I won’t lie to you – Oldboy is one of my favourite movies of all time. The beautiful drama and its twists and turns with a unique style by Park Chan-wook is one of the best examples of Eastern cinema from the last 50 years. But what if it was made into a game? Well, rather, what if one particularly brutal sequence out of the movie was made into a game? Can I write a Vengeance of Mr Peppermint review without an Oldboy quote?
Indeed, the sequence in question is the incredible one-take corridor fight, which you might be familiar with (if not go watch it). Vengeance of Mr. Peppermint is a side-scrolling fighting game, where we’ll have to fight through hordes of enemies to reach the end of the level. That’s it. It is even simpler than the original Double Dragon: no branching pathways, no bonus rounds, no health-restoring items, no character selection. Just fight with fists and kicks – rarely with weapons – and take down the same enemies over and over.
While this might already sound quite repetitive, the game does not do anything to mix things up. While you do have a stamina meter, which turns into a sort of bonus damage sometimes, it doesn’t seem to change things drastically. Health is restored gradually after a kill (I think? It’s never really explained). The weapons that can be picked up are mostly used for one-hit kills, with some neat ones like impaling our enemies up on meat hooks.
Let’s start with a couple of positives. The 16-bit Kunio-kun style graphics work and might be the best part of the whole package, even though the dramatic soundtrack doesn’t add much. Some of the more gruesome animations are quite satisfying as well. Fighting the same enemies (there are two main types, with some minimal variation) over and over is not what I’d call very fun, but we’ll let it slide.
Let’s come to the main problem now. The game designers seem to have forgotten that the main reason the fight sequence in Oldboy works is how perfectly choreographed it is. The game feels the exact opposite. Kicks and punches seem to barely connect, sometimes the buttons just don’t seem to do anything. There are only a few combos while pressing a button to use a weapon will sometimes activate at random across the room.
When beating someone up doesn’t feel satisfying in a game where that’s all you do… well, you have a problem. Enemies will also get up from the floor, even after minutes, which I don’t even understand if it’s a glitch or not. Even worse, there are some inexplicable decisions like enemies that get thrown off-screen will reappear on the other side, like they are in Pac-man. But, I hear you ask, isn’t there a story here? Yes, but it’s badly translated and very confusing.
We are after vengeance for our family, but after that, I’d have a hard time explaining what is even going on. Even worse, in case you had doubts about the game’s inspirations (despite the character’s haircut, the hammer, the looks, etc), one of the first dialogue choices is an actual Oldboy quote. To which the enemy responds “That’s old, oh Boy.” I mean, I appreciate references, but when your entire game is a reference, then you don’t really need to put direct quotes, right?
I liked the idea of starring in a dirty and violent Korean drama, but Vengeance of Mr. Peppermint definitely needed more work before being unleashed to the public. Hardcore fans of beat ’em up might be interested in what’s on offer here, but they would also have to put up with an imprecise fighting style that has just a few combos and very little variation. It’s a game only for fans of Oldboy, so you can see if those ten years of imaginary training can be put to good use.
Our Vengeance of Mr Peppermint review was made possible with a key provided by Stride PR. The game is available on Steam.
Vengeance of Mr Peppermint: Inspired by the classic Oldboy corridor fight sequence, this is a 16-bit style beat em up where the controls are not very responsive and beating up your enemies doesn't feel as satisfying as it should. – Damiano Gerli