I would wager a small percentage of people my age were more likely to be playing arcade games at home rather than in front of a pizza sauce covered, sporadically flashing, extremely loud arcade machine in their local mall. My dad was a computer programmer which meant I had access to a Commodore 64 around the mid 80's. I remember trading floppy discs with my best friend at the time and being on the receiving end of Double Dragon; which in my mind was an epic battle of good versus evil and resulted in pretending to be Billy while playing outside. I also had no concept of critical grading of games and didn't realize that DD was a terrible port for the C64 at the time. But when I heard that Aksys Games was brought Double Dragon to the iPhone / iPad platforms, I set out to re-live a slice of my past.
For those too young to remember Double Dragon, this side-scrolling beat-em-up puts you into the shoes of Billy and his twin brother Jimmy, a couple martial arts experts clearing the streets of crime in a partially destroyed NYC reminiscent of Escape from New York. The gang known as the Black Warriors kidnapped their love interest Marion and they set off to kick the crap out of anyone standing in their way. Classic arcade titles haven't had a great reception on the Apple platforms as of late. It's often difficult to please anyone that was used to joystick controls and getting them to adapt to the touchscreen.
There are two control schemes to choose from, Manual and Auto. Manual opens up the entire range of fighting moves to you with the separation of the kick and the punch buttons. Auto mode combines the two buttons and chooses the correct attack for you. You also have to adapt to the virtual controls, a task that has an extremely high learning curve. I yearned for an actual controller most of the time and often felt like the game wasn't registering my movement / attacks in Manual mode. It also covers a large chunk of the screen space on the iPhone / iPod Touch, basically a third. The developer should have allowed the controls to be somewhat opaque rather than solid to avoid losing track of enemies that wander up from the bottom of the screen.
However, the game is just as challenging as I remember. Punching and kicking your way through the six stages is definitely entertaining. If you have a friend nearby, you can use the Bluetooth functionality to play co-op as well. I was bummed that an online option wasn't available, but playing with a friend next to you allows for strategy changes on the fly. I did not care for the lack of a saving system though. Any game that's been rebuilt from the ground up should include a rudimentary saving function, even if it wasn't in the original. The game does come with Game Center functionality though as well as sharing tools to broadcast your stats to Facebook and Twitter.
Visually, I liked the completely redesigned character models and the smooth animations that that came along with it. Controlling Billy felt far more fluid than any version of the game that I've played previously. Beyond the lack of a transparent task bar, I also liked the rugged, stone-etched carvings in the lower menu. The color scheme is more flamboyant than I remember and really works well with the cheesy 80's vibe of the presentation.
The ridiculous soundtrack is just as fun as I remembered it to be. The sound effects, while silly, also made me grin. The entire package has a retro vibe and really sells the nostalgia for Double Dragon veterans.
There's a decent amount of replay value with this $3.99 iOS title. You can blow through the six stages pretty quickly if you have experience with the game already, but you can also unlock 24 more characters to use in the game. Finding a friend for co-op is also tons of fun when working together. However, the learning curve on the controls is steep and is going to turn away anyone that dislikes virtual controls right form the start. I recommend Double Dragon to anyone that wants to re-live their arcade days or anyone that wants to experience fighting games that kids were playing before Mortal Kombat rolled around.