Brawlhalla review
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Brawlhalla review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on August 11th, 2020
Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: CONTROLLERED CHAOS
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Brawlhalla is a streamlined platform fighter that works great on mobile, provided you have a controller handy.

Developer: Ubisoft

Price: Free
Version: 4.03.3
App Reviewed on: iPad Pro

Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
User Interface Rating: starstarblankstarblankstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar

I'm a fighting game enthusiast, but platform fighters never really did a whole lot for me. After the first Super Smash Bros., the genre escalated the speed and chaos to a point that I found them hard to follow. Brawlhalla is one of the few platform fighters that avoids this, though. Instead, Ubisoft's colorful free-to-play brawler serves up streamlined mechanics to recreate the simple joy of smashing your friends into oblivion, and this mobile version works well enough, provided you have a controller handy.

Straightfoward smashing

Platform fighting games are games in which your ultimate goal is to knock your opponents off of the stage you are fighting on. As opposed to using life bars, players are more susceptible to go flying as they take on more and more damage. Brawlhalla is no different. This game pits up to eight players on a single stage, fighting to knock the most people off while avoiding getting knocked off themselves.

As with most games in the genre, Brawlhalla gives players tools they can use in addition to regular old punching and kicking to deal damage to each other. The list of these tools is extremely short though, and some of these items change depending on which character you choose. There are items that work the same for everyone, like proximity mines and a war horn, but there is also an item that equips one of two character-specific weapons when picked up. The core of Brawlhalla seems to revolve around mastering the weapon combos of your favorite characters to deal maximum damage to all your opponents.

Peculiar pacing

Brawlhalla has a deep roster of 50 playable characters, and its free-to-play model uses currency that you can collect (or buy) to unlock them. The game also has season passes you can buy to unlock additional rewards as you play. You can also just pay $20 if you want to unlock everything in the game forever, which is nice. If you stick to playing the game for free, you have access to a rotating cast of eight characters until you save enough coins to unlock some on your own. Each character has their own set of stats, plus their loadout of weapons, and it takes some time to dial into what you like and what works with your play style.

Thankfully, Brawlhalla's fighting is so focused that you can tell the differences between characters almost immediately when you start playing as them. With only a couple of items that work the same for everyone, each fight requires you to learn combos for each character weapon and how best to use them against your opponents given their equipment at the time. The only thing I'll say about Brawlhalla's weapon system that doesn't really do much for me is the fact that players always start out with no weapon equipped. I get the idea behind wanting players to fight over weapon drops, but what often ends up happening is a dead period at the start of matches where most players don't really do much but wait around until they can get geared up.

Cross-platform conundrum

Brawlhalla is new to mobile, but it has been available on PC and console for quite a while now. If you've been playing on another platform, all of your unlocks are still available to you and you can play online with all the same people. There are no restrictions to this mobile version whatsoever.

This cross-platform freedom is nice in theory, but also causes some problems for mobile players in particular. Brawlhalla is clearly designed for controller play, and many people you'll play online are using controllers. There's nothing stopping you from using a controller for the game on iOS, either, but the game's touch control options--as customizable as they are--just don't feel up to the task of giving you equal footing with peers playing on other devices. This can limit your ability to enjoy Brawlhalla on the go, as there's not much fun to be had in a multiplayer game where you have a distinct disadvantage.

The bottom line

As much as I like Brawlhalla, I find it tremendously unsatisfying to play using a touch screen. This limits its appeal significantly, as it's only worth playing if you are ok with routinely whipping out a controller to do so. There are some other quirks to the game itself, for sure, but Brawlhalla is otherwise a surprisingly fun and focused platform fighter that is uncompromised in its mobile form.

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