A little platform fighter beat its gamedaddy Super Smash Bros. to the Nintendo Switch. A fun, easy-to-pick-up party game that simplifies aspects of Smash, Brawlout also misses out on a lot of what gave Smash character.
Brawlout is a Smash-like, or a game that takes its mechanics from the genre-defining Nintendo fighting game. Eight months after it released on Steam, it ported to the Switch today. In it, players attack each other by hitting "A" and "B" in combination with a direction, which changes the attack.
A small innovation is the game's rage meter, which when its full, gives a brawler greater defensive and offensive power. After choosing from a roster of 18 brawlers, all with different attacks and fighting styles, players pick a stage for battle. Falling off the stage or getting knocked out docks players a stock. Last one alive wins. Brawlout has two modes for local multiplayer, an online mode, and a single-player mode.
Instead of dozens of loveable Nintendo characters, Brawlout's brawlers are mostly humanoid animals, plus the drifter from Hyper Light Drifter and the luchador Juan from Guacamelee. They're not all unique in appearance, with four different orc-like characters and two falcon-like ones.
And some of their movesets resemble Smash fighters'. The falcon fighter Chief Feathers has a move that works just like Falco's recovery attack in Smash. The rodent brawler Volt has a thunderbolt attack that sure resembles Pikachu's.
Sure, it was easier for me to pick up the game because so many of its mechanics were recognisable At least I didn't have to suffer through a frustrating learning curve (Thankfully, the game can be played with a GameCube controller on the Switch). It also, at times, felt a little blah. I was rarely surprised by an attack animation. Over time, players can unlock new brawlers outside of the original eight.
Another deviation from Super Smash Bros. -- a welcome one for more serious players -- is Brawlout 's omission of items and over-complicated stages. Here, it's all about the combat. On one hand, that means there's less clutter for newbies to sift through. Seasoned platform fighter aficionados can also avoid the helter skelter that many think plagued later versions of the Super Smash Bros. franchise. But on the other hand, not all of Brawlout's brawlers feel balanced. I've had no trouble schooling every Volt I encounter. And the frog wrestler Paco can always grab me from insane distances away.
Brawlout's online mode on the Switch is, in my experience, not very playable right now. Every few seconds, I've been informed that the connection is bad, a fact I already discerned from the low framerate and lag. Hopefully, that will be patched before Smash Bros. actually comes to the Switch.
I wouldn't say that Brawlout fills the gaping, screaming hole in my Switch catalogue where Smash should be, at all. It's missing layers upon layers of depth that I've come to expect from platform fighters.
Sure, players can utilise the much-lauded pro Melee technique of wave-dashing and lots of characters have really, really fun spike attacks. The game feels clean and good. But a lot of the fighters feel a little "been there, done that," unlike other Smashlikes like Brawlhalla, which added a robust weapons system to the genre.
It lacks spirit. Brawlout is lucky it's the only option for a platform fighter on the Switch right now, otherwise, I'm sure I would not play it.