Brawl

Brawl Review

Bomberman: Act Zero's twisted spiritual successor

A.J. Maciejewski

Reviewed by playing a Switch on

Brawl is also available for PlayStation 4

ESRB Mature rating

Whenever game developers draw inspiration from the classics, they better at least improve upon the established formulas. Thankfully, Brawl offers a few twists on Bomberman's gameplay dynamic but is it enough to make it stand out?

Brawl screenshot 1
It's like Bomberman's PCP-induced fever dream

If you know me then you're probably well aware that I absolutely adore the Bomberman series. The cheerful presentation, frantic multiplayer fun, and super-tight gameplay makes it one of my favourite series of all time. Therefore, I'm obviously a bit suspicious whenever new developers try their hand at emulating its distinct gameplay. I'm happy to say that at least Brawl has decent controls and it copies a lot of what makes Bomberman such a fun game to play. In addition to collecting power-ups and planting bombs only to watch them explode shortly after, there are a couple of character-specific abilities that you can use. These may allow you to push bombs, teleport, detonate bombs by the tap of a button, and cause various status ailments to your opponents. Overall, the solid gameplay and added abilities make for a promising formula so let's see how it holds up.

One thing that separates Brawl from Bomberman (with the exception of the hugely disappointing Bomberman: Act Zero) is that it has an overall dark tone. The world is rendered as if it were the set of a B horror movie and the characters all seem like they were ripped from one, too. You can play as an evil clown, a blind girl with a teddy bear on her back, a dishevelled puppet, a crash test dummy in a wheelchair, a hooded wrestler, a masked thief, a creepy mime, and an unnerving toymaker. Needless to say, the disturbing imagery and unlikeable cast of characters definitely don't give off party vibes. In other words, Brawl is one unappealing game.

Brawl screenshot 2
Why am I playing this game?

If you're looking to play Brawl solo then there's a rather lengthy story mode where you can play through each character's campaign. However, you'll find that only after a handful of stages in, the difficulty becomes quite unfair. Keep in mind, I don't mean that it gets challenging. I mean that it's downright unfair. For example, when fighting a boss, enemies might spawn out of nowhere. If you happen to plant a bomb right before a few enemies spawn then you can easily trap yourself between the bomb and a freshly-spawned foe. More often than not, this was the reason that I perished so you can imagine how irritating it was trying to progress.

Thankfully, there are plenty of multiplayer modes that you can enjoy with up to four simultaneous local players. Besides the standard free-for-all mode, there's a 1-on-1 mode, a team mode, a "classic" mode that removes abilities, a "sumo" mode where you shove your opponents, and a mode where you try to paint the stage as much as you can. As you can see, that's quite a decent selection of modes so if you're looking to play Brawl multiplayer then you'll enjoy at least a few rounds before it gets repetitive. That being said, I still find playing the classic Bomberman games to be far more enjoyable, especially with the intense revenge system.

Finally, you'll unlock a lot of content as you play. You'll gradually amass a wealth of points that you can redeem for gallery items such as images and character models and you can even unlock trophies although the Switch currently lacks an online achievement system. You'll also acquire access to more characters in story mode and additional stages to play within as you make progress.

Brawl screenshot 3
Horror-themed characters and colourful paints just don't mix

When it comes to Bomberman clones, Brawl is an okay take on the classic formula. If you're desperate for a new local multiplayer game on your Switch and can stomach the unappealing horror-themed world then it's probably worth checking out.

  • + Solid interpretation of classic Bomberman gameplay with added abilities
  • + Decent variety of modes to play
  • + Lots of content to unlock
  • - Basic gameplay borrows too heavily from the established Bomberman series
  • - Difficulty is often frustratingly unfair
  • - Unappealing world and characters
5.9 out of 10
Gameplay video for Brawl 3:34
Bomberman Trivia

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