As much as I love the side-scrolling beat-em-ups that filled arcades during the eighties and nineties, I'll be the first to admit that it wasn't, on the whole, the most diverse and imaginative genre around. There are only so many way you can walk across the screen and smack a guy in the mouth, after all. Certain common themes reoccur, visual hallmarks become firmly cemented in place and women are kidnapped with alarming frequency. Don't just bemoan it as laziness on the developer's part, though - use these cliches for your own amusement by playing VGJUNK's Beat-Em-Up Bingo!

Click here for the full-size version.
It's simple enough: 25 squares, each one containing a trademark beat-em-up element. Pick a belt-scrolling fighter, play through it and cross off a box every time you see what's written inside during gameplay. Simple!

"Angry Mayor" is not a square.

Here's a quick description of each square, although most of them are pretty self-explanatory.
Go!: The word "GO!" flashes on the screen, just in case you're paralysed with remorse over killing a street punk.
Sunset Ending: An awful lot of beat-em-ups seem to end just as the day is done.
Health Meat: Meat is good for you, meat you found on the floor is even better.
Sleeveless Jacket: Has someone removed the sleeves from their jacket? They're a bad guy, you should punch them.
Boss With Gun: Bosses are dishonourable pricks, and will sometimes shoot at you...
Fire Bombs: ...or they'll get their goons to throw Molotov cocktails.
2-Word Title: Like Final Fight or Violent Storm or Cooking Mama.
Throwing Knife: Don't stab, throw, because that's much more effective.

"I don't know about anyone else, but my arms are freezing."

Subway Stage: Because street punks are too poor to own cars, or sleeves for their jackets.
Ex-Pro Wrestler: It's a short career, but it equips you with all the tools necessary to fight ruthless crime syndicates.
Steel Pipe: Used for busting heads, justice and plumbing.
Kidnapped Female: Well, something has to get our heroes moving. It's usually a girlfriend, sometimes a daughter, almost always blonde.
Special Drains Health: Press attack and jump. Spin around and bash enemies. You look so awesome that it costs you some health.
Oil Drums: The only thing more common than generic thugs.
Clowns: Surprisingly common, commonly nightmarish.
Yellow / Red Health Bar: Yellow is apparently the colour of strength and vigour. Red, not so much.
Dominatrix: A woman in leather, with a whip. Don't people usually go to her to get beaten up on purpose? She seems to be making extra work for herself.

See, she could've been at home instead of waiting on a blustery rooftop.

Power, Speed, Balance: You've got three characters. One of them is as average as a beige carpet. One is faster, but weaker. The other is strong, but slower. The holy trinity.
Elevator Scene: Trapped inside a moving elevator as enemies jump in.
Mansion Stage: Because what's the point of becoming the head of a vast criminal empire if you can't have a nice house?
Mohawks: Hairdo of choice for gutter rats everywhere.
Building Site: Well, you wouldn't want to be fighting in a newly-completed building, would you? You might get blood on the skirting boards.
Fat Charging Men: A larger gentleman who, despite his portly stature, attacks by running into you like a hyperactive Labrador.
Sharp Suits: Has someone dressed up for the occasion? Maybe in a tuxedo?
Graffiti: Writing on the walls in the background is how villains pass the time spent waiting for the heroes to arrive.

When you any of these things in your chosen beat-em-up, cross it off and see how many you've got at the end of the game. For example, I tried it out with Final Final.

Capcom's classic is the big one, the granddaddy of all side-scrolling punchfests and the place where a lot of these recurring themes were born. As you can probably guess, it ticks quite a lot of these boxes.

22 out of 25, to be precise, a full house only prevented by the lack of dominatrixes and circus performers. Oh, and the fact that Cody kicked Belger out of his office window in broad daylight. No wonder Cody ended up in prison.
That's Final Fight, though: the blueprint, the originator. Let's try something that came later, made by a different company. How about Konami's Vendetta?

It's got a similar setting to Final Fight, but it feels and plays quite a bit differently. How did it score?

15 / 25 is a fairly high score, and it could have been higher: you can pick up a knife, but you can't throw it. Just stab, and stab, and stab.
There you go then: the VGJUNK Beat-Em-Up bingo card. Surely there's no game that can score higher than Final Fight? I'll be keeping an eye out for it, and if I find it I'll be sure to let you know. Obviously, this is all just a bit of fun and is in no way an indicator of how good or how derivative a game really is.

If you're playing a belt-scrolling fighter and you've filled in a bingo card, then please feel free to send it to vgjunk(at)hotmail.co.uk and I'll add it to this page. Who knows, maybe I'll retroactively apply it to some of the other beat-em-ups on the site! Wouldn't that be fun?
No, probably not.


Thanks to the fine work of Rich at krunchySoft, Beat-Em-Up Bingo is now available as a free iPhone app! It's got sound effects, randomised boards, the whole shebang, and you can download it here. Did I mention it's free?

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