If there’s a something the Switch has been missing it’s a good multiplayer brawler.
Sometimes you just want to sit down with a few mates and give them a good pummelling, but with no announcement of a Super Smash Bros. title coming to the Switch as of yet it’s been up to Angry Mob Games to provide some similar action with Brawlout. Though that’s not to say that Brawlout is a great game, because at the moment it just isn’t.
It’s certainly got the looks and performance. While Brawlout doesn’t have fancy effects like shadows, it has very well designed characters and arenas. Everything is colourful and crisp and fairly well detailed. But more importantly, it runs buttery smooth. Fights are free of slowdown, and while there may be the occasional stutter, it doesn’t get in the way of the action. Plus, there’s a patch on the way that should fix the stutters soon.
Combat is simple, which is good for an accessible fighting game such as this, but unfortunately it also feels rather loose and scrappy. You have a normal and a special attack button, and you can also jump and dodge, but without the ability to block you often feel quite defenceless. In handheld mode evading attacks is tricky due to the placement of the Switch’s shoulder buttons, but when playing with a Pro controller things are more intuitive.
Your aim is to batter your opponents to lower their resistance to being knocked off the screen, while also avoiding the same fate yourself. To add more complication to proceedings you have a rage bar which is used to power both special attacks and a duo of rage moves. It’s a setup that’s all good on paper, but in practice it’s just not quite as fun as it should be.
Most hits lack a sense of impact, and the controls just don’t feel as tight as you’d like them to be. Twitchy movement means it’s sometimes harder than it should be to line up to attack an opponent. Coupled with the inability to block, it adds up to an experience that at times can be unduly frustrating, especially when playing against the A.I. There are balancing issues too, with the Drifter from Hyper Light Drifter having annoyingly long reach compared to most other characters, for example.
That’s not to say that Brawlout can’t be fun under certain conditions though. While its suite of single-player modes are likely to annoy due to the aforementioned issues combined with sketchy A.I., when played in multiplayer, particularly local, a riot can be had.
Up to four players can play on one console if you have enough controllers, and local wireless play is supported too. When played with friends Brawlout is a laugh despite its problems. Playing online can be great too, but some players will be keen to ruin your fun by making repeated use of overpowered characters.
There is another problem with Brawlout that may put off potential pugilists as well: locked content. While there are eight combatants unlocked from the outset, only three of Brawlout‘s 12 arenas are available for use from the start. The rest you have to unlock by raising your mastery of each character, with the final arena being unlocked by a loot piñata.
Priced at £17.99/$19.99, Brawlout doesn’t feel light on content, but the presence of loot piñatas does feel a little egregious. You can’t buy them with real money, instead you purchase them with gold and gems that you earn through general play and completing daily challenges, but to unlock everything will feel like an unnecessary grind.
Completing a single player ladder on hard, for instance, which requires you to win 12 bouts against three other opponents, awards you just 900 gold. A simple piñata containing style items such as knockback visual effects and avatars costs 1200 gold, while those containing character skins and stages cost 3500. Meanwhile, there are eight character variants that can only be unlocked by purchasing piñatas with gems, and they’re much harder to acquire.
Most of the items locked behind piñatas are cosmestic, sure, but it doesn’t make the piñata system feel any less out of place, especially seen as there’s seemingly no way to buy the content with real money at this point. Why not just allow you to unlock the cosmetic content as a reward for winning fights etc.? And, for a game of this type, it would have been much better to have all the characters and arenas unlocked from the outset for those just buying the game to play with their friends from time to time.
Brawlout feels like it was perhaps released a little too early on Switch. At the time of writing, it still hasn’t left Early Access on PC, and feels like it could still do with some tweaking and perhaps a reassessment of its piñata loot system. Still, if you’re desperate for a Super Smash Bros. style brawler on Switch there may be enough here to warrant a purchase as long as you plan to put plenty of hours in with your friends. Otherwise, you may just find that it’ll provide more frustration than fun.