Brawl on PlayStation 4
Within the last decade, gaming has seen a huge push from the single-player and “couch co-op” roots that most of us began with. Brawl, a Bomberman-like ‘party game’ for the PS4, is another example of how this can be done while still catering to those of us who prefer our action solo style. With a fully-fledged ‘Story Mode’ and solid setting, Brawl tries to create an all-around experience that offers options to its players. Unfortunately, a good foundation isn’t the only thing a game needs in order to be successful.
Brawl takes players into a twisted world known as the Emporium, a dark and horror-filled toy factory overseen by a greedy, jealous toymaker. Players are offered a selection of six characters to choose from, though only the first three are unlocked by default for the game’s Story Mode. Since the game’s focus is on multiplayer action, this mode is half play tutorial and half back-story for the characters, narrated by the demented toymaker as he gleefully discusses the impending failure of each character, berating players for their failures along the way.
Since I couldn’t find anyone else playing Brawl for multiplayer match-ups, I have to use Story Mode as my central point of reference. While it may not be the game’s intended focus, it still provides plenty of hands-on experience with the game’s systems. While the unique character traits are a plus, including the Dummy’s remote-detonation power and Sad Clown’s confusion bombs, play is stiff and the controls aren’t as responsive as I’d like. Players may find themselves the victim of their own blasts as trying to turn a corner, which is pretty pivotal in this style of game, is much more difficult than it ought to be. I did have a bit more luck with the d-pad than with stick controls, but still — simple changes of direction shouldn’t be a thing any seasoned gamer has trouble with.
Honestly, Brawl‘s saving grace is its setting and characters. Steeped in creepy childhood memories and classic horror, the overall look and feel is pretty great. The visual design, condescending narration, and curious cast make for a pretty solid starting point. Story Mode’s unforgiving difficulty may be a bit of a turn-off, but pressing through the insults hurled at you for failure does eventually lead to some interesting tales. A variety of environments and objectives spices things up a bit, but the frustrating controls and relatively uninspired gameplay keep it from becoming properly engaging.
Ultimately, Brawl falls well short of being a great game. The control issues and, in my personal experience, difficulty finding players to match up with fail to capitalize on the visual design and setting. Still, the gameplay isn’t the worst I’ve seen in the genre, and the mix of characters and abilities does bring something fun to the table. Despite its flaws, if you’ve got a good number of friends to play with and have been looking for a new, fast-paced party fix, you could do worse than Brawl‘s $14.99 price tag on the PSN Store — but, you could probably also do better.