If you’ve played Basement Crawl, Bloober Team’s last, and rather poor, outing on the PlayStation 4, you’ll be familiar with the art style of Brawl. Despite its similarities Brawl is an entirely new game, although it can essentially still be seen as a darker version of the classic Bomberman template.
In Brawl you have to strategically plant and detonate bombs, without killing yourself, while aiming to eliminate minions and other players, all from that classic top-down perspective. It sounds easy but quickly becomes quite tactical and chaotic. The single player campaign follows the story of 8 different eerie characters, all with their own back-story and special abilities.
The appearances of the playable characters are very unnerving to say the least. There’s a manikin doll missing an arm, a homicidal clown and a wheelchair-riding dummy to name just a few. The special abilities each character offers are varied too, from granting invisibility to allowing you to reverse other players’ controls.
Despite the single-player campaign offering dozens of levels to complete, all the while being accompanied by a very creepy soundtrack and brilliant voiceover, the sheer difficulty makes it an extremely tough task. There are plenty of difficult games out there which have that enjoyable addictive nature, but Brawl is an exercise in frustration.
It’s also incredibly dull as well, despite the scary characters. The single-player does however do a great job of introducing players to each character’s special abilities. Other than that it feels like a pointless addition as the multiplayer section is what Brawl is all about.
It’s in Brawl’s multiplayer modes where you will get the most out of the game. Both local and online co-op and versus action is on offer across a wide range of different maps each with their own environmental hazards, including spikes and trap doors. Playing as a group of 4 friends, each playing as a different character, you can expect plenty of chaos and competition in the versus mode. Although the game requires a lot of patience in order to get to grips with the controls, which are a bit clunky, once you’re familiar with each character it can become an enjoyable game – to a point.
Most matches, however, really come down to which player has committed suicide the least or which player has ‘bagsied’ the character with the over-powered abilities. In Brawl it’s too easy to blow yourself up and some special abilities are far better than others when it comes to versus action. As you can imagine this is a deal breaker in local co-op. My solution has been to disallow the use of these over-powered characters. Only then can you have a real competition.
Other than versus mode you can challenge friends in Paint or Sumo mode. In the former bombs are replaced with paint and whoever paints the map the most wins, whereas the main objective in the Sumo mode is to knock your opponent off the map. Thankfully your choice of character has no real advantage in these modes making them a much more exciting affair. Here, you can expect a victory to still be up for grabs within the dying seconds.
There are a few other small issues with the game that may sound pedantic. For example, the brightness, even when set at 100%, is still too dark to see in some situations. The subtitles also are too big. In some situations I’ve died as it has been difficult to see hazards on the map as the subtitles blocked my view. One issue that isn’t pedantic, however, is the price. At £15.99 Brawl, for me, is distinctly overpriced.
Despite having a perfect soundtrack and wonderfully creepy voice-over, Brawl’s single-player misses the mark thanks to its insane difficulty. Over-powered characters also make the local versus multiplayer hit and miss, and add in the steep price point and Brawl fails to light the fuse. It’s particularly disappointing as Brawl is almost a second attempt of Basement Crawl, but Bloober Team simply haven’t learnt from their past mistakes.