Review: Brawlout (Computer)
- Release Date (NA): April 20, 2017
- Release Date (EU): April 20, 2017
- Publisher: Angry Mob Games
- Developer: Angry Mob Games
- Genres: Platform fighter
- ESRB Rating: Everyone 10 and up
- Also For: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
A New Challenger Approaches
Love it or hate it, Super Smash Bros. is regarded by many as the go-to platform fighter for casual and competitive play alike, ever since it coined genre with the N64’s Super Smash Bros. So when a blatant clone comes to the market, it is bound to raise many eyebrows, more so when it’s set for a release on Nintendo’s home ground, the Nintendo Switch.
A Super Smash Bros. Wannabe
In its current Early Access state, Brawlout features a grand total of 7 characters, with the most conspicuous addition being The Drifter from Hyper Light Drifter. While the developers promise that new, surprise characters will be added to the roster, the remaining 6 brawlers are just random nobodies who apparently serve to fill the generic character tropes. Each character is designed around a unique fighting style, to make each fight more strategic: grapple opponents, freeze them, dive kick their face, bomb them with projectiles or smash them with long range whips.
On top of that, this new platform fighter game doesn’t provide much background about its bland characters save for the short written bio and why the fighters have gathered to brawl out in the similarly named game remains a mystery. I’ve pointed out in my Tekken 7 review that story modes in fighting games mostly work as placeholders to get players to somehow relate to the characters. But when a newcomer like Brawlout throws some random characters at you and wants you to pick up its game and brawl out, then either its fighters are world-famous characters in disguise or the game itself is groundbreaking. Brawlout is none of these but still expects you to pick it up. Its characters aren’t recognizable nor relatable save for the Drifter and a lack of story mode or any other modes to spice things up for that matter.
Granted, the game is still in Early Access and Angry Mob Games even highlighted on their Steam page that they “want you to experience the core combat right now” and that “it’s crucial to get balance right”, so that’s why they’ll be “closely monitoring all character matchups, both at low level and tournament level, to make sure all existing and new characters have their chance to shine.” The full version will reportedly include a full suite of single-player content (Story Mode/Challenges), several new stages and at least 3 new characters (a total of 10 characters, still a small amount for a platform fighter at launch).
In its current Early Access state, it is perfectly playable with local multiplayer with up to 4 friends or with AI, and online in either Ranked or friendly matches. However in its retail state, I doubt about the appeal it will have unless it brings and shows more content, fleshes out its characters and maybe bring more indie game characters (Shovel Knight, anyone?); an all-indie characters Smash clone, who doesn’t want to try that?!
When all is said and done, Brawlout still holds up its end of the bargain as a platform fighter. In true SSB clone fashion, the controls follow suit; X/Y buttons to jump, A to attack and B for the special while the shoulder buttons allow your character to dodge. It also features familiar techniques like wavedashing and airdodging.
An addition to this title is the Rage mechanic. The Rage Meter builds up as you both deal and take damage, allowing you to use the game’s combo breaker (Rage Burst) and to power up your character for a short time (Rage Mode).
Rage Burst pushes opponents back, breaking their combos and allowing players to create some breathing room at the cost of half their Rage Meter. If the meter fills, you can activate the Rage Mode, increasing the knockback you deal while reducing the amount you take.
Powerful special attacks consume your Rage Meter. When filled up, your character gets much tougher. The behavior of certain attacks will vary if used without the meter as well; for example Apu’s chain whips do less damage while Olaf’s side special can’t be charged without meter. And since special attacks drain the meter, you’ll want to use them wisely.
However, even if it is a Smash clone, Brawlout lets go of some typical Super Smash Bros. features. For one, it has forsaken the “surprise item” mechanic that can arguably tilt the course of a match. It also does away with shields and blocking (you can dodge though), focusing heavily on the aggressive, fast-paced combat. Some might argue that these choices make the game more fair and more competitive while others might miss these features, especially for casual play (I know I'll miss the surprise items).
The stages also have room for improvements. They feel poorly architectured and uninspired, with some platforms slapped onto the stage here and there in some varying background. As a result, properly executing techniques like wavedashing don't offer much edge in a fight.
A feature that I did appreciate though was that some stages are vulnerable to some attacks, like they can literally crack and fall following an attack, thereby limiting the fighting area. When I first encountered this, it indeed upped the stakes, making the fight more intense, more engaging and somehow, more fun.
For the competitive brawlers, Brawlout is currently hosting the online Brawlout Community Cup every 2 Weeks in North America & Europe only, with a prize pool of $70 in Steam Gift Cards and even had an in-person competition at the Super Smash Con this 10-13 August with a $500 prize pool. What about the rest of the world? Well, there’s the Online Mode, featuring Friendly, Ranked and Private Lobby modes that do exactly what you’d expect them to. However, I have failed to pair up with an opponent, probably due to my current location and the Early Access of the game having only a few early adopters.
Brawlout’s online suite has some additional interesting features like Brawlout TV which allows for live spectating and watching of specific player replays, the Brawlout Network where players can check their fight stats, match history and replays, and a Ranked match system, complete with regional leaderboards.
Brawlout set up a hype when it announced the introduction of The Drifter and hinting at future surprise guest fighters to its roster. I had quite the expectation from the game given its pretty graphics and being released cross-platforms, including the Nintendo Switch, effectively postulating as a direct competitor to the eventual Switch Smash. However, while its basic function as a fighter holds up, in its current Early Access state, it has little appeal, feels uninspired and has a murky future at best. It is currently priced at $9.99 with the 50% Special Promotion that ends on August 22, a price that will most likely increase after the Early Access period ends. At its current price, it's worth picking up on Steam if you're dying to get your hands on a Smash clone on a non-Nintendo platform but it has to really up its game in terms of content if it wants to build a strong community and really stand out as a platform fighter.
Brawlout - Steam Early Access Launch Trailer
+ SSB alternative for those without a Nintendo console
+ Weekly online tournaments
+ Early access sale
- Tiny character roster
- Limited game modes
- Bland characters
- Online tournaments not for global audiences
- Poorly architectured stages
The game feels uninspired from its stages to its characters, despite its pretty looks.
The game plays well enough as a platform fighter while including new mechanics and removing others.
Despite the general long lasting appeal of fighting games, this title pales in comparison in its current Early Access state. A strong makeover might remedy the situation before its final release.
out of 10
(not an average)
Brawlout is an uninspired platform fighter that still has a way to go before appealing to a wider audience.