If your name's not on the list, you're not coming in.
They are the enforcers of the night. Wielding the mighty clipboard, they have the power to decide your fate, if only for an evening. They are the guardians of the realm, the keepers of the gate armed only with an earpiece and a bad attitude. They are the judge, jury, and executioner in a world filled with danger, excitement, and plenty of vomit. Adored by some and hated by others, these hardened individuals have given their life to the night. And for this, bouncers, I salute you.
During my nighttime travels, I have come across more than my fair share of bouncers. Some were cool, while others were most definitely not. It's just so hard to tell these days.
Even before Sony's new system was released, The Bouncer was on the lips of many gamers. Screenshots aplenty showcased brilliant graphics and promised plenty of action. The only thing left to question was the game's most vital aspect: gameplay.
So when the game finally made it past the GR security team and bomb sniffing dogs, it was rushed straight into the secret testing lounge for evaluation. The next few days were spent solely with Square's latest uberkind and boy, was it disappointing.
It's easy to tell what the developers focused on, because The Bouncer is obviously one of the best-looking games on a console to date. Near flawless animations and picture perfect visuals make it a great choice to show off the sleek Sony super machine to your friends. Once the game begins, though, the Bouncer sheds it's pretty boy image and gets down and dirty.
In typical video game fashion, you play a hero trying to save a girl. A local sweetheart named Dominique has been kidnapped by a bunch of strange looking ninja guys and naturally you, along with a pair of other bouncers, must run off to save her. Somehow, this all ties into a mission to save the world, but I bet you knew that already.
To get started, you'll choose from one of three bouncers: Sion, Kou, and Volt. Each has his own story and only by playing through with all of them will you get the full picture. The Bouncer also throws some RPG aspects into the mix with experience points going toward stat increases as well as fresh new moves. Only after playing the game several times will you be able to max out all the characters and realize their full potential. Three cheers for replay value!
The control is a bit on the loose side, but after a little while it shouldn't be very bothersome...unlike the attack scheme. High, medium, low, and jump attacks make up your arsenal, but exactly what happens when you press the buttons is almost random. Players are not able to control punches and kicks separately and must rely on the iffy pressure-sensitive PS2 controller buttons to determine different attacks. For example, pressing high attack three times for Kou unleashes the "triple jab," but a firm press the first time will change it to a "triple roundhouse kick." The pressure-sensitive buttons take a lot of getting used to and even a few hours of play won't guarantee mastery over it.
One cool move that's easy to execute is the Trinity Rush. When one of your buddies gives the signal, the single press of a button will prompt a cool cut scene showing our heroes performing some lethal moves. The downside is that a paper cut would do more damage to these guys than the Trinity Rush. An enemy that can survive a kick to the throat and two neck breaks is not one to be trifled with. Talk about disappointing.
The ability to choose your target is strangely absent. Characters will automatically aim for the closest enemy, which can sometimes throw combos off. Not a huge problem, but annoying nonetheless.
One definite problem is the camera. While The Bouncer cam puts on a good show, it chooses fashion over function every time. Dramatic camera angles produce awesome screen shots, but as a result you'll spend half the time wondering what's sitting right in front of your face. I guess our cameraman has spent one too many nights staggering home from work.
Yet another bummer is the stop-and-go progression. With a scant few exceptions, you'll never fight more than six opponents before reaching a cut scene. Furthermore, your two other computer controlled buddies do their fair share of work, leaving too few bodies for you to punish.
Part of the problem here is that the bad guys aren't too bright. Generally speaking, they just walk right up to you, asking to be force-fed a knuckle sandwich. Smack a few guys around and it's back to a cut scene. No difficulty option can be found, so you'll be walking down Easy Street for the majority of the game.
The Bouncer will also show you that Easy Street only goes one way. The story truly branches only once and is character-based rather than situation-based. There is one instance of a situation-based branch, but the differences between the two are extremely minimal. It would have been amazing to see multiple paths in the story, but I guess it just wasn't meant to be.
Even with all of its faults, playing the The Bouncer a few times through will shine some light on what seems to be a dreary game. Gaining the entire move set for each character definitely makes the fights more entertaining. New throws, combos, and other instruments of pain make the slaughter more fun than it was the first time through. Playing several times through also allows players to unlock more characters for the standard Versus and Survival mode.
Lastly, you'll be able to see each member's perspective on things. It seems a bit strange to me that the lead character, Sion, does not have the most interesting gameplay branch. I would hate to spoil it for you, but you need to play through the game as Kou. His branch is the most interesting and includes a cool variation of play that is absent from the other characters.
Though many will undoubtedly be disappointed by The Bouncer's inability to live up to the hype, others will find a fancy beat 'em up to pass a few hours. Its flashy graphics are at least worth taking a look at, but its many problems just might keep it from a place in the collection.