Brawlout Preview – Smash Bros Zoo Edition

Brawlout Preview

Brawlout is a party-style combat game with a crystal clear Smash Bros lineage. You choose from a selection of the animal kingdom’s finest warriors and duke it out in an arena using a simple set of moves. While the Smash Bros DNA is cooked right into the guts of this game, Brawlout does its level best to try and rise above the other imitators.

Let’s look at the fighters currently available. You’ve got Chief Feathers, who uses flight and aerial attacks to dominate the high ground. Then there’s Olaf, whose ice powers let him use some devastating stun/smash combos. Paco the frog has a distinct luchador-style move set that makes him dangerous at close range. Do any of these characters feel familiar? If you’ve played enough Smash Bros in your life, you’re already making connections between these fighters and their Smash counterparts. You can’t avoid drawing parallels between each fighter and their Smash Bros counterpart, simply due to the ubiquitous nature of that franchise. Unfortunately, Brawlout doesn’t always come out in a favorable light when propped up next to its predecessor.


“You can tell that a lot of energy has been spent making sure everyone has their own distinct style.”

If nothing else, Brawlout looks great in action. The character models are beautifully crafted and the animations are fluid. On the other hand, the level design at this time is a little lacking. Of the handful of available stages, only the ice stage feels distinct. Each fighter has a unique set of special attacks at their disposal, and they all look great in motion. While the current roster of fighters is pretty threadbare, you can tell that a lot of energy has been spent making sure everyone has their own distinct style. The jumps, specials and basic attacks are all different enough to require their own particular strategy to use.

Brawlout Preview

At first, I couldn’t get a grip on the controls. They’re so similar to Smash Bros, yet the few differences are key ones. The upward special, in particular, has its own rhythm that took many deaths to get clear on. There were moves I was clueless about for hours before discovering them. But the more I played, the more I got accustomed to the controls. Brawlout is going to be tough for experienced Smash players to grasp at first. The slight shift in rhythms will throw you off, making the game feel inferior or incomplete. Stick with it for a while. Get comfortable with one character. I took a liking to Chief Feathers and his flighty jumps. Soon enough, the controls will feel natural and fluid.

Smash Bros has this very specific technique whose absence I felt rather keenly. I’m referring, of course, to the edges. In Smash, your ability to grab onto the ledge is literally the difference between life and death in every match. Yet Brawlout doesn’t let you do this. So many times, I tried desperately to reach that edge, only to fall uselessly to my death. This is the problem with creating an homage or imitation of an established franchise. You have to be careful with what you transplant from your influences. Brawlout has the stage design, the play style, the damage system and the control scheme I know so well. It’s possible this decision springs from the designer’s frustration with that particular mechanic. Edge-guarding is a real bottleneck in high-level Smash games. You can’t get away from it. Yet, taking it away still feels weird to me. I can’t flat-out call it a bad idea right now. The metagame may be better off for it. Still, the untouchable ledges feel like a strange blind spot to me, and I suspect they will feel that way to many other people as well.


“I can’t wait for the day when I can test my skills against a host of other crafty humans.”

I invited a friend over for some local versus matches. There, some interesting results emerged. At first we were frustrated by the simple controls and the ungrippable edges. But, the longer we played, the more layers of strategy we uncovered. Soon we discovered that getting knocked off the stage is mostly a death sentence. Different fighters have differing degrees of aerial agility, which changed how our strategies developed. You can only learn so much from playing against one person. Unfortunately, the online lobbies were deathly quiet and the AI is pretty easy to outsmart. I can’t wait for the day when I can test my skills against a host of other crafty humans.

Brawlout is rough around some of its edges, but don’t let that fool you. This platform fighter is only going to get better with time. The controls are unforgiving yet precise, leaving a lot of room for strategy and depth. The graphics are clean and bright. The current roster of fighters is distinct, with each character requiring some extensive testing to get to the meat of their skills and potential. Brawlout is already slick with polish, and it’s only going to get better when it’s properly released. Keep this one on your radar.

*** PC key provided by the publisher***