With a multitap, four players can go head to head in the Versus mode. There are better things four people can do on a Friday night though Doubt’s have always been expressed about the content of Square’s long anticipated beat ’em up but nobody expected the results to be quite so bad. Trailers showing anime characters jumping from train carriages and leaping across buildings might have wowed the crowds at E3 but more discerning punters were willing to wait until some kind of in-game footage displayed The Bouncer’s true credentials. But while Square have never been shy to showcase reams of glossy FMV the gameplay has always been mysteriously absent from demos. Anyone who has the misfortune to spend full price on this game will soon realise why.
It was hoped that The Bouncer would show the way forward for the scrolling 3D beat ’em up genre but instead Square have taken a step back. It cannot be overestimated just how disappointing the final game is. Sluggish controls, a shallow narrative and a general lack of sophisticated combat results in a substandard gaming experience. Even die-hard Square fans will utter a cry of disgust after sitting through just a few minutes of this dross. But then what is easier? Coming up with novel and imaginative gameplay elements or resorting to cinematics? And it doesn’t matter how glossy the FMV is because ultimately it is non-interactive.
The problems with The Bouncer are pretty fundamental. 3D arenas have been created yet Square have decided to rigidly fix the camera viewpoints – giving ‘levels’ the appearance of pre-rendered backdrops. Most of the fight sequences take place in very contained settings and, strictly speaking, The Bouncer is not a scrolling beat ’em up at all. It is not unusual to be given just three opponents to fight – which might take as little as 30 seconds – before you are asked to sit through another FMV sequence for up to five minutes. The clumsy camera system means that you’ll often have to wander into uncharted areas; sometimes even head-on into the camera. A design flaw unforgivable on a next generation platform.
But it is the fighting which really lets the game down. Though many moves are provided – one for each button plus a block and a special move attack – the combat lacks any sophistication. When enemies are this easy to defeat, having a host of attacks matters little. Furthermore, counter-attacking and looking for weak spots in opponents is next to useless. Combat is eventually reduced to button-jabbing because enemies present little challenge.
The only redeeming feature involves the ability to power-up through a novel point scoring system. After each segment of the game you are awarded points for your achievements. Stats and extra moves can then be purchased. But again such a feature is pointless in a game that lacks drive and depth.
Yet The Bouncer’s major flaw is yet to come: the game takes little over an hour to complete! And although it is possible to go through the game several times to unlock characters and arenas for the Versus and Survival modes, there will be few who will be willing to go through the drudgery more than a couple of times. This is a game which can do nothing but damage Square’s reputation