Devil's Dare / Streets of Red: Devil’s Dare Deluxe

A game by Secret Base for PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, and Switch, originally released in 2014, with the Devil's Dare Deluxe version released in 2018.
Devil's Dare (悪魔の挑戦), and its updated re-release Streets of Red: Devil’s Dare Deluxe, is a beat ‘em up that offers numerous throwback references to movies, television, video games, and even to the video game industry itself, including a faux “Winners don’t use drugs” splash screen. Some of these references were updated in the Streets of Red Deluxe release, such as the xenomorph from Alien being replaced by the demigorgon from Stranger Things. The story begins with Bitejacker filming an episode on a rooftop at the Benny Arcade Expo, a.k.a. BAX East (get it?), which suddenly becomes overrun by flesh-eating zombies. Four survivors are holed up on a stage, marveling at the wondrous undead cosplayers before realizing that they’re actually eating people.

Suddenly a red fairy named Ivan shows up. Referencing Navi with a shout of “Hey, listen!”, Ivan explains that he is able to give the survivors incredible powers so that they can fight the undead horde, and all he asks in exchange are the souls of the zombies they kill… and they decide to take him up on his offer. (Hey, what could go wrong?) The player is free to select from one of four playable characters, or team up for 4P co-op, and two additional characters are unlocked upon completing the game.

Players may take on the main campaign in Arcade mode, or face wave after wave of enemies in an enclosed arena in Survival mode. The game offers three difficulty modes: Casual, Classic, and Expert. In Casual mode, the game offers no achievements or leaderboards, Classic mode represents the normal difficulty, and in Expert mode, players are able to make bets for monetary rewards in exchange for facing tougher enemies.

Each of the playable characters references another video game: Kingston, who originally wielded an axe in reference to Golden Axe, has been changed in the Deluxe version to carry a shovel and wear armor reminiscent of that found in Shovel Knight. Queenie’s attacks are based on elemental magic and she rides around in a mech suit, referencing Terra from Final Fantasy VI. Jackson, the “teen ninja”, carries twin sai as his weapons, referencing Raphael from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And Axel the “broken link” carries a sword and shield that resemble Link’s from The Legend of Zelda series, although his shield has Tetris-style tetronimoes instead of parts of the Triforce.

Each character has a basic 3-hit combo and several unique special moves. What sets this game apart from other beat ‘em ups is the fact that regular attacks are generally in place to simply stun or weaken enemies so that they can be finished off using special attacks. (In fact, the loading screen offers a single hint throughout the game, telling the player to kill every monster with special moves.) Killing an enemy with a standard combo causes a few coins to drop, whereas finishing them with a special attack causes bags of money to drop, and using special attacks to kill multiple enemies in succession results in a food item being dropped, which restores some of the player’s health. Tougher enemies give better drops.

Money is a driving factor here, as the game offers permadeath. The only way to continue your game is to buy your way back in, and doing so gets more expensive each time. Once you’ve run out of cash, you’re booted back to the title screen and your save file is erased. That said, enemy behaviors are simple and predictable, making much of the game quite easy on the Classic difficulty setting, and skilled players can expect to make it into the final chapters without using many continues.

Between rounds, players are presented with three randomly-selected upgrades, along with a fourth option of a small cash bonus. Only one upgrade can be purchased per round, regardless of the size of the player’s wallet, and some upgrades are more useful than others, requiring the player to consider whether the upgrade would be more useful than the ability to continue when killed. Among these upgrades are added strength, the ability to knock enemies down by dashing into them, and a fairy bottle that brings the player back to life (with minimal health) upon death.

Special moves come in the form of speedy ranged attacks, short-range attacks that damage enemies on both sides of the player, and character-specific moves. Each time a special move is used, it consumes one or two “soul points” (SP). The SP meter is four units long, and it recharges slowly over time, although enemies killed using special attacks also drop SP refills that restore a half unit each. SP is also gained by attacking enemies or taking damage. In addition, when the player becomes stunlocked, he can press a button combination to spend 3 SP and perform a powerful attack that hits all nearby foes… but he is then prevented from using any special attacks until the meter completely refills, which effectively doubles the punishment for using this move.

Players can perform a dodge roll, which then becomes a full-on run, allowing them to move around the screen quickly, and players can transition from a run into an attack for different strikes that generally have larger knockback effects. This allows for some hit-and-run tactics, and is also useful when facing enemies near bottomless pits, as foes can be knocked back into them and killed instantly… although you’ll lose a large chunk of health if you’re knocked in. Changing direction during a run depletes a unit of SP, so it’s possible to use up SP accidentally when running around the environment.

Kingston’s attacks include a headbutt that knocks down enemies, lightning strikes that come down on both sides of him, and the ability to grab a creature and slam it downward. Queenie uses ice to freeze enemies in place, and she can attack with a spinning shield or toss bombs. Jackson is speedy and can move past monsters and attack from behind, drop a smoke bomb that stuns enemies, and has fast knockdown attacks. Axel can use his shield defensively, and he has a spin attack and a hookshot that pulls enemies toward him to follow up with additional attacks. The unlockable characters have projectile-based weapons.

Money is earned by killing monsters and clearing stages, as well as by breaking objects in the environment, which also occasionally reveal food items that include the genre staple bone-in roast that restores health completely. It’s worth noting that coins and SP are automatically drawn toward the player when he gets close to them, whereas money bags and food items must be collected manually, so the player must ensure that he can pick up these items without being attacked, but they do take a long time to disappear.

The game features four themed environments, which consist of genre-standard locations such as sewers, streets, and a train, and these may be completed in any order. Completing each of these areas unlocks the final levels. However, players are warned that levels get longer as they progress. The player has to survive 10 nights before he can take on the last two levels, so the first environment he selects will only be one night long, ending in a boss. The second environment he selects will be two nights long, with a miniboss and a boss, and so on. As such, if the player finds certain enemy types difficult, he may want to take on those levels earlier in the game so he doesn’t have to fight as many of them.

Most enemies are fodder for your fists, walking up to you at a slow pace while you bash them into bloody pulps, and these enemies are only really dangerous when you get surrounded. There are some fast-moving foes like Resident Evil-style undead dogs, and some tougher enemies that take more hits to kill. There are also some enemies that do not respond to normal attacks, such as slime creatures in the sewers that must be stunned with a special attack before they can be worn down by normal attacks. Bosses are big and fast, although hit-and-run tactics and special move spamming work well, as they do in most beat ‘em ups.

The game features little in the way of story, mostly in the opening and closing scenes, although it is generally filled with crass humor. Each character has a couple of phrases that he or she utters when performing special moves or when picking up money bags or food items… which means you'll be hearing these quips hundreds of times during gameplay.

Upon the game’s original Devil’s Dare release, there were lots of complaints about game-killing glitches. Four years later, the game has moved from computers to consoles, and the bugs have not been squashed. The game occasionally fails to load enemy sprites, resulting in effectively invisible foes walking up and attacking the player. It’s possible for the player’s sprite to get stuck as well, leaving him to control an invisible character while his sprite acts out all of the moves in a stationary position. Getting knocked into bottomless pits doesn’t always mean that you’ll fall… sometimes you’ll just be left hovering in the air with no way back to solid ground. The game has some hard crashes too, sending you back to the dashboard to reload a save (hopefully before you spent all of your money on continues).

Devil's Dare its updated re-release Streets of Red: Devil’s Dare Deluxe were developed by Secret Base, a studio based in Singapore and founded by Raymond Teo in 2010. Raymond previously released another zombie game in partnership with Bytejacker, entitled Bitejacker: Secret Base Horror Series 01, a Flash-based twin-stick zombie shooter that also spoofed horror films and other video games. Prior to this, he released Tobe’s Vertical Adventure under his Rayteoactive label.