July 30, 2001
The Bouncer - Review
There used to be a time when the side scrolling beat 'em up was the pinnacle of gameplay and excitement. Games such as Double Dragon, Golden Axe and Streets of Rage ruled the charts and captured the imagination (and money) of millions of gamers worldwide. In recent years the scrolling beat 'em up has given way to more traditional 1-on-1 fighting games such as Tekken, Street Fighter and Virtua Fighter, but Squaresoft and developers Dream Factory are hoping to rekindle the passion with The Bouncer. When the game was first announced over a year ago now the developers were promising full interactivity with the environments and plenty of excitement. While the latter may be true, the former is sadly missing, and it's a big loss.
|A bouncer's work is pretty tough.|
The Bouncer follows the fortunes of three bouncers; Scion, Kou and Volt who all work together at the same neighbourhood bar. One day a secret attacker ambushes the three bouncers and kidnaps Scion's girlfriend, Dominique. Naturally, the game centres around finding and rescuing Dominique who holds a terrible secret involving the Mikado Corporation and her own importance. The game takes you deep into the Mikado headquarters where you are required to use great fighting skills to defeat all the enemies and uncover the terrible plot.
|Echidna is one bad assed mother.|
The Bouncer is split up into three main sections. The majority of the game will see you progress through the story mode, which will only take an hour or so to complete, but has slight variations depending on the character used. The Bouncer also includes a survival mode, which is pretty standard fare while the multi-player mode adds some longevity to the game overall but is no where near as enthralling as a dedicated 1-on-1 beat 'em up. One neat feature with The Bouncer is that the game unlocks almost 20 characters, including the enemies and bosses, for use after completing the story mode. The fighting in The Bouncer is very reminiscent of the Japanese PSOne hit Erhgeiz which is not a bad thing. The fighting is a lot of fun with a huge variety in the moves. As you defeat the enemies you earn points that allow you to "purchase" upgrades such as new moves or increased health etc. This becomes vital as you progress through the game and encounter increasingly difficult enemies.
While it all sounds like a great game something has gone horribly wron between the games announcement and it's release. The game has turned into more of an interactive movie then a beat 'em up. You'll be watching 2 or 3 minutes of superbly rendered movies before fighting a handful of opponents, saving the game and then being dished out several more minutes of, once again, superbly rendered movies. The only benefit to this is the ability to change characters before entering the next fighting sequence. However, as much as I love computer generated movies, and go to almost anything with CG on the big screen, it all gets too much in this game.
Squaresoft, the developer and publisher of The Bouncer, are most commonly known for their massive RPG series Final Fantasy. Indeed Final Fantasy X is one of the most anticipated games on Playstation 2. Expect an Australian release for that game in early-mid 2002.
Sadly the game is also missing a lot of the branching storylines promised. There is one point in the Mikado Headquarters when each character has his own path, and Kou's password battles are fun, but it's only a small portion of the game. Also gone is the promised interaction with the surroundings. You may be standing right next to chair but try as you might you can't pick it up and smash it over the opponents head. Want to kick a guy into the air and onto a table nearby? Can't do it. It could have added a whole new dimension to the game.
Although the surrounding screenshots give you some idea as to the quality of the graphics it's not until you see it moving that you truly appreciate how much effort has gone in to this title. From the opening sequence in the bar to the final battle your jaw will be on the ground, it's that good. The character animation is superb although some of the enemies, especially the early ones, seem too robotic for my liking. Although the game looks stunning, there is one horrific flaw that distracts from the gameplay. That flaw is the camera angles. At times the camera with put your behind a box or wall fighting an enemy completely blind. There isn't even an option to rotate the camera, or put it directly behind your characters. It's horrific and probably the worst I've seen in years.
|Three heroes heading into battle.|
Sound-wise The Bouncer is as impressive as the graphics. This is the first game to use Dolby Digital 5.1 sound which truly immerses the player The developers obviously know their stuff with some atmospheric music behind the action while the effects are hard hitting action and crunches as you land the punches. The speech is also very well done with he baddies sounding bad assed while the good guys come up with some typically lame comments.
The Bouncer has been a nightmare to review. One the one hand the graphics and sound are simply stunning, but on the other hand the game is so short lived and is lacking in some aspects of gameplay. Hopefully when, or if, the developers ever decide to do a sequel they will put a lot more effort into the gameplay and include the features that were expected with this game. It really is hard to recommend you buy The Bouncer, unless you are a complete CGI and beat 'em up fan. The safest bet is to go to your local video games store and hire it for a few hours, because that's about as long as you will play it for.
|The opening kidnapping scene.|
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