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64th Street: A Detective Story (Arcade)

64th Street: A Detective Story (Arcade) review


"Meet private investigator Rick and his partner Allen, two rough-and-tumble sleuths who defiantly unsubscribe from the traditional detective stereotype. Look no further than their appearance: the mustachioed Rick rocks a violet dress shirt, dandelion tie and burnt orange trousers, while the much younger Allen prefers more discreet attire, accentuating his white tank top and blue denim jeans with a stylish maroon vest. This pairing doesn’t exactly conduct investigations by combing over crime scenes with a magnifying glass either. Instead they take it to the mean streets and start cracking skulls in hopes, sooner or later, someone will finger their man."



Blame Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but we traditionally think of the detective as a methodical thinker using his cunning and wit to crack cryptic cases. Enigmatic gumshoes shrouded in the shade of deerstalker caps drift about crime scenes scratching squared jaws and furrowing brows. They fall trance-like into esoteric thought one can’t even fathom, especially their well-meaning sidekicks, who hang silently by the tails of their long woolen trench coats in contrast to their brilliance. A ha! With dramatic nonchalance they finger unlikely perpetrators executing extravagant schemes.

The dubious duo of 64th Street: A Detective Story, however, mimics anyone but Lord Sherlock Holmes and his trusted Watson.

Meet private investigator Rick and his partner Allen, two rough-and-tumble sleuths who defiantly unsubscribe from the traditional detective stereotype. Look no further than their appearance: the mustachioed Rick rocks a violet dress shirt, dandelion tie and burnt orange trousers, while the much younger Allen prefers more discreet attire, accentuating his white tank top and blue denim jeans with a stylish maroon vest. This pairing doesn’t exactly conduct investigations by combing over crime scenes with a magnifying glass either. Instead they take it to the mean streets and start cracking skulls in hopes, sooner or later, someone will finger their man.

To be sure there is some reason (or perhaps “reason” is not the right word) as to why these two sleuths and have been cornered, with no choice but to bust a million faces. Like most beat ‘em ups, this reason really won’t matter or make much sense, a firm basis in reality not exactly the selling point of the genre. This caper will only be solved by the dynamically dressed duo taking the law into their own hands, personally pummeling anyone even present in the city’s seedy underbelly. It’s up to you to solve it: accept their tactless method as law.

If anything characterizes 64th Street: A Detective Story it is the classic combination of grittiness and sideshow it balances in its approach to the genre; its forebear Final Fight taught it well. The faded, haggard look of the backdrops and sprites; the rundown slums and filthy subways Rick and Allen traverse; the cold steel pipes they mercilessly beat thugs over the head with – all serve as signs developer Jaleco was not trying to reinvent the wheel. There is a certain charm in a game so content operating within the confines of a known product and merely applying its own oddball premise over the already working archetype. It establishes a comfort knowing exactly how things will unfold. No, non-fans will not become believers – turn away now – but the end result is certainly enough to keep die-hards momentarily satisfied.

Stumble outside the detective agency (conveniently located in one of the sleaziest sectors of town) and unprovoked thugs and hoodlums immediately attack. These attackers are men with biceps disproportionately bigger than their thighs, gangsters decked in fatigue green, 80’s hair band rejects in lemon spandex, Rocky imitators, sunglass shielded ballers headed to the local Y for a game. Every color of the bad guy spectrum is ingloriously represented and wants a piece.

And they'll get it. While 64th Street does not boast the variety of punch combos and special attacks rank and file beat ’em ups possess, Rick and Allen hit hard and have more than enough might to get by. When a perp oversteps and lands in their wheelhouse they'll grab him by the collar and sling him against the backdrop, resulting in smashed window panes, crumbled building archways, demolished art galleries, and, in the second level, a slew of drowned henchman as they’re hurled off the dock of the bay for instant kills. Not enough beat ‘em ups have this level of interaction with their environments, a shame as it compensates for the otherwise plain moves. Then again, not enough contain the wildly offbeat bosses found here too.

A full-fledged pirate – complete with hook and eye patch – spinning around on his peg leg like a cyclone; a burly punk rocker in garish purple denim hopping mad and swinging an oversized mallet; a pair of old miners built like bulls, one in lime green overalls and the other in pink, attacking and front flipping about the screen. Yes, they’ll all cheat: one knock off your feet and they will mercilessly follow up a second, third and fourth time before you can regain composure. But c'mon! You're a detective fighting a pirate! How many games have that?

Not enough these days. I’m willing to cut it a little slack.

Yes, 64th Street: A Detective Story may have been just another beat 'em up in the golden age of these titles, complete with all the usual complaints. You're right. It can't brag about all the maneuvers it places at your disposal or of a plethora of weapons to pummel foes (a steel pipe and a wrench just isn’t enough). You may have even laughed as you passed by this one in the arcade, mocking its quirky, looping soundtrack and blatant copycat antics.

But that booming era is now long gone and we haven’t seen a weird, wacky gauntlet where one man must maul a thousand in years. And you either get why these games absolutely rock or you don’t. It's time to turn back the clock and realize what was taken for granted.

Held under the magnifying glass, no single aspect of this game ever meets an ideal. But by sheer virtue of being a perfectly playable member of an illustrious age, 64th Street: A Detective Story is more than deserving of a couple of run-throughs.

It doesn’t take Holmes to see that.

Rating: 6/10

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Staff review by Winston Wolf (September 26, 2010)

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