“Hey boet, are you looking at me funny?” Odds are that, as a South African you’ve had this traditional battle cry directed at you at some point (if you’re male). Or you’ve been within earshot when it was belligerently yelled at some other poor muppet (this goes for male and female South Africans). There’s almost always a fight (or faaght). What if you could turn that into a video game? Well…
Play it, boet!
It’s not that often that we get to play a South African-made video game. There are a few notable ones out there — Semblance, Stasis, Broforce and, for the truly old-school, Toxic Bunny. Boet Fighter‘s attempting to muscle its way onto this list and… honestly, it can have the slot. Someone may get punched if they don’t. The side-scrolling beat-em-up is not without its flaws but it does one thing well — it entertains.
And it does this using a surprisingly familiar storyline. Our protagonist Hard Eddy (read: Mario) has had his ‘binnet’ (read: princess) stolen away by a mysterious stranger (Bowser, of a sort). Eddy and co. (Mod-C, if you opt for some same-screen multiplayer) head off on a quest to retrieve her from… wherever she wound up going. Only instead of hopping on mushrooms and turtles, you’ll engage in fisticuffs. Not for any particular reason, that’s just the language Eddy and his enemies speak.
Such style and attitude
Boet Fighter may turn moering okes into a game but its main draw isn’t the simplistic and repetitive combat. It’s the captured attitude, distilled from long exposure to large numbers of Friday (and Saturday) night fights, all witnessed at the lawless wilds of Fourways and the greater Johannesburg area.
To that end, players are treated to a very unique art style, one that caricatures everything it touches. Iconic Joburg landmarks (suitably altered, for unspecified ‘legal reasons’) are recognisable but also blown way out of proportion — just like our two top-heavy, always-skip-leg-day protagonists. The same style is extended to the combatant models, some of which are just palette-swapped versions of themselves. The overall effect is as though Day of the Tentacle exploded all over Streets of Rage.
But it’s the sound that’ll get you. The voice actors aren’t universally great but everyone’s very South African. Barroom chirps that usually precede or follow formal combat are the norm and some of them are very blerrie funny indeed. Provided you’re not staring a roided-up gym Goliath in the face when you hear that your incoming roundhouse kick will provide South Africa with much-needed renewable energy, that is. Boet Fighter‘s audio is designed to make you call your mates in to listen to what these okes are saying, boet.
The Double Dragon-like gameplay, no matter what its wrapper looks like, is the weakest link here. As combat goes, it’s bog-standard side-scrolling beat-em-up rules. You’re almost always moving left to right, there are moving hazards onscreen — taxis, since this is set in SA — and you’ve got to defeat waves of enemies to move on to boss fighters.
There are no surprises to be had. Whether you’re used to the arcade Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games, Sengoku, Streets of Rage, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, or any of the other games of this type, you’ll know what to expect. Some enemies drop special attacks (like your mates as backup, the SA rugby team as backup, Keem as backup or just Jack Parow) or protein shakes for bumping up your health. What isn’t dropped are weapons. Of any type. We kinda miss that — it would have provided far more combat options, too.
Instead, you’re using straight-up hands and feet to get your point across. There are jump and sprint attacks, players can block, but there’s not a terrible amount of depth to gameplay. You can wing it by button-mashing through most of the game, right up until the final boss’ wicked difficulty spike. Even that one’s pretty easily overcome without too much frustration. Boet Fighter‘s a good game, but it could have been a great one with more focus on the gameplay side.
Boet Fighter Verdict
This South Africa-flavoured fight-em-up is worth your time, as long as you know what you’re getting into. And provided you’re South African — we’re not sure the rest of the world will get (all of) it. Though, Die Antwoord does pretty well overseas so… The game’s combat and level design are relatively simple, easily cleared in a few hours on its lowest difficulty setting. Turn it up for a greater challenge and invite a mate to sit in for even more of one.
But you’ll find that Boet Fighter is best fired up before, during, or after weekend sportsball events, when there’s beer, biltong and buds in the vicinity. We’ve all got a mate or seen some pillock in public that acts just like Boet Fighter‘s so-called heroes. This’ll make you act like them, laugh at them… maybe even feel a little bad for them. But not too bad — the protagonists are real meatheads. Nobody’s really like that in real life, right? Right?