Nowadays, the beat-em-up genre seems rather archaic and more fitting for mobile platforms to be played by casual gamers who are just passing the time. But the indie gaming scene isn’t one to leave an old school genre to gather dust and be relegated to the annals of gaming history. There have been new games that relive those glory days of simple arcade fun like Double Dragon Neon, TMNT: Out of the Shadows, and so on. There are also original titles like Fist of Awesome and this one, Final Exam.
Final Exam is a game developed by Mighty Rocket Studio and published by Focus Home Interactive that brings a good bit of the old beat-em-up action into today’s gaming world. The story is basically about a high school reunion gone horribly wrong, so the protagonists must arm themselves and get the hell out of there alive. The four main characters are as cliche as you can get, but that’s alright for a game that is tongue-in-cheek right from the start, along with the monsters swarming in that suspicious look at act like zombies. It does look quite good though, which 3D looking graphics on a 2D sidescrolling perspective that combines retro-style gameplay with visual depth.
You get to pick which character you prefer to play with, and each of them have their own stats and special abilities. As you progress through the game, you can unlock and upgrade your skills and new combos through completing various objectives and finishing stages. It’s a bit like Fist of Awesome in its incorporation of character development in a beat-em-up game. You fight just like in any other beat-em-up, hitting the enemies with combos to deal damage while doing your best to avoid getting hit. As for the level design, it’s basically “Metroidvania” in style, so it’s a sprawling map of levels that you must explore. This makes for an interesting singleplayer experience, which is something uncommon but necessary in sidescrolling beat-em-up games.
Beyond the campaign, you also have a multiplayer mode. Once you start playing it with either your friends locally or other players online, then it gets even more fun with lots of fireworks on screen. It brings forth this type of gameplay to a new generation, transporting them into the realm once dominated by the likes of Double Dragon and Final Fight. You then get more enemies and objectives to get through according to how many players are present, so you get to see who among you gets to cause the most amount of mayhem, and that’s the biggest bit of fun to be had in this game.
There are a few drawbacks in this game though. For instance, while the level design is pretty good, it does come with lots of spots where there is no enemies at all for a good bit of distance, so you’ll find action to be rather sporadic. Also, you’ll be doing a lot of escort and fetch quests, so there’s a lot of going back and forth while babysitting. Perhaps developers wanted to put in a more exploratory element into the game, but it’s not so good if they had to make it mandatory instead of making it a function of the level design to compel players into exploring. If it was something like loot, secret areas, and so on, then perhaps it would make for better exploration factor.
There also could have been more levels for multiplayer to keep things from getting too bland, but that’s just how it is then. But at least you won’t get lost very easily in this game though since you have a handy guide telling you where to go throughout the game, so at least you won’t have an excuse to go back and forth in the level without much rhyme or reason.
Being a title available in multiple platforms, Final Exam is an online arcade title that should put a smile on your face for the most part. It’s not just some dumb button masher though as there are role-playing elements that make players become more involved with thinking about what comes up next. As a game that you can play with friends, this is fantastic fun indeed.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 7/10