There’s Nothing “Deadbeat” About It
Developer: Deadbeat Productions
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PC, PS4 and Xbox One
MSRP: $15.00
Copy Provided By Publisher

Whenever evil pops its nasty head out, there’s always someone to respond to the call. Superman flies down on his enemies, Batman beats them to a pulp with help from his utility belt and Felix of Deadbeat Heroes pummels thugs with a rocket fist.

Deadbeat Heroes is a fast-paced acrobatic beat-em-up, set in London during a plague of particularly nasty villains.  Rising up to beat back the waves of callous criminals are Felix, a fledgling hero-to-be and his mentor, the rambling Captain Justice whose main role is to dole out missions and make quick quips.

Captain Justice’s powers include mentorship and an unearthly mastery of one-liners.

The Rocket Punch Of Justice

Captain Justice must be one hell of a teacher, because combat in Deadbeat Heroes is a knockout. The hero’s main tool, the rocket powered fist, does more than just let players pummel foes into criminal jerky. Using the rockets on their gauntlet, players can dash, wall run and wall jump across battlefields, laying punches into one enemy only to dash off and smack another before the first hits the ground. Movement is tight and precise, if only slightly tricky to learn. When the controls are mastered, Felix turns into a streak of blue and red, walloping enemies left and right.

With all my talk of walloping and pummeling, you might think that enemies in Deadbeat Heroes are pushovers, which is true of the first few levels. During this time, enemies consist of basic thugs with melee attacks or slow-firing pistols, nothing that your rocket powered gauntlet and quick movement can’t get around. However, later levels introduce a litter of new low-lives to liquify. After the preliminary levels there are thugs that can counter your basic attacks, machine gun toting maniacs and even other villains with their own unique powers that can only be defeated with a super attack that is charged up by little spheres (that I took to calling power orbs) dropped by beaten enemies. When defeated, these super powered baddies drop their special abilities for you to pick up, and remain unlocked for the rest of the levels in your playthrough.

Pummeling enemies with basic combat is controlled, fast-paced chaos.

What Goes Up Must Come Down

Each level in Deadbeat Heroes centers around some facet of London, from its commercial centers to its more industrial districts. To pass through a level it won’t be enough to just pummel your enemies. Captain Justice taught you better than that. You have to style on them with long and complex combos. By chaining punches into wall runs and dashes, you build up a combo that rewards points depending on how long it is. At the end of a level, you receive a grade from D to S. Unlike college, in Deadbeat Heroes D and C’s don’t get degrees. As you progress through the game’s levels, it expects a better performance each time, more mastery of its controls and attacks and an ability to chain together some lengthy combos. At some points, this curve feels quite steep, but after a couple of failing grades, I managed to step my game up enough to pass the level.

The only parts of Deadbeat Heroes that are never graded are the boss battles. After completing three levels of quick movement and slugging thugs, Deadbeat Heroes decides that it needs to slow down with a boss fight, a decision that still confuses me. Starting up a boss fight, your hero is led into a large room where the boss of that act, who is introduced in small cutscenes after the end of a level, confronts you with some low quality quips. It doesn’t feel like there’s much of a buildup to the boss fight, there’s no beating away at bad guys guarding their lair, you just show up at the front door and kind of say, “Hey! I’m going to fight you now!” When the boss fight does finally start, it is so terribly anticlimactic that it pales in comparison to the rest of the game. Bosses can only be damaged initially by special attacks (again, requiring special orbs to power up). However, early game boss fights are only against the boss, no other lackeys. So instead of beating up other baddies and trying to evade this boss’s attacks, it becomes a grind of attacking the boss so they drop a power orb, and then dashing back to evade until a window opens up to hit them with a special. Even though these fights were only one room, they felt as though they were longer than the previous three combined.

Those ominous silhouetted figures are the villains that will be getting intimate with your rocket gauntlet.

A Solid Combo

Thankfully the ever entertaining look and soundtrack of Deadbeat Heroes really keeps things moving. It’s cel-shaded style is constantly popping off the screen, and enemies stand out enough to be able to target them easily. Pair this charming art style with a jazz-funk fusion and the world of Deadbeat Heroes is set. It is a simple world, but one charming enough to stand out.

Deadbeat Heroes offers a fast paced take on the beat-em-up, and does its best to never slow down. Filled with air-dashes, rocket punches, acrobatic feats and witty one-liners quick enough to keep up, Deadbeat Heroes blasts off. If you can forgive a little bit of molasses around the encounters with its main antagonists I recommend giving it a hearty one-two punch of your own.