the fun of a funeral.
And really, that's the bottom line of this game - it isn't fun. On any level. The story is non-existent, the fighting is unsatisfying, the stages are ugly, and Double Dragon II's idea of music is an infuriating ten second riff played on a never-ending loop. There came a point where I looked down and wondered why on earth I was still mashing the same buttons over and over again. Doing a tax return, having a colonic irrigation, enduring a particularly ghastly root canal - all of these things would be decidedly more engaging.
Between getting stuck on invisible walls, being forced to watch awkward cut-scene transitions, and having to repeatedly restart at a checkpoint due to a horribly executed platform sequence I can honestly say I didn't enjoy a second of it. Everything about it feels cheap and hastily thrown together. And to add insult to injury, there's no online co-op and survival and versus modes are just as unappealing as the main game.
The only saving grace is that playing Double Dragon II made me want to immediately go and replay Streets Of Rage and Final Fight - great games that are twenty years older with twenty times the polish. Save your Microsoft Points for a title that deserves them.
You can download Double Dragon 2 from Xbox.com for 800 Microsoft Points. But really, don't.
A disgrace to the name, the genre and the Xbox in general
- Makes anything else better by comparison
- Appalling presentation
- Music grates on the soul
- Shoddy, half-baked combat
- An insult to all other beat-'em-ups