Countless comparisons will no doubt be made between Brawlout and the Super Smash Bros. series as we see the game launch on Switch, and for good reason. Not only is its gameplay distinctly similar to Nintendo’s giant franchise, but we are of course yet to see a Super Smash Bros. game on the console; Brawlout is aiming to lure in fans of the genre that are waiting patiently for their platform-fighting fix. So with its colourful blend of characters and much cheaper price point, is this a worthy genre arrival on the Switch?
If you’re familiar with the feel of any Smash Bros. games you’ll feel instantly at home here; everything from the controls, rules and layout are almost identical to what we have seen before. You’ll be using a mixture of the ‘A’ button’s standard attacks, the ‘B’ button's special attacks, and variations of the two when combined with a directional movement, with all damage dealt increasing your opponents percentage. As the percentage rises the distance they travel when hit will increase, allowing you to send them flying off the screen to win.
There are eight characters available to choose from, with new character unlocks essentially being remodelled versions of the main cast. Six of these are original to Brawlout, with the other two being guests from other franchises: Juan from Guacamelee and The Drifter from Hyper Light Drifter. The characters have slightly different feels to them in terms of the speed of their movements, although for the most part they act in relatively similar ways.
Some characters, such as the four-armed frog Paco who uses a throw for his special move, are primarily built around brute force. Others, like The Drifter, are much quicker in their movements, darting around the stage at lightning speeds. Each character’s special moveset is different, although the scope for variety and creativity is rather limited on the whole. Similar ideas appear to those seen in Smash Bros. (such as projectiles and attacks from above) but the relatively small character roster means you’ll be used to them all quickly and any similar moves assigned to more than one character feel even more noticeable.
Brawlout has a fast-paced feel when you’re deep in the action. Ditching any kind of defensive capabilities by removing the ability to block, the game puts an emphasis on all-out attack. With four players on the screen, all darting around and dealing hits often, matches can feel rather frantic; you’ll rarely get a moment to catch your breath because any break could cost you some damage. Playing against similarly skilled opponents, or CPU that are at a perfect level to match you, will result in some very fun matches indeed.
At its best Brawlout feels really smooth; running at 60fps both docked and undocked, the game allows this fast pace to work really well (and everything looks really pretty too). Unfortunately, though, every minute or so (especially if a character gets blasted over to a far edge of the screen), the game seems to need a second to catch up, resulting in very noticeable stutters. We’d be more forgiving of the odd hiccup in normal circumstances, but there were times when that particular second resulted in an unfair loss in a couple of our matches.
The game has several modes for you to get stuck into, as well as an in-game store to unlock extra goodies. Single player offerings include your standard quickplay and tutorial options, a free practice mode, and an arcade mode where you have to play through rounds of matches across three difficulties. Playing in these matches will raise the ‘mastery’ (or skill level) of your chosen character, eventually working towards future unlocks.
Some things, such as new skins or taunts, are unlocked randomly as you earn more in-game currency by playing matches and completing daily challenges. New stages, on the other hand, are locked behind specific characters – you’ll need to get each character to level 10 to get their specific arena. Whilst we’re glad that the stages aren’t included in the random draw of the other items, this does mean that you’ll only have three locations to choose from for quite some time.
There is also an online mode which consists exclusively of 1 on 1 matches. In a nice touch you are able to jump into local matches or browse through the in-game store whilst the game tries to find an online match for you. Following the theme of the action so far, when online matches are working perfectly they are great fun and you can host your own games for friends to join if you like.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of peer-to-peer online servers, several matches where a user had a poor internet connection caused the entire match to run in unplayable slow-motion. Of course, everyone’s experience with this will differ but we recommend ensuring that you have a very fast and secure connection if you wish to jump online.
Brawlout’s core action is a lot of fun; with a huge amount of ideas inspired by genre greats such as Super Smash Bros., the action feels tight, fast, and can be a pleasure to play. The limited character roster means that attack variations can only go so far, and some performance hiccups prevent Brawlout from being truly wonderful, but for an on-the-go, cheaper alternative to a game that hasn’t even been announced for the console yet, this isn't a bad choice – just make sure to keep the issues we mentioned in mind.