Release Date: 1989
Players: 1 – 2
Alternate Title: N/A
Model #: AK-050
Programmer: Dan Kitchen
This port of the arcade classic came along very late in the 2600 lifespan and stands apart from every other home version of the game. Unlike every other version of the game, this one is completely unplayable. Not because of the poor graphics or the even poorer controls, but due to the fact that the difficulty is way beyond anything ever seen in a video game. In fact the manual calls the game “The Ultimate Challenge,” and it isn’t joking.
The setup is that the Black Warrior gang has kidnapped Marion, one of the would-be hero’s girlfriend. It’s up to twins Billy and Jimmy Lee to take on the machine gun wielding Shadow Boss and his gang in order to save her. Hopefully Marion likes being a part of the Black Warrior gang, because Billy and Jimmy don’t stand a chance.
Typically in video games whatever enemy you are facing (aliens, gangs, etc) will send their weakest warriors to face off with you first, which gives you a chance to gain experience and become battle tested so you can complete the final challenge. Apparently the Shadow Boss is a video game fan because he doesn’t follow suit and instead sends the best of the best to face off with you right out of the gate. The first generic bad guy you face has the potential to not only kill you, but to deplete all of your reserve lives in a matter of seconds. With frightening precision he will kick, punch, and elbow you into submission. They are so fearsome and confident that they will be able to murder you with ease that they will only attack you one at a time. If you have ever wondered what would have happened if you walked up and sucker punched Bruce Lee, then this is a perfect illustration.
It doesn’t help matters that the controls are virtually impossible to get a handle on. The 2600 joystick is simply incapable of delivering all the moves you would need to survive. In order to kick you have to hit down and the fire button at the same time, and to throw an elbow you have to go diagonally at a precise angle that in half an hour of gameplay I was never able to pull one off. Things get a little easier if you can get your hands on the bat weapon that shows up on the second screen, however 99% of the people who play this will never see that far. According to the manual all four levels from the arcade version are in the game, although that might be a lie since they know nobody will get past the first level.
I have been playing video games for over three decades now, and despite my best efforts the most bad guys I was able to kill in a single play through was four. Four lowly henchmen. Even using the turtle shell fighting style of standing in the corner and kicking air until the bad guys walk into my foot, i was only able to kill four. If you are looking for a game that will completely break your spirit and make you feel like you are terrible at video games, this is a great way to go. If you want to actually play Double Dragon, look for a different port.