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Ra Ra Boom isn’t the most subtle game. A beat-‘em-up where you and your friends control a team of ninja cheerleaders who are attempting to reclaim a shattered Earth from a robot uprising, the screen is constantly filled with nuts and bolts and flashy special effects. The creatives behind the game stand out just as much.

CEO Chris Bergman says he’s a “serial entrepreneur” because he’s unhirable due to being a high school dropout. The game’s senior producer, Kim Edwards, comes from a non-gaming production background and still calls controllers “remotes”. If someone in the studio messes something up, Edwards occasionally labels the misconduct as a “punchable offense” and gets her hired henchman, one of the game’s engineers, to deliver a surprise punch at some unspecified time in the future.

“They don't know when they're gonna get their punch,” Edwards laughs.

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Now, before you get your pitchforks out, this is obviously just a studio in-joke. I’m assured that no developers were harmed during the making of Ra Ra Boom. But this image of maverick game developers punching each other in the arm does a good job of highlighting the kind of divergent thinking that’s led to a game like this.

As well as being a beat-’em-up, Ra Ra Boom is also a 2D shoot-’em-up. But these aren’t distinct gameplay sections – they’re blended together, allowing you to switch between ranged and melee attacks to suit the situation. The team sees this as a solution to those moments where you’re trying to close a gap to do damage in these kinds of games – here you can still do damage along the way.

That out-of-the-box thinking is also obvious in how the movement between planes works. One of the most frustrating things about playing beat-’em-ups is how you’re never entirely sure whether you’re standing in the right spot to do damage. That’s why Ra Ra Boom is split up into lanes, which help you acquire your targets whether you’re shooting or beating the crap out of some tin can.

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“Giving players line of sight to what they're shooting, what they're attacking, means they have a clear idea,” Bergman explains.

Bergman says hiring people like Edwards – people from different backgrounds – has helped the game’s vision, since they’re not bound by industry standards or best practices, allowing them to figure out their own way of doing things. Punches and all.

“That's been a huge advantage for us,” Bergman says. “We had no idea what the hell we were doing at all. And so we built all of our pipelines, all of our processes from scratch. And Kim came in and optimized a lot of that. Actually got art using JIRA for the very first time in their lives.”

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Of course, it still has all the things people love about these games – combos, synergy attacks when playing co-op with up to three friends, knock-ups, knock backs, and more – but there are enough fresh ideas to make it feel and look distinct. It wasn’t created in a box.

“When we started, I didn't know beat-'em-ups were gonna be a thing again,” Bergman says. “We were just making it for us. We’d been working on it for a year and a half and Streets of Rage 4 came out. We looked at our game, we looked at Streets of Rage 4, and we threw away every piece of art and animation that we have created thus far. Because it had leveled up the standard so high. We hired a new animator that came from Disney and DreamWorks that had done character animation his whole life.”

It certainly did the job. With its Saturday morning cartoon vibe, screen-filling attacks, cool idle animations, and a cast of badass ninja cheerleaders, Ra Ra Boom grabs you by the collar and kicks the shit out of your senses.