Masaru (a name literally meaning: Victory) is an anthropomorphic monkey hoping to be the number one fighter in Edo Japan, and in order to do that he’ll need to single-handedly tackle the Zodiac Tournament. The catch is — as Masaru is soon informed by his new promoter: Jubeii — he needs to first make a name for himself, or else he’ll never get invited to the upcoming tournament. Further complicating matters is that the Shiga clan — a secretive ninja group, who’re none too pleased Masaru just cut and run after receiving training — are now in hot pursuit of our stardom seeking simian!

I’ll be honest, I really wanted to like CleaverSoft’s side-scrolling Beat’em Up — featuring a unique ukyio-e inspired art style — but I was unfortunately thwarted by Edo Superstar’s exclusively tap and swipe based control scheme. Long-time readers of iFanzine will be quite aware that I advocate the use of on-screen buttons whenever the option is offered, so people reading this review are advised to keep my personal biases in mind. Either way — with that said — it’s finally time we began discussing the controls for Edo Superstar (out now, free), and learning precisely why they provided me with no end of frustration.

You can command Masaru to hop forward, hop backwards, roll forwards/backwards, jump straight up, and jump forward/backwards by swiping on your iDevice’s screen in the appropriate direction. The direction needed to swipe for all of these various actions are — by the way — fairly self-explanatory (such as swiping upwards for jumps, and downwards for defensive rolls). One may additionally swipe left/right, without releasing, in order to make Masaru continuously run in the given direction (rather than merely having him hop a single time forward).

You’re probably already — given my previous rant — expecting me to claim that Edo Superstars has trouble telling these actions apart, and — while it certainly does — I wouldn’t have needed my previous warning if the game’s problems stopped there.

Anyways — moving forward — you can additionally attack by tapping anywhere on the screen, with the general direction of the strike being determined by which side you choose to tap. Furthermore — in a nice touch — the angle of Masaru’s kick/punch will be determined by precisely how high/low you tap the screen, affording you angular control of the monkey’s blows as you dish them out rapid fire. Finally, if tap the screen for an attack — but don’t release the screen afterwards — you can have Masaru bring up a defensive barrier capable of stopping incoming blows (but enemies may do this as well).

Unfortunately Edo Superstar tends to have a hard time keeping up with the chaos of knowing when you want to strike, and when you want to dodge, which starts to be a problem as the game’s action begins picking up. Further complicating things are special moves — which become unlocked along the way — such as the jump kick, which requires you to swipe downwards once you’re already up in the air. Finally — should you happen to stun an opponent by striking them repeatedly — you can perform a massive strike by swiping across them, although the game often confused this for an evasive maneuver.

When you do finish a stage — which is easily accomplished if you have enough health restoring food on hand — you’ll earn experience based on how you did, alongside food and coins (the latter of which can be spent on more food). Getting enough experience points will eventually afford you with skill points that may be used to upgrade various aspects of Masaru, which certainly helps to make his fights easier to win afterwards. Additionally — should you get an impressive three-star rating — you can redo a stage to try for a fourth star, but the special conditions required to get these — such as not receiving any damage — are generally not doable given the game’s brutally finicky controls.

I want to reiterate that I genuinely adored Edo Superstar’s visual style — the fact all of the scrollable stages are actually a scroll sitting on a table — and the over-all concept, but these controls rapidly sucked what little enjoyment I could find from the experience. Considering that the game offers to sell you coin bundles, in order to help you bulk up on health restoring food (rather than grinding against foes for it), I can’t help but to wonder if the looseness wasn’t possibly intentional. Either way, I fully admit — given that some people seem to love this — that it might only be myself failing utterly to properly grasp the nuances of how to make Edo Superstar’s controls work consistently.

While I doubt you’ll have fun, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to take the game for a free whirl — since the presentation is really nice — to see if you otherwise disagree with my thoughts (but I suspect it won’t take very long for the controls to utterly annoy you as well). However, I’ll definitely come running back — wasting no time in the process — if the developer ever adds an alternative control scheme (such as on-screen buttons, or — at the very least — something less finicky). After all, when’s the last time you played a Beat’em Up where you ran in a bath house to find opponents whom — although thankfully clothed –– began beating you up with what you initially thought were nudity hiding censor bars?

Verdict

CleaverSoft’s Edo Superstar is a Beat’em Up regarding Masaru’s action-packed journey to eventually win the illustrious Zodiac Tournament, replete with a fully appropriate ukyio-e inspired art style. Unfortunately the game additionally comes with a perhaps less than appropriate tap and swipe based control scheme that is super finicky, and generally sucks all the fun from the app’s otherwise awesome premise. At least Edo Superstar’s free price-tag means you can personally see whether or not the control scheme suits your tastes, but I rather suspect you won’t enjoy this monkey business.

Positives
Great ukyio-e inspired art style
Has many truly unique Beat’em Up moments
Negatives
The purely tap and swipe based control scheme is super finicky and unenjoyable
2.5
Okay
Download on the App Store