The TakeOver is a love letter to the beat ’em ups of yesteryear. If you grew up with the Final Fight or Streets of Rage series, you’ll feel right at home playing this. And while The TakeOver takes inspiration from many titles in the brawler genre, it has unique mechanics that make it stand out on its own.
Let your fists do the talking
Plot-wise, The TakeOver is pretty representative of its group. The city of Steel Haven is overrun with crime. All the various gangs have come together, laying waste to the streets. Officer Ethan and his girlfriend Megan find their adopted daughter, Vanessa, kidnapped by the baddies. Calling upon their friend, Connor, they set out to rescue Vanessa while destroying the evil plaguing their home.
As you start playing, you’ll notice the gameplay has a bit of depth. Granted, you have your usual grabs and throws. The B button jumps and the Y button unleashes a special move that drains your health a bit. Mashing A will let out a flurry of punches while hitting X brings out vicious kicks. However, the cool thing is you can end a string in one of two ways with your fists. Holding down towards the end of a combo will smash an adversary to the ground while holding up launches them into the air. Once they take flight, a foe can be juggled for another series of attacks. This is an empowering move because it makes it feel like you can take on an entire organization all by yourself.
In addition to that killer mechanic, there are three other awesome abilities:
One is the Rage meter. This fills up when you defeat a bunch of enemies without getting hit. Once full, you click in the left stick and the screen turns red. Your character’s attacks then deal more damage and you automatically block any blows that come your way.
The second is the Super gauge. This fills in the same way the Rage meter does. When it is complete, you press X and A to deploy a flurry of missiles that explode everyone on screen. It’s perfect for juggle opportunities!
Lastly, every player has a unique weapon. Ammo can be found in crates throughout levels. By holding ZR, you can brandish your gun and press A to fire. It’s a great tool to keep a line of combatants far away from you.
A varied romp through enemy territory
The diversity of environments in The TakeOver is a huge plus. Ethan and crew travel through back alleys, boats, beaches, and fortresses. There are even stages with driving and flying sections to break up the fisticuffs. Without giving too much away, my favorite locale introduced supernatural elements into the story. You might think that’s ridiculous, but the title totally rolls with the absurdity of it all.
Once you start getting further in the adventure, the difficulty escalates. More enemy types start appearing in groups, and eventually you’re squaring up against armored robots. The TakeOver never became too much to bear, although it’s probably slightly more manageable with a buddy. Local co-op is an option, so take advantage of it if you have a spare friend roaming around the couch.
There are a total of seven chapters in the game, each one usually containing three subsections. (There’s a choice of two different endings as well.) Thankfully, unlike the beat ’em ups of my youth, autosaves occur upon completion of a section. This is a perfect title to pick up for a bit, crack a million skulls in two, and put away for next time.
An impressive feat with only a few nitpicks
I was shocked to learn The TakeOver is largely the work of one man: Antonis Pelekanos. The only things that were outsourced were art and music. The tunes are great: Little V Mills, Richie Branson, James Ronald, and Streets of Rage 2‘s Yuzo Koshiro all had a hand in the rock/synth soundtrack. Cutscene artwork was done by @DKIRBYJ, and it really nails a sweet comic book aesthetic. Also, the charismatic Matt McMuscles was a producer on the project. He introduced me to the game at PAX East last year.
There are only a handful of grievances I have with The Takeover. While the frame rate is fairly consistent, there are a few momentary stutters here and there when the action gets too hectic. Online co-op is not available. In addition, there is only one extra character you can unlock once you beat the main story. Also, the realistic style of the game doesn’t mesh with the comic book-like cutscenes between areas. Personally, I would have loved to see the whole title done in the more cartoony style.
Regardless, The TakeOver is a wonderful time. It’s not overly long and its unique mechanics help it stand out against other brawlers on Switch like River City Girls and Streets of Rage 4. If you’re looking for a great homage to the ’90s that incorporates modern enhancements, this game will meet your expectations and then some.
A review code was provided by the publisher.