App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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Delving into the App Store without any sort of guidance can be tricky. Attempting to pick out an interesting app or game with nothing but a few screen shots and some customer reviews has, at best, a fifty-fifty chance for success. And yet, every now and then a hunch can lead to something extraordinary. In this case my hunch led to Brandnew Boy. And yes, it is indeed extraordinary.
A young man gains consciousness in unfamiliar territory, with no memory of his past and a hyperactive TV following him around. Players get to lead the confused youth (later calling himself “Rookie”) from fight to fight as he attempts to figure out who he is and why his brain is blank. At its core, Brandnew Boy is an action-heavy brawler with light RPG elements. Tapping on an enemy will launch an attack (and Rookie), while subsequent taps will build combos. Tapping at the right time (indicated by a yellow meter) will hit harder, while swiping is used to dodge incoming attacks. New weapons, outfits, and skills unlock at various levels while coins earned in battle are used to purchase them.
In all honesty I’m fairly shocked that Brandnew Boy hasn’t gotten more attention. It uses the Unreal Engine to great effect but also in a manner that doesn’t make it seem like the typical (read: grey/brown, hyper realistic) fare. The combat system is also surprisingly effective. It’s easy to get into a rhythm during prolonged bouts, and incorporating special attacks or nimbly bouncing between enemies is both effective and stylish. And honestly, as much as I love customization options they’re more like perks since the underlying gameplay is so much fun.
The story lacks the same punch (har) as everything else, however. Mostly thanks to a fairly rough script. There’s also very little clarification of the various items available in the shop, so it might take a bit of trial and error to figure out how to set new skills or upgrade weapons. All of this can be ignored or easily looked past, but a more obvious issue is the environment. In essence there are only a handful of areas that are repeated over and over. Allowing players to freely wander around these locations when they aren’t throwing down doesn’t help either and is totally pointless as these half-dozen or so maps have absolutely nothing in them aside from enemies. No hidden items, no treasures, no power-ups. It makes the whole moving around thing seem arbitrary.
Pointless exploration and super-repetitive environments aside, Brandnew Boy is one heck of an action game. New enemies requiring different tactics are introduced constantly and I’ve yet to tire of dispatching them with gusto. If nothing else, it’s a game I’ll be buying for myself once this review is finished. I’d suggest other people do the same.