Review: De Mambo

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You need only to look at the Switch to realize that it appeals to a demographic that I’ve said, time and again, needs more love: couch multiplayer. The amazing thing is that the Switch no longer requires you to have a sofa, an internet connection or even a dedicated power source as long as you packed your own controllers and charged it this morning. Already there are plenty of people who’ve experience Mario Kart on the road, bragged about what wild sights they’ve seen while exploring Breath of the Wild…even the original Nintendo marketing campaign had players meet John Cena in the desert to play 1-2-Switch. Meeting up and making the most out of friendship and connections are a big part of the Switch’s future to the younger demographic, and indie developers aren’t sitting this one out. So it’s not surprising that someone has finally brought a four player brawler to the Switch, under the cute and intriguing moniker of…De Mambo.

There isn’t much of a story to De Mambo, so you can relax your spirits. Basically you are a living capsule machine that drops in your brood to a set stage location and you do your best to shove, beat and bully the other players off the ledges and into the void until you, alone, are the champion. The game thrives and prides itself on simplicity, so I won’t undermine the message by trying to build it up to more than it is. The Dangerous Kitchen even says on their website that you should be able to play the game with just one button, and the jump button is more of a formality than anything else (clearly a joke, but important to note nonetheless). There are a number of different stage varieties, each with destructive elements that are key to you achieving victory. Besides a normal “poke,” you can also charge up for a “spin” and even “fire” attack, though you will simply fizzle out if you charge too long. Your little cartoon mascot can triple jump if need be, though I advise you to keep track of how much and how far you’ve jumped, because you don’t want to fall into the void at the worst possible time.

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The multiplayer, which is the main course of the entire game, is feast or famine based on how many players and who you’ve paired up to play with. I tried it with two and four players, respectively, and the four player jaunt was far and away more fun. With just one other player, it becomes a weird game of cat-and-mouse, as whoever decides to go on the offensive first ends up in a Benny Hill situation, trying to trap and exterminate the other player as smoothly as possible. The only, only way to finally get a point is to send the other player into the void: no amount of hitting alone will result in their death. So if a player can hole themselves up just right, you might be looking at a particularly long game of touch and go until you hurl a Joy Con at their heads. On the other hand, the four player version was pure and undiluted mayhem that was a screaming blast for all to behold. Of course you get to select and choose your color when you begin, but you better believe you lose track of who is who once everyone starts slamming and hunting each other and you don’t know whether to be more pissed at your friend or wife, because they’re both working together to eliminate you.

There is also a solo player mode to help you get the grasp of more complex control and action in De Mambo, and, to its credit, it has a ton of stages – 70, exactly – across growing difficulties that can keep players entertained if they are truly into how the game handles and basically executing the mechanics in a vacuum. Since there isn’t a story to this single player mode, it’s little more than a series of science experiments to see what you can and cannot do as the character sprite. There’s nothing wrong with the solo mode, and I think it can be a huge benefit for someone looking to extend their skill and abilities in De Mambo. However, that’s really the whole of what it means: just a place to practice that isn’t you playing against three unresponsive players.

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Graphically, De Mambo is a lovely shade of pixel art that pops and grooves well with the atmosphere. It’s got a cool, creepy vibe without being too dark or macabre, but it also doesn’t go full lucador with colors and tassles. You see a good deal of variety in the solo mode for what can be done in the background and with small enemy design, and you have plenty of distinct choices for where to play in the multiplayer. Players can really finesse what they want their character to look like with a nice color palette, and it adds some individuality that’s a good touch given that you can’t exactly design a unique persona in such a game.

I wish there was more to write about here, but De Mambo is really a small but neatly wrapped package that’s been delivered onto the Switch. Players who don’t have friends over often (or go over to friend’s houses) will have a really hard time being convinced they need this game added to their library. But the growing number of multiplayer fanatics may find De Mambo has a great niche spot to fill. It’s easy to learn, can have a lot of replay value, and offers something that’s more destructive than a majority of the party games that tend to be more cooperative than offensive. If you’re looking for a spot of fun that involves beating up your companions, then you can see just how low you can get with De Mambo.

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