By: Mike Chen
When I first saw the screenshots for Speakeasy, my gut reaction was, “Sweet, an indie Street Fighter set in the 1920s.” What I got, though, was unlike any game I’ve ever played before sans perhaps a mini-game in some RPG somewhere. While Speakeasy sets two combatants against each other, the means of combat aren’t inspired by Hadoukens and Flash Kicks; instead, you’ll find that Speakeasy relates much more to the schoolyard game of rock-paper-scissors.
Speakeasy’s controls are all about timing rather than button functionality. Your player can attack, block or fake out. An additional button tags out to your teammate if you’re playing in a tag-team environment. Because attacks are nearly instantaneous with almost no animation, your timing on blocks has to be ultra precise, and that can be frustrating at times. A little more forgiveness in the time frame for blocking attacks would make the game more accessible and, thus, more fun.
Speakeasy features cartoonish graphics that blend a Street Fighter-style setup with 1920’s infused illustrations. Each character is based on a historical figure and looks like he/she came out of a children’s book. Similarly, music comes with an appropriate style based on the game’s time period.
If you’re looking for much beyond that, though, you’re out of luck. Since the game comes with a limited move set akin to rock-paper-scissors, animation takes place in just a few frames and moves quickly. Thus, there’s not much to see except for the strange design decision of severed heads upon a knockout (which wind up accumulating on the ground).
At its most basic, Speakeasy is best explained as rock-paper-scissors meets rock ‘em, sock ‘em robots. Two players match up against each other with attack, block and fake out buttons. Each button can be used once, so if player 2 falls for a block on player 1’s fake out, player 1 is basically in the clear to attack. Matches are best-of series set to player specifications.
So, that’s basically it. There are variations, such as including tag teams and elimination tournaments, but at its essence, this is a video game representation of a schoolyard favorite. Because of that, what you get out of it pretty much depends on the context of when and how you’re playing.
If you’re with a group of competitive friends, Speakeasy sessions can last hours. As a single-player experience, it’s basically non-existent, and the lack of deeper gameplay can turn others off pretty quickly.
Speakeasy is one of the strangest games I’ve ever played. The concept of bringing rock-paper-scissors into a fighting game is one of those crazy ideas that sounds good while drinking, but it really limits the scope of execution. If you’re with a group of friends, you may have a good time, but this one-trick pony is asking an awful lot with its $9.99 price.