By Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Anyone who knows me knows I don’t play many party games. But I love fighting games! While I don’t play a lot of Smash, I definitely am familiar with how it goes down. There are plenty of “clones” built in its style, and I can see that there will be people that immediately yell “THIS IS A SMASH CLOOOOOOONE!!!” and yes, there are a lot of similarities. But Smash Bros. is not the only platform fighter. There were quite a few before it, so stop that right this minute. But what is Brawlout? It’s a PC/XB/PS platform fighter, and that’s the big draw for me, and for a lot of other players I’m sure. Not being forced to get a 3DS/Wii-U/Switch to play a popular or good platform fighter is really quite nice. The last ones I recall that weren’t on a Nintendo console [not counting stuff like Rivals of Aether, or even Elsword] were Playstation All-Star (which was dreadful) and Onimusha, which was fun. I’m sure there are some that I’ve missed, but like I said, that’s what I can remember. There are some differences between Brawlout and Smash though, which I’ll get into.
But the controls are a bit more complex than Smash. The moves feel more like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat moves, rather than “direction+button,” which is more common in platformers like Smash. I say “more complex,” but it’s not really that hard to figure out moves. I’m sure there will be a movelist at some point, but right now I just found myself having to experiment, and get in here and make it work the best I can. However, I do have a huge complaint concerning controls. I understand that Steam is “working” on PS4 controller support. It’ll happen one day. But I tried three PS4 controllers, and not a single one of them worked well with the game. Maybe I was doing something wrong, but I couldn’t even change the buttons, try as I might. You know what controller I had to use? An 8bitdo Super Famicom controller. Yes, I had to use a 16bit replica controller just to review this game. However, the controller is really quite comfortable, and I could get wins with it the rare times I found matches, so that’s ultimately a positive.
But what is Brawlout? I haven’t answered that yet. It’s an up to eight player platform fighter where players select one of the unique characters made by the Brawlout team and try to knock their friends off the screen or into the endless void beneath them. The more damage a player takes, the greater chance a knockout move will send them flying off and lose a life/give a point to the player who hit them. But you can hang on to ledges to avoid falling, and of course, there will surely be ways to hit players off of them. You can double jump back to safety, but there is one thing I sure noticed. Almost everyone online plays the ice-guy, Olaf Tyson. Why? Because he can make frozen platforms underneath him, even when falling to his death, so he can stand on it, and try to get back on the ground again. I think it’s a neat idea, but it’s a little unbalancing I think. Or it sure feels like it. I mean, you can always break the ice he’s standing on, so at least there’s that. But he’s not my favorite character. Mine is the frog, Paco. A four-armed frog that resembles Machamp, title belt and all; he’s got fun grabs, knock-ups, and other stuff. The player that gets to the corresponding points wins, and matches seem to be best of three.
While it supports up to eight, I haven’t had more than a one on one, unless I did local matches, when, with some finagling, I managed to get a few people hooked up to my PC and play with three or four people. But I in no way doubt that it’s possible. If the Wii-U/3DS can do it, a PC or PS4 sure can. However, there is something really cool about this game that really ramps up the tension. On one of the stages, an orange desert stage, Olaf and King Apu can ground pound and chunk out some of the ground! Each time they do it, the ground shakes more and more, until it eventually breaks. You can really use this to your advantage, or make life harder on yourself if you’re not careful! Pretty sure this only happens on that stage for now, as I had a close to ten minute match on a flat ice stage that did not do this at all, and I couldn’t see the opponent if they ran off screen. All the stages have their own unique tactics and strategies, with different points-of-no-return [re: the point where you fly off screen and lose], or so it seems to me. And that’s just fantastic.
Round 1 Thoughts: Pretty Hyped
It’s definitely fun, this Brawlout game. I have yet to see real online multiplayer, and from what I understand, we use player-connected matches instead of servers on another end, and I hate that. People with crappy Internet make the game much harder to win. The cast is very limited so far, and I only ever see three of the characters, and that’s only because I play someone that’s not Iceguy or Birdguy. The game’s not super technical though. I’m not really noticing much in the way of combos, but it has very cool moves and animation. It lacks a lot of the super technical parts of Smash that really separate the hardcore and casual players, making me think it’s ultimately a more casual experience. But I could certainly be wrong!
The game’s still in beta, so there’s a lot we don’t know yet. But the end-game for me is, “Is it fun?” and yes, the answer is unequivocally yes. I’d love to see it played at EVO on a big stage, because it’s always fun to see non-mainstream games take that spotlight. The stages are beautiful, the characters are vibrant, brightly colored, and fun to play. It’ll have detractors, but games that aren’t 100% unique in every single way always will. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, guys. Just enjoy it for what it is: A fun platformer you can play with your friends, local or online.