Review: Brawl (PS4)


Title: Brawl
Format: PlayStation Network Download (4.9 GB)
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Bloober Team
Developer: Bloober Team S.A.
Original MSRP: $19.99 (US), €19.99 (EU), £15.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 18
Brawl is exclusive to PlayStation 4.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

My first PlayStation 4 game review was for the dire and broken Basement Crawl, if you haven’t read the review I sum it up as a Bomberman meets Saw with a broken online mode and no single player. In a few emails from the developers I learned that they decided on not patching the game but instead making a brand new one and giving it away for free to everyone who got Basement Crawl.

I will try to not dwell on the similarities or differences between the two games as many people didn’t buy the first one, probably after reading the scathing reviews it received. But I will mention that unlike the older game, Brawl features a single player mode where you play through the eight different character’s stories and essentially learn their moves and disturbingly dark tales. This alone is a welcome and much needed addition that has some wildly different characters with their own skill sets.

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Basement Crawl had a very gruesome theme that, without a story seemed to have no rhyme or reason and was very off-putting, from the opening cinematic to the disturbing characters. The morbid and horrific tone remains in Brawl and resonates throughout the entire game, but now has a dark humor and a grown-up comic book style that brings it all together very well. I can finally see what the developers had intended with the first game and this time round it works.

The goal of each mode is to kill your opponents and be the last one standing. You do this by dropping bombs that explode after a few seconds sending a blast along the horizontal and vertical pathways. You can collect powers-ups that increase the blast radius and amount of bombs that you can drop at any one time and allow you to perform a special move that varies depending on your character. This is where the single player mode comes into play as finding the character that suits your style is essential in winning rounds and knowing what each character can do also allows you to learn ways around their special moves.

… I cannot play this around my children …
Controls are a little sluggish but simple and easy to master. My character sometimes gets stuck on a wall where I haven’t walked far enough along and for a brief moment will be walking in place until I make the adjustment. This could be remedied if the characters snapped to the center of each segment automatically.

Each one of the characters feels unique and their special moves are great if used properly. I find it hard to decide which character I prefer. At the moment it’s the Puppet Mistress with her petrification projectile that slows any minions or players hit and eventually causes them to be stunned. It’s perfect for chasing them down and leaving a bomb at their feet. Then there is the wheelchair-bound crash test dummy that can remotely detonate his bombs. All in all there are a bunch of great characters that really mix up the action.

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There is also a Horde mode which is pretty self-explanatory and a challenge mode called Sheep that charges you with protecting an ever increasing flock of sheep from attacking minions. The bigger the flock the more points you get. It really is quite bizarre and a nice little extra.

The game isn’t that difficult once you get used to the controls and special moves. I found it quite enjoyable to unlock the characters and discover their story. The grown up direction still means I cannot play this around my children. The high price this game is asking needs a good multiplayer mode so read on to find out if this is worth your money this time round.

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I referred earlier to the dark humor and comic book visuals that not only give Brawl a very distinct identity but help give a reason to the insanity of blowing each other up and being trapped in various maze-like areas. Lighting and sometimes the lack of it works nicely. Explosions look painful and deadly as they tear through the passageways and disintegrate boxes and any poor thing that gets in their way.

… the voice talent outshines the rest …
Everything from the menus, loading screens, and levels look much better in this game and remind me of a grown-up and more macabre Telltale game. The selection of arenas are good with my favorite being the prison, complete with patrolling guards. There are extras to unlock ranging from artwork to 3D models which help show off the game’s more adult and polished look. Characters look good up close but when the camera is so far above they can be hard to tell apart unless you’re playing on a gigantic television.

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A brilliant voice-over narrates the eight stories in the single player mode and brings a charm and wit that wouldn’t be out-of-place in a modern version of the Twilight Zone. I like the music and sound effects but must say the voice talent outshines the rest.

There were a few moments of madness in the online matches where Michael was bombarded with every voice-over and my bombs didn’t make any sound. We couldn’t get voice chat to work so had to opt for a party chat setup instead which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but would have been a nice option.

… I could never find any other players online …
My wife wouldn’t play the previous game with me but enjoyed playing Brawl. We had quite a few good matches and I could see this being a good choice to throw on when some friends pop round as it supports up to four players. The wife enjoyed the bright and colorful Color Domination mode that substitutes paint bombs for the regular ones. The winner is whoever has covered more of the arena in their own color when the timer reaches zero.

Then there is the all important online multiplayer mode that I sadly couldn’t fully test to see if it worked as I could never find any other players online. Bloober Team sent me a few more codes for the other writers and after a very busy week and overlapping schedules I was able to play with Michael (The1stMJC).

For some unknown reason there are only two modes to pick from, Duel and Versus. There’s no lobby so an invitation had to be sent if we wanted to swap modes and we could not pick the levels we played. For the most part the game played okay, except for a few bombs not killing either myself or Micheal and I lost control of my character for a moment which luckily didn’t result in a death.

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Brawl is an enjoyable game that manages to right many of the wrongs its predecessor made. A really nice art style and brilliant voice talent make the macabre theme enjoyable. A diverse selection of characters each with their own single player story and an average local multiplayer means the unpopulated multiplayer modes don’t make this game one to avoid. Sadly it never really excels in any department and the sluggish and awkward controls can be troublesome for some people.


* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Chazz Harrington

Chazz Harrington

You can find me on everything: PSN, Twitter, Origin, Steam, etc using my universal ID: ChazzH69

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