EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Sorin Annuar
previewed on PC
Inspired by Smash Bros
It’s hard to talk about Brawlhalla without mentioning its obvious inspiration: Nintendo’s Smash Bros series of games. If you’re even remotely aware of what that entails, you will know more or less what to expect from Blue Mammoth Games’ latest effort: floating platforms provide an arena for a cast of 2D characters to battle it out, last person standing wins. The game is also completely free to play, with nothing apart from aesthetic options being hidden behind a paywall.
Lacking the range of recognisable mascots that Nintendo’s flagship series has, Brawlhalla nonetheless makes an admirable effort in designing 17 visually distinctive characters, each representing warriors from different eras, and each an easily recognisable archetype, like pirates and ninjas. There is no plot to the game, save for the premise that all these warriors are locked in an eternal battle royale to see who’s the best in what we presume to be the afterlife. The characters, like the backgrounds, are colourful and well presented, if a little disparate in the consistency of the art style.
Twirling and hurling weapons
Controls are responsive, and easy to pick up; as with any game of this type, a controller is the most natural way to play. Mechanically the game is sound: each character has two weapon types they can pick up which are unique to them during matches, which unsurprisingly changes the basic moveset. This does lead to some nice spot animations as the characters twirl and hurl their weapons at each other. One downside is that even with character nametags on (this is off by default), it can still be hard to see what’s going on when the camera zooms out to take in all the combatants once they move further away from each other. This is not so much the fault of the game itself, as the same concession is made in other platform brawlers on other formats.
However, as with any other game in this genre, there is a brief nod to some form of single-player mode as you can take part in a three battle tournament. This serves as nothing more than a way to learn the mechanics of the game, as the real meat of the game lies in multiplayer. Whilst online play is of course supported, platform battle games are best enjoyed with friends around the same screen. And it is here that the game is at its strongest: the controls and concept are simple enough for anyone to pick up that it won’t be long before a quick play session leads to some friendship-destroying grudge matches.
Get it now
The upside of the fighting games being released into early access means that the developers are able to receive constant feedback, as well as update the game with new features and gameplay tweaks. Looking at the game’s Steam page, the developers have promised a slew of new features as the game goes on, which will hopefully lead to a more well-rounded and balanced game.
It is in some ways harder to preview something that is both open about the fact that it’s still a work in progress, and is also free. If it required payment, the verdict would be to wait until the game is complete and balanced. As it stands, if you are starved for something that is almost Smash Bros on PC, and you have some friends around and four controllers, then you have absolutely nothing to lose by downloading this game now.
There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.