If the 80s taught me anything, it’s that crime does not pay! No matter how great the bad guy was, they never overcame the hero. It certainly never helped that their ego’s and ridiculously convoluted plans impeded success. They could send wave after wave of henchmen, but this never thwarted the good guy’s progress. Donuts ‘n Justice portrays this clichéd idea in its stereotypical cop adventure tale.
Developed by FobTi Interactive and published by Ratalaika Games, this is a retro side-scrolling beat ‘em up game. Using classic mechanics, and a bizarre story, you control two streetwise cops who refuse to let their town be overrun by thugs and criminals. This is a title that screams old-school influence, and fans of the Streets of Rage franchise will love this simplified version of that much-loved series.
Donuts ‘n Justice: Clichéd title for a clichéd game.
Donuts ‘n Justice does everything it can to embrace its stereotypical take on the genre. It has; a cheesy storyline, classic bosses, and OTT weapons. Yet, the simple take on the genre doesn’t mean that the game is easy to play. No, with three difficulty settings, this is one title that will push you to your limits.
Being the expert of indie titles, and loving this genre in particular, I attempted to play this on the normal setting. What a mistake that was! I had my arse handed to me repeatedly and was surprised by how difficult it was. Reducing it to play it on the lowest difficulty made completing it a cinch, and this left me reeling at the lack of balance between each mode. The hardest “Chuck Norris” setting would be a challenge for the man himself, and I gave up trying as I rarely made it past the first stage.
I could not find a playing partner to help me take this on in the hardest setting, but you can try to defeat this in 2 player couch co-op mode. With both of you controlling each of the cops, this will certainly make completing it a much easier task.
So, what’s Donuts ‘n Justice all about?
The aim of each of the four levels is straightforward. Walk from left to right, shooting every enemy you face, collecting each crate filled with weapons and grenades en route. Your hero starts with 3 lives and a bulletproof vest. As he is shot his health depletes and his armour breaks. You will find pink doughnuts to replenish your health, new flak jackets to add armour, and green doughnuts to slow time down. Yep, drugged snacks are a thing in Donuts ‘n Justice.
Weapons are locked behind a progress wall and the more you play, the greater the choice of guns that become available to you. Pistols, machine guns, flame throwers, and more will become unlocked. Combining deaths to earn mega combos is the quickest way to earn badges and these unlock each random weapon. Grenades form part of your arsenal, but they are not as fun as I expected. Throwing them is more luck than judgement as they rarely land where you want, and they explode as and when they like.
Old-school foes for a retro game.
I’ve already moaned about the difficulty, but oddly that’s not because your foes aren’t predictable. Their shooting patterns are easy to read, and each one follows the same path. The challenge comes from the number of enemies that are presented. Wave after wave of thugs can approach you from either side of the screen, and this swarm of baddies makes progress slow and arduous.
On top of the many brutes that you face, you will also encounter four main bosses before you visit the head honcho. Each of these enormous beasts will exhaust your arsenal of weapons and leave you contemplating what to do next. Like their minions, you must learn their movement patterns and attack their weaknesses. These hulking beings added a layer of variety to the game and it instantly reminded me of the boss battles from many of the great side-scrolling beat ‘em up games.
A modern take on the arcade look.
I’m so used to modern pixelated games that it’s hard for me to see the dated quality of their imagery. Donuts ‘n Justice is a proper retro arcade title that is well polished to appease a modern audience. The garish colours, simple sprites, and basic backdrops won’t wow gamers. Yet, I was impressed with the variety of landscapes, the use of tone to emphasise the seedy nature of the game, and how smoothly it ran. Each of the levels was basic and a lack of obstacles and depth made the gameplay feel flat. It would have been nice if there were cars to leap over, boxes to hide behind, or platforms to jump onto. These would have matched the theme and added some interesting much-needed mechanics.
A classic 80s soundtrack plays out alongside the action at all times. The electronically synthesised music adds drama and the clichéd cop TV series element that the developers craved. The upbeat tempo makes it feel dramatic and pushes you to move quicker and to take risks. The music, however, is overpowered by the OTT sound effects, and the constant screams. Bullets whizzed through the air and hit their targets with a deafening thud, and each death is met with a blood-curdling scream. Alongside this a gruff commentator announces your combo kills, making the audio a loud and high-energy affair. It screamed arcade title from the opening scene and though it won’t be for everyone, I loved its ear-piercing sounds.
A simple arcade game has an easy control system.
As you’d expect from any basic arcade game, it should be easy to play. Luckily, Donuts ‘n Justice is as simple as they come. The fundamentals are shown to you at the gun range and once you pass this entry-level tutorial you are set on your way. Being an 80s cop hero has never been so much fun. With only a few buttons to focus on, you can concentrate on the hordes of thugs that descend on you.
Like most Ratalaika Games titles, this one has an easy achievement list to complete. With the easiest setting taking around one hour to complete, you may worry this lacks replay value. Worry not, with three difficulty settings, co-op mode and a boss event to take on there is plenty to do. It’s an inexpensive title, so it’s great for achievement hunters and retro gamers alike.
Donuts ‘n Justice scratches that beat ’em up itch.
Though the simplicity and old-school graphics may not be for everyone, the gameplay shines through. Lovers of the genre will fall for its basic charms and its 80s style. The harsh nature of its difficulty will make you wince in pain, but this gives it longevity. I also loved the addition of couch co-op and the boss mode. It’s a delightful nod to Streets of Rage and I recommend you buy it here! Eat doughnuts, defeat baddies, and become a clichéd 80s cop.