Like Hollywood sequels, the software industry will churn out game after game based on the same tried and tested formula. It's not always a bad thing - after all, some sequels make vast improvements over the originals - but there comes a time when repackaging the same goods is going to leave the audience jaded.
In gaming, no genre is more repetitive in its content than the beat-'em-up. The popularity of its most impressive incarnations has lead software houses to come back for more rich picking with games that vary little apart from slightly enhanced graphics and bloodier special effects.
Years after the beat-'em-up birth, however, even the laziest developers have been trying to give their new combat games a vaguely fresh twist. Spectacular metamorphosing finishing moves, international locations and a greater range of bizarre characters have been wheeled in to inject new fighting spirit into the proceedings.
With robots and streetfighters behind us, Gametek are going for a new angle with a game featuring cute but deadly critters as its muscle-
The simple storyline bears a Far Eastern flavour with lots of sayings from bogus mystical teaching padding out the ten characters' backgrounds. Choosing from creatures like Kung Fu Bunny, Tai Cheetah or Kendo Coyote, players fight it out in a competition to find the world's best fighter.
Graphically, Brutal is only slightly above average, with reasonably well drawn characters playing out the action against varied but impressive locations. In compensation, however, the game's contenders have been made more lively with the addition of characteristic gestures and moves.
Anyone who experienced the ludicrous disappointment of Rise of the Robots will know that beauty is only skin deep, however. What really counts is whether Brutal can provide anything in terms of a challenge that hasn't already been offered by previous beat-'em ups.
Brutal Paws of Fury steers away from the realistic visual approach of Mortal Kombat in favour of more humorous, cartoon-like charicatures
Thankfully, the cosmetic novelty of fighting with furry creatures is not the only difference about the game. One original touch, for example, is the fact that players must learn special moves as their character gains in experience through winning fights.
Whereas it's possible in Mortal Kombat to use all the special moves immediately, this game makes acquiring them more challenging and satisfying. After defeating two opponents, players rise in rank and enter a training session in which they have three chances to learn a joystick sequence. If they successfully imitate it they have access to that move from then on.
There are a vast number of these moves to be learnt, and greater experience yields more powerful and spectacular combinations. This approach could do much to give the beat-'em-up the durability it traditionally lacks, thanks to the long-term rewards it provides.
Putting the fighting moves into practice is also satisfying. On earlier levels a few simple kicks will get you far - possibly too far - but more variety and imagination becomes necessary on higher levels. Thankfully, no move is so complex that it's impossible to string a series of them together in a fluid attack sequence.
Of course it's possible to play against a friend with different characters and alter difficulty levels, of which there are plenty to choose from, and there are the usual karate sound effects accompanying the action.