Monday 14 November 2022

Go Straight: The Ultimate Guide To Side-Scrolling Beat-'Em-Ups

We’ve never had a Bitmap book come through the door we didn’t like. When this heavy tome arrived focused on side scrolling beat‘em ups we were immediately transported back to the arcades of old. Perhaps of all the books the team have released this has the potential to hit the nostalgia gland more than any other with the genre having many games that never made it to home releases.

Across the 456 pages it’s pretty much guaranteed you are going to find a ton of game you won’t have played, or perhaps even heard of, as the book covers games from all over the place. It’s set out into different decades running from 1980 all the way up to recent releases in 2021. The whole thing starts with a foreword from Renegade creator Yoshihisa Kishimoto followed by an informative and entertaining look at what makes a game fall into the genre. During this afterword section you also get the first of many double foldout pages.

In a visual representation of a side scroller, many of the articles about key games unfold to effectively create a four-page layout. This starts with Streets of Rage which is used to display a numbered scene from the game which acts as your guide to the key ingredients of the genre. The fold out pages are double sided as well so there’s no wasted space here.

Starting in the 1980’s with Kung Fu Master the amount of information you get on the games is massively impressive. For instance, Double Dragon has six pages dedicated to it covering development, gameplay, ports and classic moments. More obscure games get less or are reduced to split pages, but this certainly feels exhaustive in terms of the games featured and it’s hard to see what else could have been put in (even the notorious Bebe’s Kids is here). The big licenses are all in here as well, screenshots and all, so expect to see Turtles, Simpsons and even Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker.

There is a decent selection of screen shots and some full-page pictures but there is also a lot of text here so it’s certainly not just a coffee table book to flick through nonchalantly. The research and dedication required to get all this information together is impressive and everything is interesting and will likely send you off hunting for more than a few of the games. The fact each decade comes with a written introduction to the development of the games and market during that period is further proof that these books will likely end up on some kind of historical game development course in the future. There’s certainly enough to take you from knowing nothing to having a huge knowledge of both the titles and genre through the ages.

Overall, Go straight is an exceptional book. It’s perfect to dip into to look for your favourite game or read from front to back to get a detailed overview of pretty much every title in the genre. It’s logically organised which makes finding things easy and the intros to each decade are great encapsulations of the time they look at. Much like the Point and Click Adventure book before it, this is a real highlight in an already packed and impressive back catalogue from Bitmap books. Utterly essential for all retro fans.



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