Whenever game developers go back to basics, the results can either be unexceptional or surprisingly enjoyable. Does the simple gameplay of Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition spell fun or are you better off picking fights with bullies in real life?
Squareboy vs. Bullies tells the story of Squareboy who's tired of being bullied. So, he trains with a martial arts master to fight back. I'm not sure if there's supposed to be a moral to this story but certainly fighting violence with violence doesn't solve anything. Besides, the stereotypical bullies here are all as dumb as a sack of bricks so there's literally no depth to the story at all. Therefore, the lack of commentary about bullying is probably by design. Anyway, the humour presented is pretty goofy with the bullies not being able to spell at all and they say some rather silly things. The visuals are fairly basic with simplistic yet colourful backgrounds and a "variety" of enemies that consist of the same bully repeated over and over again but with different hats. The best part about its presentation is the animation. Each character moves fluidly which makes them pop off the screen in a mildly impressive way.
As you can guess, Squareboy vs. Bullies is extremely simple to play. All you do is run around, jump, and attack. The attack button can be used in conjunction with various movement patterns and the jump button to perform different moves. You can also pick up and use found objects as weapons. It's extremely easy to learn and the controls are intuitive. However, the most annoying part of the gameplay is when a gang of bullies crowd around you and keep striking you with just the right timing to ensure that you never successfully get up. You can break out of this situation but doing so seems random. That being said, there is an even better solution...
Instead of trying to play Squareboy vs. Bullies like a normal beat 'em up, you can easily exploit the moves in order to beat every single stage without getting hit once. I did so by unleashing the dash attack which basically makes you invincible and harms every enemy in your path. All you need to do is time it for when they get up again and there you have it; consider Squareboy vs. Bullies completed without breaking a sweat. It may cramp your fingers up, though. Considering there are different enemies that have distinct attacks such as ones that can shoot, being able to tear through all of them by repeating this move over and over again makes the gameplay ultimately very one-note and completely unchallenging. Besides, it gets tedious fast even if you don't use cheap moves.
Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition includes 2 modes: Story and Arena. Story is a very short campaign while Arena is a collection of survival stages that test how many enemies you can beat up before biting the dust. You can play both modes cooperatively with a friend although doing so just feels weird due to the fact that player 2 is Squareboy's ghost and the camera never seems to care that they're playing. Seeing as the Story campaign features virtually no variety and the Arena mode is just more of the same over and over again, trying to get any enjoyment out of this package almost wholly relies on how much you dig the goofy humour.
When it comes to beat 'em ups, few games are as simple as Squareboy vs. Bullies: Arena Edition. The easily exploitable and basic gameplay combines with the overall lack of variety in a way that'll make you wish that the bullies win.
- + Easy to pick up and play
- + Goofy humour and smooth animation
- - One-note beat 'em up gameplay that's very tedious and easily exploitable
- - Extremely short with almost no variety
- - Playing cooperatively is weird