Smash Club finds the team at Mooff this time tackling the 2D side-scrolling brawler. Think Double Dragon for an easy reference point. One of the twists however, is that it covers so many different types of side-scrolling brawlers that the variety of not knowing what’s coming next in the campaign is half the fun. Some levels will see you covering that typical Double Dragon/Streets of Rage ground, having freedom of movement around the screen, and gradually working your way from left to right through the environment as you defeat foes. Other levels will have you defending yourself in a fixed arena, defending yourself through various waves of enemies. A third type will see you fixed to one plane of attack, but with an added blocking mechanic to make up for not being able to move vertically out of the way. Some arenas are such that you can be thrown out of them, causing a large loss of health on respawning. Boss fights also make an appearance.
Along with these constantly changing rules of engagement, come constantly changing environments. Players won’t get bored visually. Fighting ranges from familiar city back-alleys, boxing rings, atop trains, atop skyscrapers, cliffs, and many more that are best unspoiled.
The variety doesn’t end at the styles and environments either. There are 50 playable characters to collect, which is a huge roster to unlock, and each come with their own fighting styles and special attacks. The usual Mooff Games references abound with characters such as Old Ben, an obvious knock-off of Ben Kenobi.
An interesting tiered system separates the collectible characters. By playing through the campaign, you’ll level up from one star, to two, and so on. Characters are then placed in one, two, or three star tiers, and the number of stars you’ve levelled up to equals the amount of tiered characters you can take with you into combat. Stay with me.
For example, if you are at star level five, you could choose to take two second-tier characters and one first-tier character with you (2+2+1=5). Or you could take one of the second-tier characters, and three first-tier characters (2+1+1+1=5), or a third-tier and second-tier character (2+3=5), and so on. It’s a great system that keeps you from overpowering your team by going in with five three-star characters. Initially, starting at level one, means you go into battle with just your one character.
There is so much to keep players occupied.
Weapons can be upgraded with collected coins, and purely cosmetic accessories can be collected in order to build your very own unique looking fighter. Halfbrick’s Dan The Man also sports this feature and it’s a great way to help players feel invested in the game.
There is both online and local co-op, the latter always good for laughs at a beer and pizza night. Also, progress is saved across your devices, from Apple TV to iPad and iPhone, an addition that really stands out now across Apple TV gaming. Going from big screen to small, and back again, and simply picking up where you left off is a real treat.
In case you can’t tell, I’m having a great time with Smash Club, and will continue to do so post-review. I’ve experienced an occasional bit of slow-down when the screen is filled with characters, but other than that I struggle to find any other complaints. Some may find it a bit hectic at those times when the screen is packed with brawlers, but that’s always been half the fun of these types of games, that sense of panic and chaos when you occasionally lose yourself in the mayhem.
The business model seems standard now for Mooff – free-to-play with an optional upgrade that comes with coins and some characters unlocked.
I genuinely can’t wait to see what Mooff Games brings next to ATV, whether it will be a port of something from the back catalogue (my personal fan request would be Blackmoor), or something new. Either way, it’s great to see a studio embracing Apple’s digital-only console with such gusto.
In A Nutshell:
In Smash Club: Streets of Shmeenis, the 2D side-scrolling brawlers of yesteryear come to Apple TV with an unpredictable variety and sense of fun typical of Mooff Games. Can’t wait to see what’s next.