Brawlout for Nintendo Switch is an interesting case. While it has the distinction of being the first platform party fighting game to hit Nintendo’s hybrid console, there’s no denying the game was heavily influenced by—and uses some direct features and tropes from—Nintendo’s own Super Smash Brothers series. While comparison between the two titles is inevitable, Brawlout, though fun, just doesn’t do anything differently enough for it to be held in its own regard.
As previously mentioned, Brawlout is a platform party fighting game for one to four players, either online or locally, and each player takes control of a unique fighter, with the goal of eliminating all other players by knocking them offstage and off-screen. In terms of gameplay, Brawlout will feel familiar if you’ve played other platform fighters. Each fighter has multiple regular and special attacks, and most often it’s about finding the right combination to send your opponents flying. Pressing B without any directional input will perform a special attack, and pressing B with directional input will perform a different special attack, with Up B being each character’s recovery move. Similarly, pressing the A button will perform a regular attack, and adding directional input will perform different regular attacks. Each fighter can also double-jump and dodge, so it’s easy to see how matches can quickly become chaotic.
Much like in Smash, Brawlout uses a damage percentage mechanic to display how much damage each fighter has taken. The higher the percentage, the more knockback your character will experience, and therefore the further your character will fly when hit. One unique mechanic that Brawlout adds is the Rage feature. Once your character’s Rage Meter has maxed out, you can press L and R to enter into Rage Mode, where your character gains a temporary attack and defense buff. It’s an interesting addition and can quickly turn the tide of battle. Brawlout also features more high-level, competitive techniques, such as wavedashing and teching, so there’s plenty here for the competitive crowd.
Brawlout offers eight unique fighters from the start, six of which are wholly original to the game, while the other two come from other titles: there’s The Drifter from Hyper Light Drifter and Juan Aguacate from Guacamelee! Both guest characters fit right in with the rather whimsical cast of fighters alongside them, which are mostly different humanoid animals dressed as varying cultural archetypes. Each fighter feels unique and move set distinct, and for the most part, each character feels well balanced. That said, some fighters, like The Drifter, feel a bit too overpowered, so you may see them being over-used in the online community. Once I’d tried the entire cast out, I found two or three fighters that I gelled with pretty quickly, so it’s safe to say most people will find at least one or two characters that will suit their play style.
More “characters” can be unlocked through currency earned through gameplay which can be spent in the game’s store, but these boil down to simply being new skins of the already unlocked cast. New stages can be unlocked by achieving level-ten mastery with each character, but that can take quite some time, especially for more casual players. The store is where you’ll unlock new character costumes, taunts, and K.O. effects as well, but it takes a lot of earned currency to unlock everything on offer.
In terms of modes, Brawlout contains pretty standard fare. There’s a Quick Play mode to jump right in with one to four players, as well as a full suite of single player modes, including Arcade, VS CPU, Training, and a tutorial mode, plus a local multiplayer mode. Currently, Brawlout’s online mode only consists of random friendly 1v1 matches and a friends mode for up to four players. It’s slightly dismaying that you can only be paired up randomly for 1v1 matches, but hopefully developer Angry Mob Games will update the game’s online capabilities in the future.
Unfortunately, Brawlout’s online mode relies on a peer-to-peer networking system, meaning there are no dedicated servers for online play. That means, if either you or your opponent suffers from a poor Internet connection, your online game will most likely lag and skip around a bit. I had mixed results in my time playing online, so it’s definitely a “your mileage may vary” situation.
Online limitations aside, Brawlout is still fun, and it looks absolutely stunning whether in handheld in 720p or while docked at 1080p. Character models look crisp despite their rather flat designs, and background environments look gorgeous. The game runs at a fairly consistent 60 frames per second throughout, though there are some noticeable dips with more characters on screen and sometimes when characters begin to fly off-screen. The game works with Joy-Cons, the Pro Controller, and, to my utter delight, GameCube controllers, if you have the Wii U GameCube adapter. Individual Joy-Con play is also supported, but as with most local multiplayer Switch games, it’s serviceable in a pinch, so most players will likely find themselves reaching for a Pro or GameCube controller here.
All that said, Brawlout does little to distinguish itself from other games in the genre aside from its mostly original character roster. While the moment-to-moment gameplay is chaotic and fun, and the Rage feature adds a cool new twist into the mix, Brawlout doesn’t do anything new to revolutionize the genre. It feels like a mere placeholder for Smash, and that’s unfortunate, because what’s here is actually a lot of fun. Though Brawlout plays it safe enough to be regarded as one of the most competent Smash clones to date, it simply doesn’t push the genre’s boundaries enough to make a genuinely lasting mark. Developer Angry Mob Games promises to release additional characters as future DLC, so it’ll be interesting to see where Brawlout goes from here.