If you ever wondered what it would be like to play Super Smash Bros. with a bunch of original and indie guest characters, then Brawlout is what that game would be. But that doesn’t mean Brawlout copies everything from the established Smash Bros. gameplay formula. Unfortunately, Brawlout tries to be different in ways that don’t always work out well, making it feel like a skeletal version of the game that it’s inspired by. Multiplayer mayhem with a bunch of characters might still be fun in some cases, but it’s a little hard to stand out when what you’re trying to emulate feels a lot better to play. Because of this, Brawlout falls short of being more than just another Super Smash Bros. inspired game.
To its credit, Brawlout has a lot of characters with their own unique special moves and personalities that are interesting. The majority of the roster is original, but there are a few guest characters that appear from indie games like Guacamelee, Hyper Light Drifter, and Yooka-Laylee. Using each character in matches feels somewhat different, but not too much to get away from being easy enough to use with the simple controls, allowing anyone to jump in and play. Every fighter has a number of basic attacks and special moves mapped to the face buttons and directional inputs, all of which can be utilized in ways to string together combos and big attacks.
But for all the variety you find on the roster, a big problem with Brawlout comes from how stiff each character feels when fighting. There’s no difference in how each character moves and jumps around, nor is there a variance in how strong or light their attacks feel when hitting opponents. This leads into how confusing Brawlout’s attacks can be when trying to knock opponents off any of the 14 stages you can battle on. While a game like Super Smash Bros. has attacks that are clearly defined visually as ones to push opponents off the stage, Brawlout’s attacks are very inconsistent.
The same attack that connects can knock a fighter back at one moment, and yet hardly stagger them at all in another. It gets very confusing during matches when you can’t figure out exactly which attacks you should be using to knock an opponent with a high damage percentage off the stage, leading to longer and more drawn out 1-vs-1 matches.
That being said, however, Brawlout does shine brighter when you have four characters duking it out at the same time. Whether you’re with a group of CPUs or friends in multiplayer, free-for-all matches and tag-battles can be chaotic. The problems with attacks will still be present, but everyone will have a lot more happening on screen to pay attention to, at least until there are two fighters left. There are no items to pick up and use against anyone, but everyone does have a Rage Mode that can be used when their rage meter is at max. This builds up as you get hit and take damage, and can be used to boost the knockback of all your attacks for a limited time.
The majority of knockouts will come from this, but the meter resets if you fall off the stage, forcing you to start all over again. This can definitely get annoying when playing against the A.I. in the single player modes but may help make for some tense moments in multiplayer matches. That is, however, dependent on how much you’re willing to overlook the aforementioned flaws in Brawlout’s gameplay.
Brawlout has a number of unlockables that you can obtain from simply playing any mode. There are color variants, online titles, and even additional characters that can be unlocked by playing enough matches and gaining enough experience from selecting each character. However, this becomes obsolete if you aren’t connected to the internet. This is a huge problem if you find yourself playing offline since none of the matches you play are counted, and you aren’t able to gain experience for the characters that are used. There is absolutely no reason for this to be the case, especially when it comes to unlocking characters or color swaps that can be used in any of the local single or multiplayer modes.
The online modes of Brawlout are what you would expect to see, with a few extra bonuses to reward those who play often. There are Daily challenges that yield currency to purchase new unlockables, online tournaments, friendly and competitive matchmaking, and the ability to simply spectate other matches that are played online.
All things considered, there’s plenty to do here if you don’t have anyone nearby to play local multiplayer. The single-player modes have an Arcade ladder and quick match option, as well as a practice and tutorial for anyone who wants to learn more about the game. Completing Arcade mode does give you an individual ending for the character used, but the endings feel very mediocre and unfulfilling. For the guest characters, fans of said games will enjoy some of the fan service that comes from these endings, but there’s very little beyond a few lines of text.
Brawlout tries to build itself on the foundation of what Super Smash Bros. has done, but misses out on a few things that would’ve made a far better experience. The characters and game modes are there, but the technical aspects of matches feels off. All of the unlockables and additional content is great, but having it intertwined with your online status feels very forced and unnecessary. Had these aspects been different, Brawlout would be a better game and a lot more fun to play.
This review is based on a digital review code of Brawlout for the PlayStation 4, provided by Angry Mob Games.