Taking the slice and dice genre in a different direction, Samurai Beatdown creates an identity of its own due to its inventive rhythmic touch mechanic and captivating visuals. For $1 the game is worth the money despite being a bit short on content and not having secondary features such as leaderboards to obsess about. If you’re searching for a quick action game that has beats to die for then Samurai Beatdown is a game you need to pick up ASAP.
+ Music is the very definition of good buttery beats.
+ Touch mechanics work perfectly.
+ The three difficulty settings each provide a nice challenge without becoming too hectic or annoying.
+ Art design has a ton of nice flourishes thanks to the varying locales.
- Having only five levels results in a rather abrupt ending and shortens the replay factor somewhat.
- Some additional samurai skills would’ve been nice to spice the action up.
Over the last few years video games have changed in more ways than one, especially when it comes to how we actually play them. Alongside the advances made in the field of motion control, gaming has also gotten a lot more touchy thanks to the advent of games that feature or revolve exclusively around touch controls.
More prominent in the mobile/handheld space, touch controls haven’t become the de facto standard for gaming, a situation that pleases me seeing as how I'm more old-school. Maybe it’s just because I have big hands, but I’ve always felt more comfortable playing a game and pressing buttons rather than pressing a virtual control pad and hoping every touch would register. Even though touch controls are becoming an ever growing aspect of mobile gaming, I’ve tried my best to stay away from such games – that is until now. Perhaps it’s just the theme or the beautifully composed buttery beats, but Samurai Beatdown is proof that touch controls can work wonderfully when the concept calls for it.
Hearing the name Samurai Beatdown you may think it’ll be an epic sword fighting game with lots of action, buckets of blood, and if we’re lucky it’ll feature the occasional moment of dismemberment. Samurai Beatdown offers plentiful action, but the game takes a much more subdued approach all while presenting an imaginative experience that will had me tapping my foot with every sword slice I made.
Presented as a side-scrolling 2D game, Samurai Beatdown is all about simplicity at its finest. From the picturesque levels and character design that feature wonderful animated sprites, Samurai Beatdown is a nice game to look at. Certain elements may not be as breathtaking as other games that follow a visual aesthetics of going for a moving painting look such as Muramasa: The Demon Blade, but everything works in the game whether it’s the design of the ever silent stoic warrior or the weird floating cat like creatures that pop up here and there.
There are elements of Samurai Beatdown that may seem familiar such as the armored samurai foes clad in black & red since the game doesn’t totally go down the rabbit hole of insanity to do anything too outlandish. Even then I was impressed with the artistic consistency of the game since everything managed to hold my attention and more importantly my interest despite seeing the same foe that I already killed thirty-three times.
The base approach of taking the route of simplicity is especially apparent in how Samurai Beatdown plays. By now you may be wondering what sort of gameplay action the game entails since I’ve already hinted at how it made Mr. Touch Control Pessimism i.e. yours truly, a believer if not a fan of such a control method. Well Samurai Beatdown provides some true gameplay brilliance as the game revolves around touch the screen in order to attack enemies with a basic sword swipe. It may sound like someone merely made an advanced version of Fruit Ninja with samurai’s in place of watermelons and strawberries, but that isn’t the case.
Alongside tapping the screen, Samurai Beatdown is all about doing action to the beat of the music. Not exactly on the same level of gameplay/music harmony as Rez, Lumines, or Child of Eden, Samurai Beatdown encourages players to have their timing perfect so each attack you perform goes with the beat of the music. Such a mechanic results in a perfect pace and some rather hectic back and forth screen touching on the advanced difficulty levels.
Samurai Beatdown isn’t a game in which you can turn your brain off merely to touch the screen aimlessly and enjoy the pretty visuals since it does require some precise timing. Touching enemies to kill them is easy, but knowing when to touch them is the tricky part since I was reward with three types of grades: Poor, Good, and Perfect. Each attack grade has different score values so there is definitely a reward in performing your feats of samurai excellence with true skill through good timing since it'll yield a higher score.
It was really easy for me to get into the rhythm of the game since the music was one of the biggest surprises to grace my ears this year. Branching out from some of the pre-established modern samurai music motifs that go for a more hip-hop vibe such as Afro Samurai, Samurai Beatdown presents an impressive pallet of music tastes ranging from techno laced tracks to those with a more classical backing. Aside from my desire for each enemy attack to provide a musical cue (think Rez but with sword fighting), there’s honestly nothing wrong with the OST of the game other than that I can’t download it and listen to it whilst I work. The beats in the game are beyond strong and I applaud the team at Beatnik Games for not aping the style of the RZA or Jun Seba and trying something different.
All together I was impressed with how responsive the game was, at least on the device I played it on, since it played perfectly. The only issues that ever arose during my play sessions were tied to two ever constant things in video games: longevity and variety. As a game that only costs a $1 Samurai Beatdown is a steal in the quality department but there are only five stages and three difficulty levels. Playing on the advanced settings did result in a slightly more hectic, but still enjoyable experience, though it doesn’t pad the length too long. I know I shouldn’t be complaining about the length of a mobile game but I honestly just wanted to experience more of the game since it’s that much fun. The sheer simplicity of the game in conjunction of those ever mesmerizing beats had me wishing Samurai Beatdown was at least ten stages or more so I could play it all day.
Perhaps the short length of the game was for the best since new enemy types are rare and sadly there aren’t additional gameplay mechanics like new weapons or attacks. Again my slight criticism of the game isn’t that harsh out of touch since this is an indie mobile game we’re talking about but at the same time I felt like there was some untapped potential within the setting of the game to do more. Why not do boss stages or even show the power of the samurai through an additional attack?
Slice and dice games are known for being a bit one note and ultimately dull but Samurai Beatdown proves that such a thing isn’t always the case. Stylish in its presentation and musical direction, the game provides an inventive take on the genre thanks to its rhythmic touch gameplay scheme that encourages true skill over brute force. Some additional content would’ve been nice, but with a $1 price tag Samurai Beatdown is an absolute steal since the quality is high and it provides the epitome of mobile gaming: fun action that’s quick and dishes up pure enjoyment.