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Brawl Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . On its own, Brawl is a fun but unspectacular Bomberman clone with a horror theme and dark sense of humor. However, compared to its predecessor, Basement Crawl, this pseudo-sequel might as well be the game of the year. Bloober Team has turned the PlayStation 4's worst title into an above average party game worth spending a few minutes with. Rating: 57%
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  • Review Score:

  • C+
As cliche as it sounds, everybody loves a good comeback story. Perhaps it's because we can all identify with the feeling of being beaten down and counted out or maybe it's just an easy way to manipulate emotions, but it's almost impossible not to root for Rocky, Rudy or Daniel-san. And in the spirit of these inspiring comeback stories, I bring you Brawl, the PlayStation 4's most improved sequel/remake/reboot/thing.

Let me set the stage. Brawl is a follow-up to Basement Crawl, which is arguably the worst game available on the PlayStation 4. This was a game that barely worked at release and offered very little content. It was an incompetent Bomberman clone that brought very few fresh ideas to the table. Basement Crawl was so bad that the developers vowed to go back to the drawing board and return with something resembling a good game. Brawl is the result of that hard work, and it's free for anybody who had the misfortune of buying 2014's worst game.

After seeing the negative reaction by both critics and consumers, Bloober Team could have taken the Jay-Z approach and blamed the media. But that's not what they did. Instead they made a chart of everybody's biggest complaints and set out to address every single one of them. The result is a much, much better game. That's not to say it's worth $20, but this developer has done the impossible and turned the worst PS4 game into something above average.

For those unlucky souls who played Basement Crawl, there are a lot of elements in Brawl that will look familiar. This is still a multiplayer-focused party game influenced by Hudson's popular Bomberman franchise. The dark and creepy tone also remains intact, and all four of the ghoulish stars make a return appearance. It has enough of the trappings to make you question if this truly is a different game. But don't worry; Brawl is a lot better.

You can almost see the developers checking each of my complaints off the list. I hated Basement Crawl's limited character choices, so the roster has been doubled in Brawl. I complained about getting caught on edges and having a hard time knowing where I was standing, and the developers made it easier to see your character and harder to get stuck on objects. I lamented the lack of levels and modes, so Bloober answered with a number of new locations and game types.

Each character is now given their own dark and twisted story, which plays out through a series of motion comic-inspired cinemas. The game's morbid sense of humor and questionable logic reminded me of the vignettes found in Twisted Metal Black. We learn that Puppet Mistress was once a party girl before mysterious being transformed into a half-naked mannequin. In another story, a bitter clown laments his inability to generate laughs. And then there's the story of the blind girl who wants nothing more than to see her family again.

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The stories are tied into the game's new single-player campaign, which also acts as a tutorial. Here you'll fight through a series of levels that involve light puzzle solving and lots of bomb throwing. This does a good job of introducing the new mechanics and special moves, while also giving players a chance to learn how each character handles. The stages are simple and it won't take you long to go through all eight adventures, but at least it's more than just a series of multiplayer maps repurposed for the story mode.

While seeing the addition of new characters is nice, it's the changes to the gameplay that deserve the most attention. This is no longer just another Bomberman rip-off; it's a party game that brings some fresh ideas to the table. Each character has a number of unique moves, which range from dropping confusion bombs to switching spots with your enemies. The Puppet Mistress is able to slow opponents down with her hypnotic stare, while Sad Clown can push traps away with the power of his sneeze. Each player has a different special move, skill shot and ultra attack.

Although the goal is largely the same, adding the extra moves and abilities gave Brawl the depth it desperately needs. Winning matches will come down to knowing how to counter each character's attacks, while also making the most out of your moves. Best of all, these fights are no longer constrained to a few simple stages. Players miffed by Basement Crawl's paltry selection of arenas will be delighted by the selection in this update.

While the cast, modes and levels may be growing, the same cannot be said about the multiplayer component. Brawl has decided to ditch Basement Crawl's eight-person online multiplayer functionality, focusing instead on a number of four-player matches. This is for the best, as the eight-player rounds were always too chaotic for their own good. Instead of focusing on more players, this game offers a better selection of game types to choose from.

Brawl (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

Speaking of the multiplayer mode, it's worth pointing out that the online modes work. While this would normally go without saying, it's appropriate to be cautious after Basement Crawl. Online matches went off without a hitch, though finding a room was a different story. There weren't many people playing in the first few days, so getting matched up with other person took longer than I would have liked.

Despite my enthusiasm for many of these changes, Brawl still has a long way to go if it intends to match the highs of Bomberman. I enjoyed seeing all the new faces, but cringed at the brutally unfunny jokes about fat women and the handicapped. I'm equally mixed on the story mode, which spends no time jumping from a cool idea to a repetitive chore. What's more, the special character traits made the game feel unbalanced, especially when playing against certain opponents.

Bloober Team has finally managed to get the fundamentals right, and Brawl is a better game because of it. It's miles away from being the top party game on the PlayStation 4, but this is certainly a big step in the right direction. This is a game you won't be embarrassed to own, something I could not say about Basement Crawl. Brawl may not come in first, but at least it managed to finish the marathon.
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