Violence solves nothing… unless you’re in a Bud Spencer and Terence Hill movie, then it pretty much solves everything. If you are part of the generation which grew up in the '70s and '80s, it was impossible to avoid the Italian duo’s numerous adventures during afternoon movie sessions on television. The sets varied from spaghetti westerns to modern day locations, but the plot was usually the same: baby-faced Terence Hill would get in trouble with the local ruffians and inadvertently drag jolly giant Bud Spencer into the mess. The many, many humorous slap-based fighting choreographies they used would entertain us no end.
Yet it took all these decades for the duo to jump from cinema to video games. And of course it's a side-scrolling beat’em up. Slaps and Beans is the exact kind of game one would expect to find in an early '90s arcade salon alongside similar offerings from Konami, Capcom or Data East. But are these beans worth cooking (and consuming) today?
For most of the time Slaps and Beans is a co-operative beat’em up. Even if you’re playing alone, the AI does a good job of taking care of your partner to provide an enjoyable experience. You are free to switch between either Bud or Terry on the fly by hitting ‘ZL’. While Terence plays like a faster, more agile character using his trademark slaps or his dodging skill to get around baddies, Bud is the classic brute who can easily pick up one or two enemies clean off the ground and use them as battering rams and block attacks by using the enemy's own fists against them. It is a glorious 16-bit pixelated translation of both character's distinct traits and just one of the many telltale signs of the developer's true love for the source material.
While the fighting is responsive and enjoyable, just before it outstays its welcome the game throws in numerous surprise mini-games (inspired by many scenes from their cinematic adventures) that change the complexion of the gameplay considerably. There are cowboy shoot-outs, an overhead racing game, a beer-drinking/sausage-eating rhythm game, an impromptu food fight in the supermarket and so many more fun things up for discovery. Bosses usually have some sort of gimmick you have to figure out before an untimely ‘Game Over’ tells you that you’re probably doing something wrong, and there are even some light puzzle bits when you need to use Terence’s agility and Bud’s brute force to make progress. Even the original arcade games that provided the template for this game don't offer as much variety.
It is a bit of shame then that we found a few frame rate issues in a few of these mini-games, something that could probably improve with a bit of post-release optimization. Despite having a button dedicated to special moves, you won't find the usual ‘lose a bit of your HP and send everyone to the ground’ techniques here; instead of having to make do with Terence’s super fast slaps or Bud’s big closed-fist-to-the-head. The biggest omission we found was the lack of a jump button, but at least you can double tap either direction (or use ‘ZR’) to run and perform crowd-controlling rush attacks. Levels will usually take you between 10 to 15 minutes to complete and once you finish your adventure, there's little to no incentive to replay the game… but while that first run lasts, you'll be smiling broadly thanks to the in-game text dialogues between both characters and the very satisfying rollercoaster ride of non-stop beatings.
From character design to stage backgrounds, the pixel art goes above and beyond your average 2D eShop release, with several clever lighting tricks and small little details adding constant charm to even the most plain-looking of stages. The audio side of things is also excellent – the developers successfully managed to license many of the movie duo's iconic songs to make up the game’s soundtrack and the hilarious, nostalgic sound effects from slaps and head pummels are present and accounted for. This game’s design foundation may be found in '90s arcade cabinets, but its production values are way above the ones seen all those years ago.
Bud Spencer & Terence Hill - Slaps And Beans is a love letter to the career of both Italian actors and arcade side-scrolling brawlers. If you find yourself in either camp, this is a highly recommended option. If you happen to be on both groups, this is truly a no-brainer – even the relatively high price is more than justified by the quality and quantity of content that will keep you smiling, at least while the ride lasts. It's a shame Bud Spencer passed away back in 2016 – we believe he would get a kick out of seeing this game in action, bringing the duo’s trademark slapstick comedy into a whole new medium and generation. Kindly slap us some beans, please.