Bad Street Brawler

Bad Street Brawler
1
Game Name: Bad Street Brawler
Platforms: NES
Publisher(s): Mattel Electronics
Developer(s): Beam Software
Genre(s): Brawler
Release Date: Sep, 1989

Bad Street Brawler either had an ingenious, or clueless, marketing team. You see, Bad Street Brawler really is a bad street brawler. It’s even more funny when they print it right on the box. Interestingly enough, it seems to be a rehash of a Beam Software game from 1987, that Mattel must have bought out to rework into the first “Power Glove Gaming Series” title. That makes it one of a handful of games programmed specifically to utilize the infamous Power Glove. Even if you had said glove, it likely wouldn’t make the game any more enjoyable.

For the purposes of this review, it’s necessary to go over some background of the Power Glove. I had a friend back then who actually owned one, and it was always in various states of disrepair. The first time, when enthusiasm was high, the whole rig was set up. It required two sensor bars to be placed, horizontally and vertically, on the sides of the television. These sensors would then work with a third on top of the glove to triangulate the position of the glove – the theory being that you could “punch” at the screen, and it would register the movement. This worked for Mike Tyson’s Punchout! reasonably well, though we could never quite figure out how to punch high, low, or with the other hand (documentation, as I recall, was not the Power Glove’s strongest suit). It also required you to hold your arm up, roughly level, for the entire time of playing the game. If you drifted out of the sensor zone, red lights would glow on the bars and the game would get fussy. Holding your arm up for great lengths of time is not exactly easy, and I’m reminded of the scene in Payback when Mel Gibson forces the two goons hold heavy suitcases out at arm’s length. Just like them, our arm would gradually start drooping down throughout the fight. Unlike the movie, no one was there to shoot us as a penalty.

The next time I went over, the Power Glove was running on a different, non-sensor preset. In this one, you could use the fingers of the glove to emulate pressing different buttons. This time the test was Super Mario Brothers, and a flick of the index finger would make Mario jump. I suppose the idea was to do a sort of Minority Report- style of controlling a game entirely with hand movements and gestures, but it never quite worked out. The hand movements it understood were never intuitive, it just registered if a sensor in one finger moved or not. It also required great, forceful movements to register properly. Allegedly, the benefit of this mode was that you could program different fingers to work as button combinations; the intent being that the glove would give you greater control because A+B could now become simply, a move of the ring finger. Maybe we missed how to program it, or maybe we were testing games that didn’t support the feature, but it never worked. We tried various other combinations like throwing devil horns or a Hawaiian shaka sign, but the glove cared not. We moved on.

The final time I saw the glove was in its third, least impressive configuration. The glove had a control pad built into the forearm, and you could use that as you would a regular controller – with the exception that you had to do everything with one hand. The issue of holding your arm upright for extend periods of time also came back in force. It was no better than a controller, and for that, the glove vanished, presumably sold.

Is he... tickling that enemy?

Now I’ve never played Bad Street Brawler with the Glove, but based on the above, I have a pretty good idea of what it would be like. Also benefiting me is the fact that most of YOU have never played BSB with the Glove, and never will. So it’s an interesting aside, and one which I will talk about more when I get to the controls, but I assure you it’s not going to even raise the novelty factor of this game.

Bad Street Brawler comes from the bowels of Mattel, which does not have an enviable track record when it comes to making or financing games. BSB proudly carries on this tradition. I can say with some confidence that it is the most inoffensive fighting game I have ever played. Most of these styles of games are some kind of recreation of “the streets,” with someone’s girlfriend being kidnapped and junkies with knives trying to stop the forces o’ good. Bad Street Brawler features Duke Davis – a former punk rocker (to give him street cred) and “the world’s foremost martial arts vigilante,” a assertion which he never actually proves. He trolls around wearing sunglasses, a yellow wife-beater, and matching yellow Hulk Hogan wrestling tights. He is accosted by bulldogs, circus midgets with barbells (which they can spin fast enough to fly short distances), and what appears to be an intentionally retarded guy with a bat. A gorilla will frequently appear as a boss character, for reasons unknown, but he appears enough that he might actually be intended to be the major villain. Perhaps Duke is tracking down his escaped monkey friend? I’m not sure what the point of all this is supposed to be, but there you are.

There is only one piece of music throughout the entire game, and it is used as the theme and background for levels. Boy oh boy, does it get tiring. It’s a fair recreation of a common tune, at least up until the point that someone comes in for a “solo” with a squelchy, twice-as-loud attempt to, I guess, rock out with the NES version of high notes. Static tells me the actual pre-solo riff is called “12 Bar Blues” and, well I’ll just let him explain it:

“It’s the most basic blues progression that is the backbone of hojillions of songs like Shake Rattle and Roll, Johnny B. Goode, and The Beatles “For You Blue”. Your music trivia for the day!”

The streets of Bad Street look rushed, at best. Background graphics loop endlessly (I don’t know HOW many times I passed “Joe’s” on the first stage), and solid colors make up the majority of the scenes. Foliage or other foreground objects are frequently placed in the levels to give depth, but which actually result in masking short enemies and your attacks. I was killed by dogs once because I couldn’t see over or through a piece of shrubbery. There is some variety to the locations, but the enemies and their attacks remain mostly the same throughout.

Yeah, I really don't know either.

The only real ingenuity is in the controls, but not in the manner you’d expect. Duke has only three attacks per stage (A, B, and A+B), but these attacks change with every level. They’re not earned or chosen by your performance in the previous level, you simply get a new set of tools each time. Before every stage, you get a small window of Duke and a punching bag, with some pseudo-Taoist bullshit phrase underneath. Here you can try out your moves for that level on the punching bag for as long as you want before you begin. It’s a nice system, and the “training” is a nice touch that goes right along with it.

It would be worth more if the moves were impressive, which they are not. Sure, they do the job, but without much flash or power behind them. You may also be unintentionally weakened by your combo of moves for a certain stage, and some like the jump kick are far, far more useful than others, like the low kick. The “trip” move ties with the “ear pull” move for sad comedic value. Although, I must give a point to any game that includes the Stooges’ “hit fist so it pinwheels and hits foe” punch.

The intent of the game is to travel across the length of the street (measured by a row of houses at the top) before time or life runs out. This was mildly challenging, until I realized you could simply run and avoid most enemies. At points along the way, the screen will stop scrolling until you defeat a mini-boss, but any enemies you have “accumulated” up to that point just turn and disappear. After every boss fight, what appears to be a flasher in a trench coat throws an object at you that refills your life, making a fairly easy game even easier. Also after defeating certain enemies, they will release something that looks like a black balloon. If you catch them, you will throw all the ones you have accumulated into a dumpster at the end of the level for a point bonus. See! He really is cleaning up the streets!

The Power Glove manual lists the specific glove controls intended for Bad Street. In theory, they sound okay. You move your hand in space left and right to go in that direction, up to jump, down to crouch. You bend your thumb for the B button, the middle finger for a grab with A+B, and flick your hand left or right for A and the appropriate direction. The only Glove-specific move is to push your hand toward the television for a “Glove Zap,” which I presume clears the screen. Judging by these controls, and my experience with the Power Glove, there would be a lot of Glove Zaps as I reach to turn the console off, and a lot of A+B grabbing moves as I extend my middle finger.

Don’t get me wrong, the Glove would have been a fair idea if it worked as it was marketed – hypersensitive technology that would allow you to grip or control items in the game with your hand. The fact that it sold terribly, and has never been tried again on any system, would seem to prove that my experience with it was not unique. It would also seem that special “Power Glove Gaming Series” games like this one didn’t use or interact with the glove well enough to make much of an impact. So what you’re left with is a goofy-ass game without its main gimmick, and it’s no wonder the game itself sucks.

 

The Good

It’s an even more needlessly cute version of a game from two years earlier, shipped out as the first Power Glove title. But if the Power Glove had worked, it would be ever-so-slightly more interesting as an interactive brawler.

The Bad

Even if you had the Glove, it would only allow you to handle shit.

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