Brawlout Review: A Poor Pretender for the Smash Bros. Throne

If there’s a single word to describe Brawlout, it’s disappointment. Brawlout, even though it desperately wants to be, is not the next Super Smash Bros..  This might seem like an unfair comparison since Super Smash Bros. is a long-running series that is supported by decades of Nintendo (and other iconic video game) history. Brawlout, by comparison, is made by a small independent studio, Angry Mob Games. However, Brawlout purposely apes Super Smash Bros. to an insane degree, making the comparison not only fair, but necessary.

In gameplay, concept, and even some character designs, Brawlout is a Smash clone. This isn’t an inherently terrible idea. Some fantastic games have started out trying to imitate the success of others. The issue is Brawlout ends up taking the worst elements of Smash and does little else to innovate. The result is a hollow shell of a fighting game that is only occasionally engaging.

Related: Every Character That Will Appear in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Listed

Brawlout is a platform fighter. Two to four combatants face off in various stages, all of which have different levels of verticality. Some stages have horizontally moving platforms, while others are entirely static. The gameplay is just as straightforward. There are two attack buttons which vary on the direction of the attack, two jump buttons, and a dodge maneuver. Hitting an opponent builds up their damage meter (in percentage) and the goal is to knock them off the stage completely. It’s so much like Smash, it physically hurts at times.

While you might think the problem with Brawlout is the lack of recognizable fighters, that’s not the case. This isn’t just because Brawlout features guest characters from other indie games – Juan from Guacamelee!, Yooka-Laylee from Yooka-Laylee, The Drifter from Hyper Light Drifter are currently members of the roster. (The headless hero of Dead Cells is set to join in a future free update.) While the rest of Brawlout‘s fighters are original characters there’s still a lot personality and charm to them. Brawlout‘s apparent mascot, a luchador frog with four arms named Paco, isn’t Mario “Jumpman” Mario but he’s cute. Brawlout‘s fatal flaw is that the gameplay isn’t fun.

The issues begin with the stages. There are about dozen stages to start, with more to unlock. All of them are painfully boring. Brawlout‘s battle arenas are small, suffocating and completely devoid of personality. The home stages of guest characters like Yooka-Laylee have a little bit more going on visually but none of them are memorable. They’re flat and uninspired. Their meager status is clearly intended for competitive play. The fighters are all that really populate the stages but the actual fighting mechanics don’t support this methodology.

True, the fighting of Brawlout is more impressive than the stages but not by much. There’s an issue with balancing in Brawlout, in the sense that it doesn’t exist. Here’s just one small example; A hawk-like brawler, Chief Feathers, is able to fly. This gives him a wide area of recovery to get back on the stage when knocked off. So when Chief Feather fights Volt – a electric werewolf type with almost no upward movement – the match tilts completely in Feathers’ favor. It’s not fair, in any sense. Brawlout is full of similar inconsistencies like The Drifter’s broken reflect ability or Paco’s illogical reach distance.

This isn’t even to mention that it’s way too easy to trapped in a unblockable combo. The only way to get out of some combos, which do large amounts of damage, is to use Brawlout‘s Rage Meter. Implementing the Rage Meter can break a combo and give its user a boost in attack and defense at the same time. The Rage Meter is a neat notion and one of Brawlout‘s only original ideas. However, the meter resets after a fighter is knocked off stage. Since it’s very easy to trigger an unstoppable combo that knocks a fighter off the stage, the Rage Meter hardly ever has an impact.

Brawlout isn’t completely hopeless. All things considered it’s a gorgeous and colorful experience. The game can even be very fun in a local multiplayer setting with real-life friends. Online play is equally enjoyable, when the servers want to work. Most specifically, Brawlout scratches that very unusual Smash Bros. itch. This is beneficial as the game is available on Xbox One, PlayStation and PC, platforms where Super Smash Bros. will never end up released. However, unless the game is reworked and balanced, Brawlout will become irrelevant by the time Super Smash Bros. Ultimate releases … if it isn’t already there now.


More: Here Are All The BIG Games Releasing Fall 2018

Brawlout is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC and Nintendo Switch for $19.99. Screen Rant was provided an Xbox One copy for review.

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