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Brawl review for PS4


Platform: PS4
Publisher: Bloober Team
Developer: Bloober Team
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: Yes
ESRB: M

Brawl isn’t the worst game I’ve ever played.

That, believe it or not, isn’t damning the game with faint praise, nor is it the ultimate backhanded compliment. Rather, it’s the kind of thing that needs to be said when the last game its developers published on PS4, the abominable Basement Crawl, has a legitimate argument for being the worst game ever. It was awful in every way imaginable, to the point Bloober Team issued an open letter apologizing for its many, many issues just days after its initial release. That they don’t challenge for the title of “worst game ever” this time around represents a huge step forward.

(Of course, if I were the nitpicking sort, I might take issue with the fact Bloober promised Basement Crawl owners a substantial, issue-fixing update, and instead just released a new game. Not that I don’t see the logic in trying to put something so horrible as far behind you as possible, but if I’d paid for Basement Crawl, I’d feel a little put out at the moment.)

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I’m not saying Brawl is great, by any stretch of the imagination. Its online is completely dead, which means that I can’t say whether it’s improved from its abysmal performance last time around. It also means if you want a good online Bomberman clone, you’re not going to get it here.

Here, however, is where Brawl departs from Basement Crawl. See, this time around Bloober thought to include a single-player mode, which means the lack of an online community doesn’t render the game completely useless. Likewise, they kick off the game with a tutorial for each character, which means you’re not wandering around blindly pressing buttons and hoping one of them works in that moment. Simply by including those two features, the game is able to make the leap from “Oh God, kill it with fire” to “Competent.”

Is it a good single-player mode? Not particularly. You’ll quickly discover that you’re essentially tasked with the same thing every time, which means that if running around a square board placing bombs does nothing for you, you’re not going to find yourself sucked into Brawl’s morbid little world. But, again, it works without crashing, glitching, or dropping you into unwinnable situations, which means it represents a massive step forward from its predecessor.

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Happily, this step forward into mediocrity has been accompanied by a retainment of the creepy atmosphere that permeated Basement Crawl. In fact, it’s even more apparent here, since Brawl features more characters and a story mode, meaning the grotesqueness that was only hinted at the first time around gets a chance to be fully fleshed out. I can’t say I find it particularly pleasant — but at the same time, I don’t think I’m supposed to find myself drawn to any of these characters. They’re designed to be repulsive, and they are, so…I guess that means they’ve done their job?

They’re not the only thing that does the job in Brawl, either. Rather, everything does, and for that, Bloober deserves congratulations — more in the form of a subtle nod than a hearty pat on the back, mind you, but still: this is infinitely better than Basement Crawl ever was, and even if it’s still not a must-own for your PS4, you won’t find yourself wishing that Brawl had never even been created.

Grade: B-