Snoop’s ‘Way of the Dogg’ channels ‘Street Fighter’ mechanics

May 03, 2013 | 4:58 p.m.
Battling Snoop in "Way of the Dogg," available now on Xbox Live Arcade. (Echo Peak / 505 Games)

Battling Snoop in “Way of the Dogg,” available now on Xbox Live Arcade. (Echo Peak / 505 Games)

The release Friday of “Way of the Dogg” on Xbox Live Arcade is only surprising because something similar hasn’t happened sooner. It seems as if it were only a matter of time before Snoop Dogg became the animated star of his own branded product. Snoop, after all, has been something of a cartoon for a while now.

The one-time gangsta rap star has had his own reality show, hosted a video-game award show, rewrote “Drop It Like It’s Hot” for a microwavable food item and will appear pretty much anywhere he’s asked, whether it’s Coachella, a porno, Wrestlemania or something that was called “Mac & Devin Go to High School.”

He’s also now Rastafarian and has changed his name to Snoop Lion, and as players of “Way of the Dogg” are told, “Snoop will always be Snoop Lion.” What, exactly, is the difference between Snoop Dogg and Snoop Lion? “Way of the Dogg” offers one explanation. The spiritual tenets of the Snoop Lion, combined with the “steel, aggression street heat” of Snoop Dogg create an “unstoppable fighting force.”

Snoop in “Way of the Dogg” is a spiritual leader and fighting tutor, the guide throughout a series of mini-battles built on old-fashioned “Street Fighter” mechanics. There’s a light narrative and a cast of corrupt characters, but they’re largely excuses to practice new moves — all of them requiring skillful coordination with a controller.

Players assume the role of America Jones, a fighter-for-hire who starts the game with zero allegiances but soon links with Snoop to learn “The Way,” described as a “near-mythical code of fighters [who] train in Snoop’s shadow, high up in the Hollywood hills.” Sometimes Jones looks a little like Drake, at least in the game’s rudimentary animated style (Snoop, after all, only looks a little like Snoop), but that’s likely a coincidence.

Jones seeks Snoop’s help after the murder of his girlfriend, perhaps by a no-good cop, or maybe at the hands of Don Blank, a.k.a. the rich white banker known as “The Man.” The whodunnit is the mystery pushing the game forward through a series of down dead-ends and various wrong directions. When Jones asks the no-good cop if he killed his girlfriend, the officer shrugs and says who cares, it’s “one less hoodrat.”

The look of the game is simple, with minimal animation that recalls a Flash-based PC game, and the script is of the straight-to-video variety. “I want justice,” Jones tells Snoop. “You want revenge,” Snoop corrects. “I do,” Jones concedes. “Then prove you deserve it,” Snoop tells him.

And thus a fight ensues.

During each battle gamers are presented with an arsenal of buttons to press in time with the rhythm of one of Snoop’s hits such as “Gz and Hustlas.” Don’t expect to watch the fights, as button-mashing orders take precedence and combinations dominate the screen. Winning bouts is done by mastering the orders presented. An example: press A, then hold A, then B, then B again, then B again, now X, now A and B one more time.

But at just $9.99, “Way of the Dogg,” which will soon be available for the PlayStation Network as well as iOS and Android devices, is aimed primarily at Snoop completists and nostalgia gamers. Those who look to games to hone their dexterity with a controller will find plenty to smile at, such as Snoop in Rasta gear defeating your character in a training battle or colorful descriptions of the game’s locales, such as the Santa Monica Pier-inspired “Pier 420.”

Others, such as myself, will simply be reminded of the type of games I avoided at junior high sleepovers. Never good at sports, fighting games in the mode of “Way of the Dogg” did little more than exploit the weakness of my coordination, requiring use of the specific inabilities that had me sitting on a couch playing games instead of on a baseball field or a basketball court in the first place.

I will shamefully admit that in my two hours of gameplay it took me almost 30 minutes to simply get to any action, as having to press the A button in time to a hip-hop beat had my hand tripping over itself.  Failing continuously also raises other questions, such as what does the sage-like Snoop Lion think of endlessly fighting to a loop of “Murder Was the Case,” or why am I even wasting an afternoon mastering “The Way?”

The “majesty, peace, respect and love” that Snoop Lion seems to enjoy in his Hollywood Hills home isn’t awaiting me at the end of “Way of the Dogg,” but carpal tunnel sure is.

– Todd Martens

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

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