2017 has been a year of surprises for me. First, I was taken aback by the beauty and the sheer excellent game design of Horizon: Zero Dawn. Sonic has finally had a great game with Sonic Mania. The sequel to Knack? It’s actually pretty good. And then we’ve had some outstanding indies, such as Rise & Shine and Super Cloudbuilt. Brawlhalla is one of those surprises.
Brawlhalla is a platform fighter that finally feels good to play with no floaty controls, and it doesn’t have the word Smash or Bros in it. All of the characters add their own flair to each attack, and it feels so satisfying to spike your opponent down the pit. And the best thing about this? It’s free-to-play and it’s a great platform fighter for both PS4 and PC.
Here’s the thing that drives me nuts about the gaming community: this is not a clone and we should stop using the term for games that add their own elements to a genre. This is akin to the difference between Soul Calibur and Tekken to Brawlhalla and Nintendo’s iconic fighting game. This is a platform fighter that has a deep focus on weapons. Each character has 2 movesets at their disposal and each moveset is dependent on the weapon that is equipped. Both feel fundamentally different and can change the pace of a fight in an instant. It’s also really cool how each character uses their weapons with their own style and unique powers.
In a sense, it can be like Nidhogg, which is a fighting game based on weaponry. At points of a battle, you will be weaponless either from falling off the stage or by being hit by a string of heavy attacks. Strategically, this adds a lot to the game, as players linger around a weapon or choose to throw away a weapon for the one that they prefer. One strategy that is interesting is that players throw their weapons or other items at their opposition to stop their recovery from a fall. Brawlhalla also has an interesting dash mechanic, which speeds up the gameplay. Rather than having a shield to take damage, you have to slide and dash between enemies. Fights feel more energetic this way. It’s riveting to play and watch.
Once you get the mechanics down, it is a lot of fun. I played with my friends online. We began to learn the game, figure out the character movesets, and as we were playing, this happened:
— Chris Penwell (@PenwellWrites) October 29, 2017
As you can tell, we had a lot of fun. But it does have a few shortcomings. Sometimes the hit collision is off. When characters are near each other, attacks fail to hit. It can be frustrating to have something planned out get missed because your opponent is too close to you. The stages also fail to be that interesting. Final Destination only players will get a kick out of it as most stages are flat, and there isn’t a lot going on in the background. The developers try to change up the formula a little with rotating platforms but with flat unmoving background art (which can be nice to look at, don’t get wrong) and a few blocks here and there, the stages are boring to play in. The music doesn’t help the stages either as it sounds generic and adds very little personality to the world of Brawlhalla.
Something that Brawlhalla succeeds where other platform fighters do not is it’s online multiplayer. 95% of the time, it is buttery smooth and feels as if you are playing someone next to you. The other 5% is from bad connection speeds, which is custom for the fighting game genre. Brawlhalla also offers a plethora of different modes to play; both casual and ranked. And as it’s crossplay between the PS4 and PC versions, there will be players to go against and it matches you up with people fast. Something else that Brawlhalla offers that other platform others do not are lobbies, and they work well. I couldn’t figure out how to connect a PS4 and a PC player through a lobby, but you can likely set up a private lobby and enter the code for both players to enter.
If you don’t have a Wii U or a 3DS, Brawlhalla is the next best thing for a platform fighter on PS4 and PC, and even then, it has a lot of merits of its own. The online is superb, and the game has a unique spin on the genre that is thrilling to play. I hope the game expands to more involved stages and improves on its hit detection.
A Founder’s Pack and in-game currency was provided by Blue Mammoth Games. The PR representative we worked with has written for BagoGames before.