When it comes to fighting games, Super Smash Bros. is at the top of the food chain. But not everyone can afford to shell out for a Nintendo system if they already own another platform. That's where Brawlout comes in. This arena fighter developed by indie studio Angry Mob Games recreates the Smash Bros. experience, though it doesn't do so without a few setbacks.

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King of the hill

In fighting games like this, the whole point is to knock your opponent from the arena. Brawlout's nine characters (not including their variants) each have several abilities at their disposal suiting their unique fighting types, though they functionally serve the same purpose. Chief Feathers the bird, for instance, has a special attack called Firebird that allows him to "wreath himself in flames and fly upward," potentially saving you from being knocked off of the platform. Olaf Tyson, Brawlout's resident walrus, has the ability to create an ice pillar, once again potentially saving you from being knocked off of the arena. Though many moves serve the same purpose, certain sets do feel like that have advantages over others. A balanced roster of fighters makes or breaks games in this genre.

A balanced roster of fighters makes or breaks games in this genre.

I started with characters I was familiar with since it features three guest fighters: Juan from Guacamelee!, Yooka-Laylee, and the Drifter from Hyper Light Drifter. Foregoing practice or the tutorial, I quickly found myself out of my depth when I began with single-player quick matches and arcade ladders against the CPU. I thought nothing of it, mainly just that I may have been rusty, but it turns out to be a balancing issue. I played several matches with Juan and Yooka-Laylee, only ever making it past one or two opponents. The moment I switched to Paco, a four-armed frog, I nearly made it through an entire arcade ladder undefeated. I didn't suddenly get drastically better. Paco is just overpowered.

Aside from these issues, the controls themselves are tight, fluid, and responsive. Your movement shouldn't feel sluggish or awkward at all. Since you can't block and are only capable of dodging, you should be on the move constantly. The gameplay is a bit shallow as each character only has skills corresponding to the direction you point the analog stick while simultaneously pressing the X button (or Y for a special attack). On the flipside, this makes it accessible to newcomers or people who don't play arena fighters competitively.

Players are also rewarded with a Rage Meter that fills up as you land punches and take hits. The more it fills up, the farther you'll knock back your opponents when you activate Rage Mode.

I would have liked to see more arenas, especially ones that forced you to think outside of the box in terms of movement. As it stands, most of the arenas are either single leveled or have a couple of stationary platforms. A few of them do involve moving platforms, whether they move horizontally or vertically like Storm City, and these are the ones I had the most fun with.

Multiplayer mayhem

The single-player offering is scarce, but I suspect many will jump into multiplayer anyway. Brawlout offers either local couch multiplayer or online, and even lets you choose which regional servers you'd like to play on. Matchmaking times took longer than I wanted, but multiplayer gives you a challenge and thrill that you're unable to recreate in single-player.

If you want to matchmake, you're only given the option to play 1v1 matches. In order to fight against more players, you'll need to create a private lobby which can support up to four players. Competitive Ranked matches are also available; however, you need to reach Mastery Level 3 with at least four fighters to unlock it. This actually takes a surprisingly short amount of time as you can get to level three with any fighter fairly quickly.

Crisp visuals

Another highlight of Brawlout is its visuals and character design. Those familiar with the designs of Yooka-Laylee will find the lovable creature quite at home with the rest of the cast. Colors are vibrant and vivid, perfectly complementing the fighters that look like they were pulled straight from a cartoon.

On Xbox One X players will have the choice between 4K or 1080p resolution, making the visuals look even better. The developer has confirmed that Brawlout runs at 60FPS on all consoles regardless of resolution. I can't speak for PlayStation 4 or Nintendo Switch in this case, but it was a smooth 60FPS on Xbox One X in my experience.

Conclusion

As overused as the comparison may be at this point, Brawlout is basically a knock-off, discount Super Smash Bros. game. That may sound a bit harsh, but it's hard to live up to what is essentially royalty in the arena fighting genre, and a bit unfair to ask it to do so. Being a knock-off isn't necessarily the condemnation it's usually made out to be. Where Brawlout excels is its accessible—if shallow—combat, its tight controls, and its vibrant characters with appealing visuals to boot. But balanced gameplay is everything in a game like this, and Brawlout falls short in that regard.

If you don't own a Nintendo system and need your Super Smash Bros. fix, Brawlout is an acceptable substitute. For what it's worth, it's fun enough to keep you coming back for more.

Pros:

  • Appealing visuals
  • Accessible to newcomers
  • Fun characters
  • Local offline multiplayer

Cons:

  • Unbalanced
  • Limited features
  • Shallow gameplay
  • Long online matchmaking times

3 out of 5

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