First, I was given a free review key to play this game and share my thoughts, so let’s get to it. QUByte Interactive is both the publisher and developer for 99Vidas, which is a retro arcade beat’em up game that is a throwback to some of the great classics. From the stage design to the music, you can see that classic games like Streets Of Rage and Final Fight were a huge inspiration for this game’s development.
Story And Gameplay
99Vidas is about four guardians that must protect an ancient power, called the 99Vidas, which grants its wielder with the ability to have… well, 99 lives. For those of you that don’t know, the word “Vidas” is a Spanish and Portuguese word that translates to “lives” or “Lifetimes”. So if you have 99Vidas, you essentially have 99 lives or 99 lifetimes.
The name of the game is also a throwback to classic video games because if you were hardcore enough, you could play games like Super Mario, Sonic The Hedgehog, Streets Of Rage or Double Dragons, and beat the game without dying which would allow you to collect lives and finish with a total of 99 lives or 99 continues.
99Vidas features four heroes, each with a unique fighting style and elemental abilities that can be upgraded up to three times to make them more powerful. You will be able to unlock more heroes as well, giving you a total of 11 unlockable characters to play with.
99Vidas is a fairly short game that has about six stages that include sub-bosses and powerful main bosses, and then there are also two hidden stages that you can find and unlock as well to give you extra score. Why would you need extra score in game? Well, in 99Vidas, you use score as money to purchase new abilities and upgrades after completing one of the main stages.
Combat And Controls
The combat for 99Vidas is pretty straight forward, you have four fighting buttons- punch, kick, special, ultimate elemental ability, and then a jump button. Technically, you only really have three fighting buttons because the special button is just a quick key to access your special ability, which can also be performed by attacking and jumping at the same time.
If you hit the enemy while attacking you can perform a basic combo then upgrade that combo in the shop to add elemental abilities and make the combo more powerful, but for the most part, the animation itself doesn’t change too much. For example, the King character has water and ice powers, so at the end of the combo he’ll do an ice attack to create a small ice spike, upgrade it and it becomes a big ice spike, etc.
99Vidas also allows you to activate two-tier ultimate elemental abilities. You can activate these abilities by defeating enemies and building up your special gauge. The first tier is a powerful attack that damages all enemies on the screen, while the second tier is a more powerful version of the attack that deals massive damage.
I also noticed that the Streets Of Rage Super One Punch infinite cheat combo is in the game, where you can hit the enemy once to stun them, pause and wait to reset the combo, then hit them again to stun them to catch them in an infinite loop to kill them easier. I don’t know if they purposely added it as an Easter egg or if it was a coincidence, but I appreciate that it was in the game.
You can also play 99Vidas with up to three other players locally, and it also features online play so that you can create or join a room to play online. However, no one was on when I tried so I ended up just playing solo.
This now brings us to the flaws. The controls do feel a bit stiff, so sometimes actually fighting enemies can be quite the challenge because of how slow and rigid the characters move. The third stage with the train made this flaw even more obvious as I found it difficult to time the jumps to leap over the beams due to how stiff the characters moved.
Graphics, sound, and 99 Problems
The graphics for 99Vidas looks like classic 16-bit retro pixel art and I think the animations are pretty good to match the overall theme of the game, and it also has a retro chiptune-style soundtrack and sound effects to match. However, this is where all the good things end with the game. I’m sure that 99Vidas would be a fun game to play with family and friends in multiplayer over the weekend, but I personally don’t think it has enough to offer to make it a “great” game.
Okay, that header is a bit of an exaggeration because 99Vidas doesn’t actually have 99 problems, it only has a few, but the few are pretty big problems. Let’s first start with the difficulty of the game. The easy mode, called “Izzy” in game, is REALLY easy and I blazed through it with no problem, but only after I realized that normal was WAAAY too hard to solo and beat in one playthrough. As a result, I died a lot and had to start over.
The Normal game mode is more like hard, and I didn’t even bother with playing the hard difficulty setting. In order to progress forward, you need to upgrade your character and become more powerful because your base combos aren’t strong enough to beat the enemies and survive.
The problem here is that the game only has 8 stages for you to playthrough to train, so in order to collect enough score to progress forward and upgrade your character, you first have to constantly keep grinding the same three stages over and over again to upgrade your character to get stronger until you can beat the next boss and unlock a new stage. Because of this, it makes 99Vidas tedious to play as you grind to get stronger. I think this might have been done on purpose to stretch the game content out longer.
Perhaps this process isn’t so bad if you have four people playing together because there is strength in numbers and you will be able to share the load to beat enemies faster, but if you are playing solo, it is almost impossible to play and beat the game in one try on the normal difficulty setting.
Oh yeah, the name of the game is a lie. The joke of not having “99 lives” is actually a Steam Achievement which I thought was funny and a bit cute, but you only start the game with 5 lives and then you have to buy the rest using score. The amount of score needed to achieve 99 lives would be ridiculous because it costs 2,000 score per life, so in order to achieve “99Vidas“, you would need a grand total of about 198000 score, and invest all of that in collecting lives instead of upgrading your character.
But why exactly is the game so hard? This brings us to the next flaw. Health Spacing. Yes, I am referring to the placement of health in the level and how often they give it to you and where the health is located. For one thing, health does not drop from enemies, so you have to break open boxes to gain more life.
If you come across free health and a save point in most games, what do you think is around the next corner? If you follow video game logic, there should be either a very powerful boss that you will have to fight or a group of powerful enemies, so they provide you with health and a checkpoint to help you out. That’s not always the case with 99Vidas… at least for the first three stages (they provide sufficient life for the last two stages).
For the most part, they will give you some life, then there is a huge stretch of bad guys you have to fight and struggle through, then they give you some more boxes after that. But wait! What do you think is inside those boxes? Much needed life so that you don’t lose one of your precious 5 lives? Nope.
Instead, it is a video game system that you can pick up for extra score and in the second box, a broken bottle weapon!
The weapons are okay at the start of the game, but after upgrading your character a few times you will quickly find that your punches and projectiles are far more powerful, and that makes any weapon drops you get from then on completely useless.
Often times I found myself in the position where I would finally reach the life box and die because I was in critical condition, and then pick up the health anyways just for the score because I no longer needed it.
I also found that sometimes the life would be placed near the boss/Sub-boss, but it would be a few spaces before the screen would scroll, so let’s say you skip the life so you can save it for later and pick it up strategically when you need it, that wouldn’t work in 99Vidas because as you walk over to make the screen scroll and activate the boss, the life is now suddenly out of reach!
The problem with not providing proper health before a big fight made a lot of the boss fights or major gang battles more challenging than necessary, and I found myself getting frustrated.
Which then brings us to boss battles… One problem I have with retro indie games that try to mimic classic games is that they don’t understand what made the classics so great. Sonic The hedgehog, Streets Of Rage, and many other games had boss battles where the enemy had a pattern that you could memorize. If you learned the pattern and exploited the weakness, you could defeat the boss. But the patterns for the boss fights in 99Vidas are difficult to understand and even harder to exploit, making the timing to hit the boss and deal damage really annoying. Harddy and the Cyborg were two of the worst bosses in the game, and the final boss made me rage quit the first time I fought him.
Another problem I found with the combat system itself is that you can’t block attacks, and sometimes the enemy can get you stuck in an infinite knockdown loop and there is nothing you can do about it, which then wastes the few precious lives you have. If you die, it’s game over. You don’t get continues, so you lose that last life and it brings you back to the main menu screen.
I grew up playing games like River City Ransom, Super Double Dragons, the Golden Axe series, and Little Fighters 2, and one thing those games allowed you to do was either block attacks, or time your attacks just right to cancel attacks with your own attacks (think DBZ-style fireball collisions), but you can’t do this in 99Vidas. So when you have five enemies on the screen all attacking at once, the only thing you can do is take the hit and die.
You can use your AOE style special attack to knock the enemies down, but it doesn’t take enough damage to make much of a difference, and the attack also works like Streets Of Rage special attacks where it takes your health down to activate the attack. When you combine all these problems together, you start to realize how frustrating it is to play 99Vidas.
Little Fighters 2 wasn’t just an indie Beat’em up game, it was also a gang war simulator that allowed you to create custom game matches with large armies that you could command and battle through, making it one of the best free-to-play 2D indie arcade fighting games I have ever played. So in comparison, 99Vidas doesn’t have too many unique or original features like that to make it stand out as an awesome or memorable game.
I understand 99Vidas was supposed to be a throwback to classic games, but some of the jokes I didn’t get either, such as “Bob Owner” going 8 bit, or some of the lore in the game like the weird looking animal people.
It made it feel like there was a bigger inside joke to the overall game that I was missing, like 99Vidas is an established series from somewhere else that I didn’t know about. So I went to Google and found out it is based on the 99Vidas podcast, so maybe fans of the podcast will understand and enjoy this game more than I did.
My advice for the developers is that if they ever make a sequel to 99Vidas, they should take some time playing Castle Crashers, Super Double Dragons, and Little Fighters 2, and attempt to include all the best features from those games to make a better game than all of its predecessors.
So, should you buy it? If you really love Beat’em Up games and you have three other friends to join you, great, I would say to give 99Vidas a try just for the sake of adding it to your collection for some four-player co-op fun.
But, if you grew up playing any of the more hardcore Beat’em ups I named earlier, I would recommend you pass on this one because you will find it to be disappointing. I don’t think that it is a horrible game, but it doesn’t do anything new or innovative with the genre to make it a great game either, and for that, it makes the game feel underwhelming and like its lacking content.
Overall, I would rate 99Vidas with an average score of 5 out of 10.
For more information, you can visit the Steam Store for additional details.