Brawlout Review – On The Ropes (PS4)
Tackling the fighting scene is always a difficult task. Already there are an abundance of well established series, which have garnered a legion of dedicated fans. For that reason alone, it can prove strenuous to tear hardcore fighting players away from their game of choice. This is the challenge set for Angry Mob Games’ Brawlout, a new fighting game with the skeleton of Super Smash Bros. and the heart of Bloody Roar.
After originally being released for Windows (April 2017), and Nintendo Switch (May 2018), Brawlout makes its way to the PlayStation 4 sporting a fair roster size. Created entirely from scratch are six brand new contenders: Paco, Olaf (and) Tyson, Sephi’ra, Volt, Chief Feathers, and King Apu. Each character comes with their own lore that explains the fighter’s history and why they have chosen to compete with one another. From the text given, we can establish that challengers from every nation submit a champion to take part in the “Exemplar Trials,” where the winner will leave with supposed “gold and untold power.” Other lore, speaks of an ancient “artifact” available for those who prove worthy. The telling of these confrontations read like old folk tales, or battles that have now come to pass, however with no story mode to clarify, it’s all up for speculation. Either way, looking through each text and piecing together all the clues found to be very engaging.
In this day and age where thousands upon thousands of characters are already ingrained in most pop-culture enthusiasts’ heads, it can be difficult to introduce a new character to a fighting game, let alone six. Brawlout has managed to do a fine job of this though, with six vibrant characters that all contain wicked imagination. For instance, take poster boy Paco, a luchador wrestler who sprouted two extra limbs after encountering a magical mask. Did we forget to mention he’s a frog too? Moving on, we have a dastardly penguin that teams up with a grunt walrus, a tyrant ape king, a royal cat with family issues, an electric porcupine—that is also a shaman—and an elderly falcon, hell-bent on revenge after his past failings. It’s a mad collective to say the least.
Juan More Round
Since being made public, three guest characters have also been added to the roster alongside fifteen-character variations. Guest characters include, “The Drifter” from Hyper Light Drifter, “Juan” from Guacamelee and “Yooka-Laylee,” from their own self-titled game. Everyone is a delight, and blend in wonderfully with the aesthetic, giving some indie darlings another spotlight to shine. A further update later this year is due to add the protagonist of Dead Cells as well.
Come release day these three, plus the six core characters, will be unlocked from the get-go. On top of this, there are fifteen characters variations to unlock. As nice as these differences are, the fifteen are essentially Echo-fighters of the core six. Special mention to the four-armed shark variant: Mako. Unlocking these fighters is no small feat, with each of the core six required to reach level 5 status. Leveling up characters is done by repeatedly using the same fighter, providing a great incentive to keep playing. It’s becoming more typical for fighting games to unlock all characters from day one or have them easily accessible within a few hours, so having something to unlock whilst entering hour forty-five cleverly contributes support for long-term players.
All combatants come with their own combat style and special moves. A basic and advanced tutorial are prompted on entry to your first match. Both explain the general premise of fights adequately, meaning within ten minutes you will be throwing opponents to their doom. Learning the controls are easy; mastering them takes time. The controls have different combinations and variations of button presses that can be used together or separately. For example, holding down the Square button in one direction lets players charge a stronger hit; Triangle does the same but for special moves. The schematics are wholly familiar and for anyone who has dabbled with Smash Bros, they will be able to transition in a cinch. The major difference with Brawlout is once a fighter has built up their “Rage Meter,” they can utilize a burst of energy to either end combos or unleash their fighters full force. As a side note, death resets the bar to zero.
Quite a few single-player and multiplayer modes are available. The single-player options include Arcade, Quick Match VS CPU, Practice, and Tutorial. The main offering, Arcade, is your typical classic mode, where you engage different enemies until you reach an epic showdown. If completed successfully, a brief ending synopsis is provided for whichever character is chosen. Easy, Medium, and Hard difficulties are all available, with the only difference being that more fighters are pitted in each round. Nothing feels new and has been done numerous times prior, consequently after a few playthroughs the mode becomes too repetitive and is only useful for leveling up fighters.
To add more fuel to the fire, there are frequent technical woes to deal with, namely in the single-player modes. On more than one occasion, whilst in Arcade the game corrupted and exited to the PS home screen. After trying to re-enter the same error would occur repeatedly until starting anew became the only option. A similar issue would occur with the odd multiplayer match, which would again force a restart. Sounds like there needs to be a Brawlout in testing.
The Couch is Where It’s At
Sparring side-by-side with friends in Couch Play is where Brawlout shines. The fast-paced action is perfect for those all-day/late night sessions. Free For All and Teams customization are all available, working with stock and timed matches for the expected match settings. You also have the option to enable competitive play, allowing only flat stages are accessible à la Final Destination. From what the team have to work with, stages are well thought up. All are simple with flat surfaces, platforms and the odd hazard to keep players on their toes. Funny enough, of the thirteen stages introduced, it’s the guest character stages that stood out most, i.e. Yooka-Laylee’s Tribalstack Tropics or Juan’s Forgotten Temple.
A big chunk of why the guest stages stand out is directly responsible to the music. These characters have had their own professionally composed music brought over from the likes of David Wise (previous Rare composer), and when compared to the original composed tracks for Brawlout, the dip in quality is obvious. It’s a shame, as you can get an essence of what the writers were aiming for, but there is never anything bombastic to make you feel this clash is epic.
“One more game” is exactly what this genre thrives on. That’s why it’s terribly disappointing that the abysmal loading times makes Couch Play a lesser experience. Due to this, the sentiment of “one more game” will not even be considered to anyone thinking of another bout. On average between twenty-thirty seconds were spent on loading screens, and with a quick turnaround of matches (that last approximately two minutes), this wait time becomes exasperating.
Other notes worth mentioning are the strange omission of items (which could have helped to keep matches fresh), picking a random CPU fighter gives you no choice for difficulty (which seems an oversight), and taunts are borderline embarrassing. First off, none are accessible until you unlock one (which is fine) but how they’re used is mind boggling. Taunting is literally an image of whatever icon you unlock instead of seeing your character perform that expression, so because of this, leaving them out altogether may have been the wiser choice.
Brawlout rocks up to consoles looking like it’s gone a couple of rounds with Floyd Mayweather. Whereas the characters, gameplay, and stages pack a fair punch, overall it suffers due to dire loading times and a stale state of a single-player experience. Even with the framework for one of the best fighting games in our time, the adaption has not been successful, and therefore Brawlout arrives with enough bugs to keep Paco well fed for days. Couch Play delivers rousing competition and progression incentives are a nice touch, yet with the issues present, there’s little keeping players tempted for that “one more game.”
Brawlout review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please see our Review Policy.