Flinthook, Dead Cells, Owlboy, and Nuclear Throne. What do these games have in common besides all being indie titles? Characters for each one of these games and more are playable in the new crossover fighting game Bounty Battle from Dark Screen Games. Although bringing all these indies together for a game is rather ambitious, so far I’ve found Bounty Battle to be rather disappointing. Even writing this article has been difficult because it’s the first time in a while that it has been hard to convince myself to play more of it.
The story, which is a pretty basic one as far as crossover fighters go, is that the representatives from each respective game were all sent to the same dimension while doing their usual activities in their worlds. Then they just started fighting each other for seemingly no reason. The story, or at least the semblance of one, really isn’t all that important and is shown in the animated opening, which is at least well done.
What I first noticed in Bounty Battle once I started playing (when the game finally stopped lagging on startup) is that characters are slow in their movement. At first, I thought that it was just the character I was playing as (Azell, one of the characters original to this game) that’s slow, and not all characters move that way, but unfortunately, even characters with better speed still feel off, almost like their from one of those unofficial flash game crossovers you’d see in the early aughts (2000’s).
Before talking more about playing as specific characters, I should talk about some of Bounty Battles’ modes and mechanics. For single-player, there’s a tutorial, a challenge mode, a tournament mode, and a training room, while for versus there’s only a local multiplayer mode available at the moment. Defeating an enemy earns you bounty points which you can spend to summon minions who should help you fight, but instead, they just stand there and walk (or float) around and it’s not really clear when or even if they’re helping you. There’s also a movement penalty for spamming the same attack, which forces players to mix up their attacks a bit, and also gives the opposing player a brief upper hand. While this is a great mechanic, it would be even better in a game with better movement speed and if it was a little more strict because sometimes I felt like I could get away with spamming an attack just enough before switching to avoid the penalty. One more thing I should mention is that characters obtain a more glitched appearance as they lose health, but don’t worry, as this seems to be only a visual change, although the pseudo- glitchiness stays intact in the rest of the game, which can get kind of annoying and isn’t easy on the eyes when it takes up the whole screen.
For tournament mode, you have to play as one character through different challenges as you make your way to a boss and obtain new skins for that character along your path. Unfortunately, the only one you have at the start is Azell. Things were going pretty well until the fourth stage, where Azell had to fight both Pankapu from the game of the same name and Juan from Guacamelee at the same time as well as knock them both out of the arena to defeat them. This is much easier said than done. Because of Azell’s move set and the fact that these two characters were teaming up against me, I felt I could barely get a hit in, and definitely couldn’t pull off even knocking one of them out of the arena. When you get hit there’s also no real recover function and the block doesn’t work all that well, so you have to wait until your character gets back up, and this can feel near impossible when fighting against two or more characters at the same time. As I mentioned previously, summoning minions didn’t actually help once I was finally able to pull it off, so they might as well have not been there at all. To add insult to injury, I couldn’t even quit the mode, as the button to quit would not work (but the same button works fine in other situations) so the only options are to retry and quit from the pause menu once the battle starts or just completely quit and/or restart the game altogether.
So after my experience with Azell, I switched to Captain Flinthook from Flinthook, and as a character I’m actually familiar with I expected the space pirate to hopefully play better. Unfortunately, he was also slow didn’t quite feel like the same character. I understand that Flinthook and Bounty Battle are two very different games, but playing as Captain Flinthook felt more like I was using a cheap knock-off than the actual character. Sure he has the right weapons, but they didn’t really translate well. His anchor/grappling hook should be smaller and allow him to move around at least a little faster and should be usable at any angle rather than just two. His laser pistol should also be faster, and other characters with similar weapons shoot faster, so why couldn’t Flinthook be given this as well? I could understand trying to make characters feel different, but how much does it really matter if none of the characters feel great to play as in the first place?
So then I thought to myself “Okay, for the guest characters maybe it’s just Flinthook that feels weird compared to his game counterpart, so I guess I’ll try with another character I’m familiar with.” This time I used The Prisoner from Dead Cells, and while still slow and still not quite as fast as his game counterpart, he felt a bit better to play as, and I actually managed to get through the whole challenge mode with him. So what happens once you beat that mode with a character? Nothing! You just get a game over screen. No unlocks, no congratulations, you just have to go back and restart the challenge mode with another character or do something else. Although it was kind of funny when a stray laser ball hit the prisoner and he turned upside down on the victory screen.
I decided to give the game one more chance, this time using Otus from Owlboy in tournament mode. Although his attacks don’t have the best range, he can fly for a limited time, which is kind of unfair given the somewhat small size of the arenas (at least when compared to similar fighting games). Then in the second battle, the game decided to glitch and not let me start the fight. It could still recognize whether I was using a controller or keyboard, but I was completely frozen otherwise. I tried with Otus one more time and I got past this but got stuck on the versus screen a few fights later.
On another note, while having stages based on other games is great, they’re just backgrounds and there’s nothing particularly special about them. No traps or moving platforms, just backgrounds based on the worlds of other games. It’s still a cool feature, but I find myself wanting more from it. If nothing else the music is at least catchy, although I’m not sure whether the soundtrack mostly consists of music from other games or not since I’ve only played a handful of these indie titles.
One nitpicky opinion I have about the game is that the character select doesn’t show you the names of each character, just the game they’re from. Of course, for something like Flinthook that doesn’t really matter, but not everyone’s name is the same as the title of the game they came from. The announcer does say the character’s names prior to starting a match, but sometimes what name he says is nearly unintelligible. I still can’t tell if one of the original characters’ names is Edlus or Atlus or possibly something else that sounds similar.
I feel that with the way characters move, Bounty Battle could have worked a lot better as an indie crossover beat’em up rather than a fighter. Seeing the way characters attacked often reminded me of Wulverblade, and having Bounty Battle be some kind of Subspace Emissary-inspired game instead with the fighting as a bonus mode I think would have worked in its favor. Besides, who wouldn’t want to see these characters interact with each other more after that animated opening?
It may have characters from a lot of critically acclaimed games, but its lack of quality doesn’t give these games the respect they deserve. I’m really hoping Bounty Battle will improve over time since it does still show some promise, but I’m not even sure they’ll be able to truly fix it since it seems like it could use a complete rehaul. On the bright side, there are a few other indie fighters out there. They may not have the guest roster that Bounty Battle does, but they’re likely to be much more enjoyable at the moment.
The code for Bounty Battle was provided by the publisher.
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