Iello’s 8-Bit Box is an absolutely fantastic concept. Styled as a classic console, it comes bundled with three games that each use their own custom components as well as shared bits and pieces from the core box, such as player controllers, dice and cubes. Each of the separate titles is packaged like a SNES game, with many video game-esque design elements to go with their themes.

The core box contains the Pac-Man tribute Pixoid, F-Zero-esque futuristic racer Outspeed and the Track & Field homage Stadium. It’s a stunning design concept, executed wonderfully – and having three distinct ‘cartridges’ in the box also adds value. A fourth ‘cartridge’ slot in the box tantalisingly promises that more games are coming soon.

Disappointingly, since the 8-Bit Box was released in 2018, the only expansion that’s been released was last year’s Streets of Rage-style beat ’em up Double Rumble. Is it a worthy addition to the box?

Just from looking at the packaging and overall visual design of Double Rumble, you can feel the affection for classic 16-bit side scrolling beat ’em ups. As can be seen in the rest of the 8-Bit Box line, there’s an absolutely astonishing level of detail and some really cool references not only to video games but also to things like the Cthulhu Mythos, Jaws and The Wizard (yep, there’s a Power Glove in here!).

It’s a game for one or two players, in which you line up bad guys – and a boss – in certain positions surrounding your characters, then try to take them out one at a time, before defeating the boss and moving onto the next stage. Beat the boss of Stage 4 and you win – run out of credits before doing so and it’s Game Over.

The two distinct phases – Side Scrolling and Brawl – are very different, with players drawing and positioning enemies during the first phase and then taking them on one-by-one after that.

There’s a gentle level of strategy involved in placing the bad guys during the first phase, especially when some have powers that are affected by the placement or abilities of other cards in play. Even the placement of the boss can be important, with them being able to affect a player with an ongoing ability until they’re defeated.

Defeating a bad guy is a case of rolling higher than their strength, but a bonus die can be added if the player’s special move matches the enemy’s weakness symbol. Moving to a new special move loses a health point, however, as can switching position on the board to take on a new row of bad guys, so the positioning of enemies in the first phase is definitely something that needs to be done carefully.

Though it was a concern when reading the rules that there was too much randomness involved in defeating enemies, having equipment that offers bonuses and also knowing when to utilise special moves and/or change position adds a bit of mitigation to the luck.

One aspect I wasn’t keen on was losing a battle – though damage is handled as you’d expect (with enemies dealing damage equal to the difference between your roll and their strength), the fact that they’re still removed from the board (‘scared away’) didn’t feel very thematic or satisfying. Losing also gives the player a Fury point, however – reach a certain level of Fury and a passive ability is activated, go even further and a powerful special ability is available to be used.

Though a pretty fun game – that’s also got the advantage of being suitable for just one player instead of two – it feels less like a beat ’em up and more like a tower defence game in practice. That said, it has a gorgeous aesthetic and the ability to increase the base difficulty – there are three difficulty levels, which reduce the number of credits available and/or the general strength of enemies you face) – along with a variety of bad guys and bosses that you can face in any one game, gives Double Rumble a nice feeling of variety and replayability.

As many of the components needed to play are found in the 8-Bit Box, you’ll obviously need the core ‘console’ to actually play Double Rumble – but this has the advantage of meaning that it’s pretty cheap to pick up. Not only that, but as Double Rumble is in the same size ‘cartridge’ style box as the other 8-Bit Box games, it fits nicely and neatly into the core ‘system’ box.

It’s definitely one to check out if you’re a video game fan, which you’re likely to be if you’ve already got hold of the 8-Bit Box ‘system’. If you don’t already have the base game, it’s well worth checking out for the variety of experiences it provides out of the box – and Double Rumble is a decent addition to the three titles included that offers a very different experience to the three already available.

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