I’m at a loss for words. Anyone who knows me is saying to themselves “That’s impossible. Shawn always has something to say”, but this time it’s absolutely true. There is almost nothing I can say that could possibly redeem this awful excuse for a game. Actually, that’s a lie. It’s short. That’s about it. On the opposite side of the coin I have plenty to say of course. Boring, uninspired, glitchy, unfinished….those are just a few of the words I’d use to describe a wholly unenjoyable gaming experience in Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons.
The game is pretty light on story right from the get go but that is to be expected. Brothers Billy and Jimmy are witness to the murder of Marian and they go off on a revenge fueled quest to get even. That’s it, that’s all. When you jump into the gameplay you’re subjected to one of the laziest combat systems I’ve ever come across in all my years of gaming. Each brother plays identically and they possess no more than a couple button mashing punch and kick combos as well as an elbow and a block option. There’s nothing more to it than that. You’ll find yourself repeatedly doing the exact same thing over and over again. It won’t be long before boredom sets in and you’ll want to turn this abomination off. Add in the fact that your enemies are about as cookie cutter as gingerbread men at Christmas and you’ll understand why I say this game is uninspired at every turn. Accompanying the horrible combat options is a difficulty level that is ridiculous; even on easy, and the lack of solid control gets you in trouble more often than not. One of my favourite issues was how enemies would get stuck off screen so you couldn’t actually hit them anymore. Nothing I like more than throwing air punches at non-existent bad guys.
Wander of the Dragon abandons the straight forward back and forth gameplay of Double Dragon games of the past as the development team went for an 8-way movement style, but your fighter never really responds as he should in the direction you’re trying to move him. One particularly bad section has you platforming off a log onto a ledge and it took me upwards of ten tries just to have Billy (or Jimmy, I don’t bloody well know) navigate to the edge of the log without falling, let alone make the jump. The developers try (in vain) to liven things up with offset tasks. You’ll find that you have to kick off a bad guy hanging from your leg as the helicopter you’re riding decides to go vertical or you will have to use a crane hook to take out foes in another part of the game. These additions to the gameplay are useless additions for the most part.
Visually this ‘upgrade’ from the arcade/NES classic barely looks better than what your trusty old 8-bit system offered in the first place. Backgrounds are bland, and as mentioned before, the cookie cutter enemies are the same throughout. You’ll fight the same lame baddie on level 15 that you did in level 1. Actually, no you won’t because no self-respecting gamer will make it to level 15 unless they’re a glutton for punishment. One thing I can say as a positive is that the cutscenes are done in a great animated comic book page style that I found fairly enjoyable to watch. If only the developer had taken the same care and attention to the game as they did here and you might have been presented with a game worth playing.
Should you want to play with a friend, and can find one that is equally sadistic as yourself, you have the option of co-op play or versus mode, but these are playable locally only as the only online option is a leaderboard. Throw in a survival mode and that’s the whole game in a nutshell. I’m not saying that making the co-op and versus modes an online option would have made the game any better, but in this day and age it’s a pretty glaring omission.
If you pay any attention to the sound in game you’ll find basic tunes on a never ending loop that’ll surely make you want to poke something sharp in your ears. Not all of them are bad, to be fair, but graded on a whole they’re fitting with everything else offered in the game which is awful. In one boss battle the same 5-second bit plays on loop the entire time. There isn’t a whole lot of voice work but what is there is passable in that cheesy over-acted style these types of games are known for.
On the whole there is nothing I can recommend about this game except to stay far away from it. I subjected myself to the torture that is Double Dragon II: Wander of the Dragons so that you wouldn’t have to and I beg you to take my advice and move on to anything else. Really, ANYTHING ELSE.