App Reviewed on: iPad Pro
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Street Masters is a board game that seems to be emulating arcade beat em' ups like Streets of Rage and other martial arts media from the 80s and 90s. It's also overwhelmingly complicated, mostly due to the amount of variables at play in a given game plus some vague rule wording. This definitely holds true in the digital adaptation of Street Masters, but it also offers up a whole lot of game and a killer aesthetic for its asking price.
In Street Masters, you take control of up to four fighters in their showdown with a big, bad boss character. This fight can take place in one of several tropey locales, like a munitions warehouse or a casino. Each character, boss, and stage comes with their own deck of cards featuring different attacks, enemies, effects, and equipment, all of which contribute to the overall dynamic of the fight.
Your end goal as the good guys is simple: defeat the bad guy. That said, there are a ton of things that get in your way of just rushing up to them and wailing away. Minion characters spawn into the map, certain stage objectives need to be defended to prevent a fail state, and you need to build up your fighters' skills into a combo that will grant them the power to come out victorious in combat.
There's a whole lot to take in while playing Street Masters. It's like playing Sentinels of the Multiverse, except you also have to worry about movement and defense mechanics (in addition to almost everything else being more complicated). It also doesn't help that the rules as written--in either the rulebook or printed on the cards--aren't always specific enough to let you really know how they work.
The training mode in the game can feed you scenarios and teach you some good strategies, but even with those under your belt, it's hard to keep track of everything going on in the game. Thankfully, if you make a move that bears unintended consequences, you always have the option to undo your moves, though using this feature is occasionally problematic. While playing Street Masters, there were definitely times where I undid a move and it didn't quite undo the last thing I did. With an unclear ruleset, it's hard to tell if this is intentional or not.
I spent a lot of my time with Street Masters scratching my head and getting confused. At the same time though, I couldn't pull myself away because of just how much 90s-edge drips off of the game. The inscrutable rules even add to the nostalgia, bringing me back to a childhood spent trying out games that were just out of my cognitive grasp purely because they looked cool.
Presumably, if you've played the physical version of Street Masters before, you won't be as perplexed by the game. This digital version might even enlighten you as to how some rules are supposed to work more specifically. Regardless, this digital version of Street Masters comes at the asking price of $ 10, which is about $ 70 less than the physical version, and it's certainly not lacking for content. With 14 heroes, four modes, eight stages, and more, there's just a ton of stuff to play around with, even if you don't fully understand all of it.
The bottom line
Street Masters is a radical concept for a board game that definitely gets bogged down by its own bulk. The digital version of the game definitely helps streamline play by automatically enforcing certain rules and performing upkeep, but it still has a steep learning curve. Despite these issues, Street Masters managed to charm me by hitting all the right nostalgia notes, so I can't help but giving it some bonus points for that.