Brawlout – Review
*Note* Updates have already begun to roll out for Brawlout on PC, but as of the time of writing, those same patches are yet to hit the Switch version
Nintendo struck gold when it launched the Super Smash Bros. franchise in 1999, but save for one not especially successful attempt from Sony (in the form of Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale), few have attempted to tackle the colossal Nintendo IP head on. If you’re interested in Smash Bros styled brawlers, then you’ve had few options to choose from but flashing forward to December 2017 and a new contender has entered the fray, their name Angry Mob Games and with them, they’ve brought Brawlout.
The main attraction to both Smash Bros and PS All-Stars was the cast of renowned characters that players have decade+ old memories of – many of those mainstays complemented by a handful of guest characters that battle it out in each release. Brawlout doesn’t have the same luxury being an indie developed title where the most iconic characters in the game are two guests fighters; The Drifter of Hyper Light Drifter fame, and the legendary Luchador Juan from GuacaMelee. This duo, stand alongside a host of new and endearing fighters, many of whom are adorable takes on common animals including King Apu, Chief Feathers, and Paco. While there’s no story present and minimal background afforded to any of the fighters, a few simple banter laced quips do wonders to engender some of your love pre-match.
In many respects, Brawlout looks, and plays identically to a Super Smash Bros. game, until you dig a little deeper and the differences begin to reveal themselves. Unlike Smash Bros. Brawlout does not feature a blocking system, forcing players to place heightened emphasis on attack, also unlike Smash, Brawlout doesn’t implement an item system of any sort, resulting in matches purely being about the brawl, minus any random variables that could upend a game. There’s incredible variance in each of the fighters, with some needing to leverage their speed for success, a select few possess grabs, others are very combo driven and some are your jack-of-all-trades type. No matter your preferred playstyle there’s likely to be a character that strikes a chord with you as well as meeting your combat needs. Movement is slick and smooth, jumping is pin-point while hitboxes are consistent and predictable – all essentials to any fighting game, no matter the sub-genre, so in this space Brawlout is excellent.
There’s one major catch though, and it’s one that infects the character selection, stages, skins and much more. Microtransactions were one of the most discussed aspects of gaming in 2017 and whilst the payment model has not been implemented in Brawlout, you can see the structure in the games loot piñata system. In order to unlock new fighters, battle stages or frankly anything else you’ll be forced to accumulate currency, coins and gems to be specific, to then commit to a variety of different loot piñatas in order to unlock whatever you so desire. Of course, the outcome of the piñata is random, so you may find yourself playing for quite some time before your coveted loot is gifted to you. Compounding the issue further is the fact that the number of required coins/gems for each unlock is quite substantial. For one skin or stage you require 3500 coins, where each win nets you approximately 100 coins, and to unlock an all-important fighter you need 40 gems, and those are even fewer and further between. At present, the necessary grind for unlocks is simply too lengthy, and the lack of payoff is likely to ensure that player retention is low until the situation is rectified.
There’s also not a great range of playable modes available to you outside of the standard fare. When you drop onto the main dashboard you’ll be greeted by four primary options, “Quick Play” (which is exactly what it sounds like), the “Single Player” which is home to an Arcade mode, Practice, Tutorials and Quick Match V CPU (which is again exactly what it sounds like). This is your stock standard Single Player fare, but there’s nothing else to complement that. Players can also choose from the “Local Multiplayer” option, or get “Online” to duke it out with others around the world. This is where another flaw emerges, this time with Brawlout’s latency, an issue that is still causing a lot of headaches, and a tonne of slowdown – which when coupled with the occasional framerate dips that the game experiences and multiplayer matches can become a nightmare. Brawlout is impressive to look upon and is packed with style, you can see the love that the designers had for each fighter and the stages themselves via the incredible attention to detail that’s been put into every pixel. Quite a number of the original characters look as though they could have been ripped from a Ratchet & Clank game that’s how stunning they look, while our typically 2D guests make a wonderful transition to three dimensions. Your ears are in for a treat as well courtesy of a soundtrack that hits you between the eyes from the moment you boot up the main menu, indicating that you’re in for a rocking, rollicking good time.
There are certainly some areas for improvement, a lack of content and then the hard to pass barriers to access more of it. Mechanically Brawlout is rock solid and with a few patches focussed on smoothing out the touchy framerate and really rough online, it could be an experience that builds and holds an audience in the long term. Brawlout will find it hard to separate itself from the Super Smash Bros. comparisons, but the foundations are there for a game that grows out of Nintendo’s enormous shadow. This is an IP with a future, and one that’s well worth keeping an eye on as Angry Mob spread their wings further.