Brawlout is a close but no cigar attempt to reinvigorate the Smash fighter. The FingerGuns Review;
Look, there’s no real way to get around it, Brawlout is a game as close to the Super Smash Bros. aesthetic as we’re probably likely to see on Switch for a little while. Yes, we know that the real deal is more than likely to appear at some point in the future, whether it be an upgraded full fat version of Smash Wii U – in a similar vein to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – or a whole new entry in the series, we’re currently Smash-less and as such, Brawlout appears to temporarily stand in its place until its arrival.
It’s impressive that it’s even made it to a Nintendo system to be honest, it’s so astonishingly similar to Smash it could be tried in court, the same way Oceanhorn feels way too much like another certain Nintendo franchise. Does it do enough to differentiate itself? And most importantly, is it good?
The most important aspect of being a Smash clone is that the tempo of Smash it kept up and thankfully, Brawlout has provided a fast-paced fighter with plenty of action. One major difference here is that it makes your character unable to block, so throughout you’re in full on offensive mode, with Brawlout only providing you with options to evade an attack, something you have to do with inch-perfect precision. Naturally it can feel frantic, such is the nature of the genre, and it feels a little off when a variety of the characters share the same height and visual characteristics, being able to keep an eye on who exactly is attacking you from any angle and being able to evade each swing coming your way can be tricky.
For newbies – ie, anyone who has never played Smash Bros. before – the whole Smash controls system can take a little while to get used to. It was certainly a bit of a shock for me as I realised I hadn’t played Smash for the best part of three years, so having crucial buttons played on the shoulder buttons rather than the A, B, X and Y for whatever reason didn’t feel natural to me at first. Still, controls can be configured to suit your play style and there’s no real need to mess with them too much as they feel quite standard after you’ve played a few matches or ran through the extensive tutorial. There’s a lot to learn if you’re jumping in for the first time.
If you’re familiar though, there’s going to be very little to get too concerned about. A and B houses your standard and special attacks respectively. You’re able to attack from above and on the ground as well as upright, building up their damage percentage which will increase the more you attack. Throw a few more heavy shots their way and they’ll go shooting off the screen and lose a life. That’s the crux of the Smash experience and it’s here present and correct. You have a variety of modes to get stuck into if you want to hone your skills before you take on the main tournaments and online, such as arcade modes, practice and the aforementioned tutorial. As mentioned, if you’re new to the whole Smash way of fighting games, Brawlout is generous in offering you as many ways as possible to learn how the game works.
Technically there’s very little to complain about. With the game running at a solid 60fps docked and undocked, visually Brawlout is bright and colourful and suffers from very few hiccups that hampered the experience. Docked and undocked Brawlout was ran identically, which is exactly what you’re looking for in a game like this. Immediate reactions are going to win you matches, so thankfully the game runs as solid as you would expect. Beats the crap out of the Street Fighter II Switch port, anyway.
One aspect of Brawlout I really like is how it’s almost the indie version of Smash we never knew we needed. Smash is infamous for introducing famous non-Nintendo characters into the franchise and have them battle with Mario and the like – Sonic, Snake, Cloud etc.. – and Brawlout has seemingly followed suit with Juan from Guacamelee and Hyper Light Drifter’s The Drifter making an appearance alongside the six original characters the game has introduced. It will be interesting down the line just who could join the ranks of Brawlout – I guess the game eventually being multi-platform could create some boring licensing issues, but I hold out hope that it becomes it’s own little greatest hits of indie characters bashing the hell out of each other down the road. I nominate Edith Finch and those things from Superhot. That’d be swell.
The issue here is that none of the characters included feel all that unique. You have characters such as The Drifter, whose primary skill is speed and can get around the stages fast enough to dodge any incoming projectiles, or Paco who has strength on his side, but unlike Smash there are no real standouts, or characters that you’ll be fighting over to play as in multiplayer sessions. There are very few characters here that would even be easy to pick out of a line-up, as their styles are rather generic, and with only eight characters to choose from you’re not going to necessarily find one that will suit a specific play style, simply because they all fight in a similar way. Yes they have a variety of attacks, the issue being they all do about the same damage and over a period of time you come to realise that it’s not really all that important who you choose, it’s only really Drifter and Paco that offer anything somewhat different to a pretty disappointing roster of characters, which is in dire need of expansion.
Then there’s the online experience which, frankly, are the weakest aspect of the whole experience and for a multiplayer brawler, that’s just simply not good enough. The game relies on a peer-to-peer connection, so whilst you’re playing if someone in your stage has got a crappy signal, the entire game falls apart and you’re left running with slowdown that breaks the smoothness of the battle. It’s happened nearly every time I’ve attempted to have a game and yes, I’ve tried it on various connections on my end before the letters start coming in. I don’t really understand how the network can be so borked, you could argue that Nintendo’s infrastructure still isn’t stable enough to handle the speed that fighters like Brawlout is built for, on the other hand a knock to the frame rate to balance out the stability would be detrimental to the experience. It’s a difficult nut to crack, but at the moment, at least for me, it’s a mode I will simply not use again until I hear of a fix.
Brawlout then is a competent brawler if you’re looking to scratch that Smash itch, but it’s not great. The visuals are nice but the characters are forgettable and uninteresting. I hope that somewhere down the line Brawlout gets some support and maybe some DLC because there’s fun to be had here – worth mentioning the local multiplayer is a good time but it’s a tough one to play on separate Joy-Cons – but right now it’s reaching but it’s not quite on the level it was seemingly hoping to achieve.
Brawlout is out now on Nintendo Switch and Steam Early Access and due for release on PS4 and Xbox One this year.
Developer / Publisher: Angry Mob Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy from the publisher. For our full review policy please go here.