“I’m here to shoot pixels and chew doughnuts but I’m all out of health”
The arcade brawler, to use the technical parlance, is perhaps one of my favourite genres of arcade games. Back in the 1990’s, you could easily find a simple side scrolling affair that pitted good guys against evil criminals.
Titles such as ‘Final Fight’, ‘Vigilante’ and ‘Double Dragon’ gave the player a chance to slap pipe against digital kneecaps. There was no moral ambiguity to your avatar’s quest for revenge.
They took your girl. You’ll take away their lives, one after another.
Armed with your fists and legs, your character did their best to strike down whatever enemies the game threw at you. Sometimes a dead enemy would drop items in return; food for healing, some jewellery (for points) and the occasional weapon. With the exception of games like ‘Cadillacs and Dinosaurs’ these weapons would normally consist entirely of melee devices.
Developed and published by FobTi Interactive, Donuts’n’Justice is a run ‘n gun affair of cops versus criminal henchmen. Each area is composed of a standard urban environment, complete with fuzzy retro graphics. The only thing to mar this idyllic setting is the torrent of enemies ahead and behind you. It’s a simple affair of ‘easy to pick up, difficult to master’ as you attempt to survive waves of enemies. There is no narrative reason as to why they must all die either.You have the choice of two male protagonists, either Mick Riggs or Nick Gordon. They certainly wouldn’t look out-of-place in a certain 80’s Miami police procedural either.
Playing the game
Donuts’n’Justice throws out the brawler rule of only close range weapons and gives you nothing but firearms. This doesn’t give the advantage as the enemies will bring their own firepower to even things out. Throughout this side scrolling mayhem your character can only take three direct shots/stabs before game over. Upon dying, there are no lives to continue your pursuit, as you’ll need to restart the level. You’ll lose every one of your accumulated power up/weapons too. Shooting an innocent will cause your weapon to jam. This is certainly problematic in later levels due to the quantity of enemies on-screen.
You can find items everywhere you go too. These include cash, weapons (everything from sub machine guns, to a .44 magnum), grenades, badges, or the titular doughnut. The latter will act as a health item to restore one of your three heart containers. However you can also find bullet proof vests that take a few bullets in the place of your precious health. Cash gives access to aesthetic-only hats to personalise your character. If you collect enough badges within each play through, you can access more powerful weapons. Most noteworthy, a bullet with a P gives a power boost to your gun. In addition, a mushroom provides helpful bullet time.
Donuts’n’Justice automatically scrolls you through each level and progression at the top of the screen. At the end of the line you’ll face off against a boss character, complete with his/her own health meter. Upon completion of the entire story you’re free to choose a ‘Boss Rush’ option on the main menu.
As a result, Donuts’n’Justice is challenging yet not impossible as you’ll slowly learn the pattern of enemies. The pallete of colours and pixelated characters gives the game a nice retro feel. The minimalist HUD displays all you need, like health/armour status, hi score and ammo counter.
Death animations are bloody yet without going over the top. I did get a chuckle out of luring some punks onto a subway track. Yet there isn’t much variance in enemies either; any of them take two pistol rounds to kill, or one shot with more powerful guns. The bosses are naturally more evasive but ultimately predictable and pose a medium challenge at best.
Its simplistic run-and-gun nature is cathartic for a while but it all boils down to simply surviving. Navigating bullets to fetch a doughnut/power up is arduous. Therefore, you may find yourself breaking even if you take damage along the way. Innocent civilians and rolling barrels force you to quickly dodge without the hint of slowdown impeding your motions.
The lack of lives/level restart is a painful reminder of how early video games used to be. A limited credit system that gives continuation would work better in this instance, allowing the player to progress quicker. The level progression bar fills quickly in early levels but will drag its feet later on. I personally recommended it for all its functionality and polish but this is a very common type of game. It breaks no boundaries and crosses no lines in this already full genre.
3 out of 5