Scratch that itch but scratch this game as well. Angry Mob Games’ Brawlout, a game based on the hit Super Smash Bros franchise just dropped but unlike Smash, Brawlout caters mostly to the competitive market with the lack of “explosive randomness” you’ll end up seeing when environmental hazards, as well as usable items, are present in the stage. With a total of six unique characters each filled with their own lore and three other characters from their own franchise namely Drifter from Hyper Light Drifter, Juan from Guacamelee!, and Yooka-Laylee from well, you know… Yooka-Laylee. They all sport their own unique playstyles which some are obviously stronger than others or at times you’d think Olaf Tyson’s Ice Pillar is too good for zoning out or to simply give you a breathing room as you slowly jump from pillar to pillar back to the stage.
There’s not a lot of characters to look at. To put it simply, nine characters doesn’t feel enough and having a character added from Dead Cells in the future is not going to fill that void anytime soon. However there are a couple of character variants which are mostly re-skins of the six base characters to keep you pushing forward as you unlock each and every one by repetitively grinding a character to a minimum of mastery level, fun isn’t it? And while they do provide an additional ability from their base character it doesn’t completely change how you play the character as much as I hoped for. Diving into the arcade mode, however, feels unrewarding with little conversations that don’t particularly amount to anything to make the push forward a little less annoying when a lot of time is wasted in both loading and to press that continue button after a defeat. After finally reaching the end it does give a little ending scene to reward your valiant efforts and to give their story a close.
Combat mechanics are fairly simple with a dedicated button for normal attacks, special attacks, and a jump button along with the shoulder buttons to either dodge left or right while pressing both activates your rage as you build up your meter. Rage is a mechanic that could turn the tides of battle when used at the right time. It can be used with either half or a full meter, using it with a half meter would allow you to a sort of wake-up attack when being juggled and initiate a counter attack or activating with a full meter would enter you in rage mode which increases your attack damage and knock up strikes to score a ring out much faster. There is the lack of items through which makes the entire experience a lot less randomly fun and more of a pure brawl. Despite the simplicity of controls and mechanics, it does, however, become a hard game to master without giving time in the practice mode to learn the ropes as a beginner. The stages which for the most part is simple with little to no environmental hazards other than the bottomless pit on the sides do the job but also becomes very boring after a while. Nothing strikes as memorable for me to even care what the next stage would be.
A couple of game modes here and there, some online, some offline. On the offline side of things, we have couch play that you and your friends can play in free-for-all or team-based be it 2v2, 1v3 or 1v2. There’s an arcade mode which includes an easy, normal or hard mode against CPU with each one having 1v1, 1v2 or 1v3 respectively. And another mode that just lets you play with your chosen character and CPU opponents and their respective difficulty from 1 to 10. Lastly, a practice and tutorial mode which is pretty self-explanatory. In the online side of things there’s a 1v1 mode, a custom lobby and ranked matches but with matches being peer to peer don’t expect a smooth play all the time. Tournament mode is also present which would also let you unlock exclusive gear and skins.
There’s a couple of customization options and when I say I couple, I simply mean there’s a few of them and that’s it. Besides character variants, there are also character skins that need to be unlocked, headgears to be bought or random flairs that need to be rolled. Piñatas as they call it is a sort of loot box that can be earned by increasing mastery levels on characters, buying them with in-game credits or clearing daily quests and awards. It’s a grind to do but also random that could make you spend hours trying to unlock what you need at the time.
Graphics, however, is nice to look at with some characters providing awesome designs like Volt the porcupine shaman that looks and feels like Blanca from Street Fighter as the coils into a ball and charges up lightning from his entire body or Chief Feathers who just looks good as is. But when it comes to the music, each map has its own thing but easily gets overshadowed by the creative style from the stage from Guacamelee! They don’t feel as energetic to make you feel motivated to release every last ounce of focus to keep yourself from being knocked out. And if there’s one thing I hate more, it’s those annoyingly loud sound effects mostly heard after pressing a button in the podium screen.
Overall, it was a game that could’ve went for more characters to keep things fresh and less repetitive with more game modes and usage of items as well as environmental hazards. And while it failed in quantity it does provide some quality characters that are new and somewhat good-looking. Characters itself are quirky and with Paco latching on to enemy characters with its tongue, or Chief Feathers getting his head stuck in the ground after a dive makes a very fun and eye-catching moment even if the combat itself was very repetitive. The Super Smash Bros framework that the game was based on didn’t captivate me when everything is more catered to competitive brawling than it is on having fun with friends.