Beer, boobs, hospitals and punctuality. Does it get more German than that?

Double Dragon (1990)

I’m well versed in hospitals, you know. I don’t mean medical hospitals – dreadful places, you know. Full of death, and suffering, and the nurses are nowhere near as up for it as several video tapes from my youth had led me to believe. I did have cause to visit a general hospital in my adult years, in order to have a flap of skin cut off the end of my gentleman’s area.

And I was gutted, you know, as that was the only bill I ever paid in full and I still ended up getting cut off. I was unlikely to get the blind circumciser at least – that guy got the sack. At least my surgeon wasn’t money hungry anyway; some of those guys are only in it for the tips.

Anyway, enough uncomfortable jokes. I avoid the sick house as much as I can, but in terms of medical accommodation, I once stayed a number of days in a spot called the Hangover Hospital. Unlike American hospitals, which will bankrupt you in a hurry if you have the temerity to land in there after a failed suicide attempt, we found that the Hangover Hospital was the cheapest accommodation available in Munich, by far.

We initially booked the holiday to see a friend of ours, who turned out to be deceptive snake – don’t they all? So ignorant and untravelled were we, that we didn’t even realise we were booking this stint during the last few week of Oktoberfest, known to us (subsequently) well-educated guys as die Wiesn.

For sure this added a beery layer to our trip over to Munich, and the advertising for the Hangover Hospital spoke for itself – a strong reference to alcohol in the title, which would appeal to any 21-year-old waster. You’ve heard about German precision, well, that’s precisely what we were.

The hospital part could have caused us alarm, but the marketing material (that is, Facebook photos) showed us that there’d be sexy nurses to go on pub crawls with. We were virile, pale young lads with maybe a few flashcards of German between us. What could go wrong?

A lot, as it happens. Well, let’s be blunt, it all sounds absolutely depressing now that I’m all boring and mature and knocking on my thirties, which I delude myself into thinking will be just like my twenties but with more disposable cash.

But there wasn’t a single sexy nurse on offer for the lads, a flagrant case of false advertising. What we did have were these flimsy outdoor tents replete with musty bunkbeds, where you were lucky if you managed to fulfil that fabled duo of having both a duvet and a pillow.

If you wanted to charge your phone, well, at least there was a tiny smidgen of electricity knocking about – but only at the “doorways” to this wretched communal tent. You barely wanted to leave your phone there, because you felt there was at least an evens chance it’d get stolen. The toilets were a shitty mess, which isn’t a polite phrase I know but I don’t think I need to go into any more descriptive detail than that for you.

And my God, it got cold at night. If you hadn’t drank much that day, then you could forget about sleep. You needed alcohol insulation or you were a goner, but I was never able to get legless multiple days in a row. It got so bad that all five of us got on the plane hole with borderline pneumonia – we couldn’t even speak. You don’t get that from the Travelodge, do you?

But needless to say, those problems were merely ‘night-time problems’. Once day broke, you better believe we got the hell out of that place. And what we found, once we’d discharged ourselves as swiftly as possible from the Hangover Mortuary, was a beautiful city in Munich.

The real MVP was the Oktoberfest, the all-day beer fest where it was a boozy kaleidoscope of mega beer steins, enormous pretzels, drunken bumper cars and the German gals in lederhosen. There was no messing about here, you know, it was boobies out and with four or five steins of falling down water in each hand.

And you needed to feel the weight of these things, bloody hell. The stein glasses, I’m on about here. These girls must have been former members of the East German Olympics team, but they hadn’t undergone quite enough hormone replacement therapy to fully transition into being a man. Just the perfect balance, one might say.

I’d say they were as strong as the Lindas in Double Dragon, who must’ve been some of the first strongwomen in gaming. These days, you often see photos of girls doing proper, fully-fledged weightlifting shows and getting all oiled up, though not really in the way you’d like. I’m not going to lie, any time I see highlight reels of these shows I always feel my little tater shrivel up a bit, almost as if it has no business being there anymore.

Anyway, Lindas are just some of the enemies you’ll be beating up again and again in Double Dragon, originally a 1987 arcade classic and ported to NES the following year. I think the NES is the most fondly remembered rendition of the game, although naturally the home conversion took a right big chunk out of the graphics and sound, not to mention the fact that co-op gameplay was no longer possible. And what use is a lark without friends?

Still, what the NES version didn’t lack was the gameplay, and it didn’t cut out any of the levels either. That’s just as well, considering there’s only four full levels in this game, but that didn’t stop Donkey Kong on NES from short-changing you.

What’s weird is that, as you go through the later levels, the beat’em up aspect gets dropped more and more in favour of making you do some platforming. The big problem here is that your characters move just a tad more realistically than Mario, so their jumping prowess isn’t too great.

Worse still, you have to press A+B together to actually jump, which doesn’t sound too tricky. But you’ll be amazed just how many times you fall into the drink while trying to do some of the more ambitious jumps on level 3. You’ve only got 3 lives to your name and no chance of getting another on your way, so any platforming mistakes get gravely punished. Still, better than dropping 25 cents a throw on it, eh?

There’s a good incentive to kill the enemies in Double Dragon, apart from having to do so anyway in order to move to the next screen. Continue to punch the head off enemies, whether they’re boys, girls, or humongous Hulk rip-offs called Abobos, and you’ll gain experience points that will let you use new moves as you go.

Once your character suddenly remembers how to use his elbow, however, you’ve got a big leg up because it’s a pretty overpowered move and will take you through most of the game. I do seem to recall those lederhosen girls in Oktoberfest elbowing drunken fools out of the way at regular intervals, so this one is pretty routed in reality.

For a bit more replay value from this ancient game, which has been re-released and ported a zillion times since the late 80s, the NES version gives you an Arena mode. It’s a very primitive precursor to a tournament fighter where you select one of many characters, including the enemy mooks, and fight against a clone of yourself. It’s as moribund as it sounds but I suppose any kind of multiplayer in the 1980s was significant.

Finishing off the Double Dragon package is some classic music, even if there’s not much of it. And, I must say, there’s a hell of a lot of glitches that are fun to watch and don’t disturb your enjoyment of the game – like how you can literally walk up the walls in the first level. Or, if you don’t fancy taking on the second level boss, you can just go down the ladder until he despawns and you win.

Yes, I’m a big fan of the NES variant, although I rather get the feeling that this home port was cobbled together by chewing gum, spit and some sticky tape. Which, come to think of it, isn’t too far removed from the good old Hangover Hospital. Double Dragon still stands tall to this day. I wonder if the hospital can say the same?

9 February 2021

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