If you like Super Smash Bros, you'll be quickly hooked by what De Mambo has to offer. Placing a special emphasis on simple and easy to understand gameplay, just about anyone can pick up a Joy Con and have fun with this title. Even if you don't have friends, there's still enough content here to justify a purchase, as De Mambo is a well-made game from start to finish.
De Mambo will be available for $12.99 on the Nintendo Switch on July 13, with PS4 and Steam versions coming later. There is no link for the game on Nintendo's website at the time of this review. You can view the game directly on the Switch eShop.
While there is no story with De Mambo, but a lot of effort went into how the game is presented. Right away, it's clear that it was inspired by classic games from the NES era, with the chippy tunes and pixelated visuals. However, instead of using this as a crutch, developer The Dangerous Kitchen has employed this style tastefully and mixed it well with what the game has to offer.
Right when you start the game, you'll be faced with several artsy TV screens that detail the different modes. Then from there, you can decide which one interests you the most. It's clear from these menus that the game has a lot of polish to it and knows exactly what it wants to be, which is a struggle for a lot of indie titles.
De Mambo also knows that it's not the only multiplayer game on the Switch, so it throws all kinds of wacky visuals at you. While this could've been a detriment to the game, it's actually used to great effect here. It makes the game more memorable in the long run.
Let's get down to where De Mambo really excels: it's gameplay. The Dangerous Kitchen sent me a letter along with the review copy stating how they came to creating this game. Apparently, their biggest influence was Super Smash Bros and they decided to deconstruct the formula of that title in order to make their own game.
As such, the influences are clear. If your character flies off the edge of the screen, it's an instant death (there are no health systems here). And, the controls are easy to grasp but difficult to master. Make no mistake, though: De Mambo is not a copy of Smash Bros and is very much its own game. Apart from these two mechanics, they're vastly different experiences.
The controls are much simpler than its inspiration, though. You move around with the Joy Stick or directional buttons (being able to jump up to three times) and press "A" (or the left button if using the Joy Con sideways) to attack. Yet, you have three different attacks that are each triggered by holding the A button for separate lengths of time. If you hold the button too long, you'll simply discharge and won't be able to attack or move for a few seconds. It's a great way to ensure that no one will be holding a strong attack at all times and keeps the game moving at a fast pace.
The main mode of the game is called Mambo and is the first thing you see when you boot up the game. It places you and up to three other people in an arena where the last man standing wins. Most arenas are covered with breakable blocks that can only be destroyed by launching your opponents into them. If the match goes on too long, static will appear and the arena will start to break on its own. All in all, there isn't much I would change about the matches and the only problem I have is that the characters you control are difficult to see at times in both TV and tabletop mode.
As you play Mambo, you only have a handful of stages unlocked. As you play a few rounds, you will unlock more. Because of how different each of these arenas are, it was a nice way to motivate me and my friends to keep playing for a few more rounds.
However, Mambo isn't the only type of play you'll get with De Mambo. There are two other modes: Solo and Survival. Solo has you going to different humorously named planets where you will be rushed through many small stages to try and get to the very top. While you won't be struggling on the first two, once you get to the third planet, that's when things get really tough. Needless to say, if you want to get through the Solo Mode, you'll be playing De Mambo for a little while.
That brings me to my big issue with the Solo Mode. Because some of the later planets are so difficult, I would've preferred some way to save your progress. Once you start, you have to keep going or start over from the very beginning. There is also no continue system in place here, so if you lose all of your lives, you're back to where you started. This makes the harder planets much more tedious than they should be.
The final mode in the game is known as Survival. If there was one way I'd describe it, it would be Space Invaders but you're given the controls of De Mambo. It's fairly standard. Waves of enemies will come down, but instead of trying to kill you, they'll simply remove your footholds so you have a greater chance of flying off the screen. The mode can be played with three other players if you're not that confident, but keep in mind that you can knock each other off here too. Survival Mode is the one I spent the least amount of time on, as there weren't enough differences and no unlocks (to my knowledge) to keep me invested. With how crazy the rest of the game is, I was a bit disheartened by how generic this mode was.
The game also comes loaded with an Options menu. The reason I'm discussing it here is that you can use it to change the color palette that appears when you select the color of your character. You can even create custom loadouts so you have your favorite palettes ready.
The Options menu also holds a small directory that shows the many different control schemes implemented in De Mambo. The great part is that you don't have to manually set any of them. All of the buttons on the Joy Con are assigned to a purpose. All you have to do is figure out what works for you specifically. With such a simple game, I was pleasantly shocked to see all of the different configurations they suggested. I should also point out that this game is one of the few that isn't a pain to play with a single Joy Con. The simple controls allowed for a comfortable experience.
graphics & audio
As I stated in the beginning of this review, De Mambo takes a pixelated style, but it's done so very tastefully. Because of all of the colors and animations, there were times when I forgot that I could see all of the pixels. The backgrounds in the stages move, enemies are fluid, and there are tons of flashing lights when your character attacks. Some of the stages (especially in Solo Mode) don't benefit from this style very much, but that's just a minor nitpick at this point.
In terms of the audio department, De Mambo is very pleasing. Each attack has a different sound, signaling what to listen for. They are also paired with different vibrations via the HD Rumble, which was a nice touch. When blocks break, they make a satisfying yet noticeable cracking noise. Enemies make distorted sounds when they target you, and so forth.
In regard to music, De Mambo uses the retro music to its advantage. There are some standout tracks like the menu and boss themes respectively. While I wouldn't listen to it in my car, they definitely got stuck in my head. Not all of the tunes were memorable, but that's hardly a complaint in the grand scheme of the game.
If you're looking for a great time with friends while you wait for bigger multiplayer games on the Switch, then De Mambo should be on your radar. While it remains to be seen how the game will stack up to bigger releases on the console, spending a mere $12.99 will get you three separate modes, a lot of stages to unlock, a fun and challenging story mode, and a host of ways to play. It's an excellent "pick up and play" title that anyone with friends or siblings should consider getting.
|+ Polished Gameplay||– No Save Mechanic for Story Mode|
|+ Diverse Stages||– Hard To Keep Track of Your Character at Times|
|+ Has its Own Personality||– May Not Stack Up To Bigger Multiplayer Games|
|+ Plenty of Replayability|
|+ Comfortable with Single Joy Con|