There comes a time in every young gamer’s life when she or he feels like they’d really like to be able to crush their friends in some challenging mayhem gameplay. For most, Smash Brothers has been the ideal go to battle arena for this time of couch centered destruction of each other’s pride. A new challenger arises: Brawlout, by Angry Mob Games on PC, with a release for Xbox and PS4 scheduled for late this year.
Brawlout is a platform centered fighting game that is very clearly designed to bring gamers back to their roots with a polished look but with familiar mechanics to invite gamers of all skill levels to try their hand. Brawlout is an early alpha co-operative smash fest that centers around players going head to head in local or online melees. The game is pretty polished for being in pre-release, and it’s easy to see that there is some serious potential here for a solid long-term playable arena game.
Despite it’s early access limitations, the game has some pretty awesome attacks that feel somewhat like a blend between smash bros and street fighter/mortal kombat. The attacks damage your enemy bar until they are weak enough to be thrown off the map in a very rewarding explosion. Like Super Smash Brothers, the only death is one that comes from falling or being pushed off the edge, which becomes increasingly difficult to defend against or avoid as the fight goes on. Like Street Fighter, the most effective attacks are those that are comboed with others in a string of effective button presses (or mashing, as the case often is). Like Mortal Kombat, certain characters have long range attacks or spells to cast, reminiscent of the ice blast from sub-zero or the chain pull by link in Smash Brothers.
Brawlout seeks to be a hub for gamers to throw down locally, but also over the web in centralized challenger ranked matches towards championships. They’ve already begun spinning up their annual challenge fights at existing smash brothers melee competitions, and reports are good that this new game offers an exciting alternative to the familiar that is smash brothers. There is a reason why this sort of battle type game has been so successful, and often it’s simply due to the fact that immediate returns are granted upon victory with your mates, and the only certain factor for your win is your skill. No luck, just combos.
Brawlout features 6 playable fighters with unique fighting powers and skills that require some concentration to master. Each character’s attacks have scaled difficulty to them, and are upgraded to higher combo attacks and power moves the better you get with the control. Each character has their own Rage Meter that fills as you land successive hits, finally culminating with a hulk-out power attack that deals massive damage If you manage to max it out.
The development team at Angry Mob Games working on Brawlout have very clearly got the idea of local play at heart. While there is a quick play setup available, as well as tournaments and challengers, at this point in the development of the game it’s a limitedly used feature and the pool of online play challengers is small. The point is that Brawlout promises that same couch cooperative fun that was captured so well in these classics, over the web. While the features aren’t quite where they should be at the moment, it’s easy to see where this game is headed.
So, thoughts about my experience playing the game itself:
First and foremost, I’m a fan of smash brothers, but never have joined any kind of serious competitions for this kind of battle game. However, it’s always a fan favorite to boot up during a party or when having friends over. Now, in the age of high speed internet and grown up adult responsibility, those opportunities are fewer and farther between and yet I still have the urge to slam friends from time to time. Brawlout seems like it could be the game to fill that itch for me when it comes to full release fruition. There’s a lot of polishing left to do, but I can see the makings of a solid game underneath all that missing dev.
Having said that, we’ll need to address where the game is at present. I started off playing with mouse and keyboard, which immediately became apparent that it isn’t that kind of game. The controls were choppy in this configuration, and I swiftly realized that with WASD for movement and the period/comma keys for my attacks, I was about to have a bad time trying to get any kind of edge over my attackers. I futzed around with the control mappings for a time, trying to bind attacks to E and Q or E and R, and found that the developers had considered this but decided ultimately (like I did) that the smash attacks need to be fully separate from your movement controls for combos to be effective. I reset them back to period and comma, and immediately connected a controller instead.
Controller support is native, and button binding is definitely supported which is nice. I played on my Xbox One Controller, and I can tell you that the game gets much easier to handle when utilizing full stick and button controls. However, the each character’s attack is not quite as tight as it should be, and often it felt ever so slightly delayed from my commands to deliver destruction. I could see how the controller in a game like this is superior, and couldn’t help thinking that perhaps console would be the way to go for this game.
I fought a few rounds against the AI before moving to the quick play lobby mode to fight some online humans. Online was more difficult than expected for a few reasons. Firstly, it appears that for now connections to other players might be peer-to-peer, meaning that one player hosts and the other connects remotely. This allows players to connect more fluidly as they don’t have to wait for a lobby service to match them when the infrastructure might be limited, but as a result, occasionally bad ping will give one player the upper hand (usually the host) for an easy victory. More testing is needed, but in a game of immediate skill and reflexes, it’s starting to become apparent as to why games like these are typically hosted locally.
There are about 7 Playable characters at the moment, and what looks like a roster of additional characters pending as the game moves away from alpha and into post-launch time. While it’s unclear as to what the final build will look like at this point, it’s worth mentioning that the game’s core mechanics are solid and have room to be polished. It’s clearly an alpha build and there’s basically no one online to play with in quickplay. However, playing with friends or creating a small brawl against your CPU is a rewarding way to spend some time. The game is built to be a Couch Co-Op smash game.
Overall, Brawlout requires some additional attention and love before it will be fully realized to the ultimate smash fest it could be. However, the attention is starting to shift towards the rumbles and challenger battles that help to keep some of the momentum going towards the goal. At time of writing, I would say that the early access version of Brawlout is a 7/10. I’m hoping, and I’m sure others out there would agree, that in the post Alpha world, Angry Mob Games will be able to polish it’s vision for an online connected smash challenger to a much higher and deserving score. I look forward to full release, and do recommend buying the game, though I might encourage waiting for the console version, as for me, a joystick and buttons are required to enjoy this to the fullest.