Saturday, October 27

Review: Speed Brawl [Nintendo Switch eShop]

When you want to make a splash in a crowded games marketplace one way to do so is to shake things up a bit. While there are some solid beat-em-ups on the Switch which feature both staples of classic play and some innovations for the most part they stay true to the genre’s roots. By contrast, Speed Brawl comes into the arena swinging, and with quite a number of enhancements in tow.

Set in an odd somewhat steampunk British world formerly overrun by insect-like invaders called the Selenites, Speed Brawl lets you take control of a group of scrappy fighters trying to work their way through the ranks of this popular and brutal sport. Starting with a core of only 2 warriors you’ll pretty quickly take on new members, building to a total of 6 fighters with a mix of styles, special attacks, and skills that can be unlocked with experience. While your specific objectives will vary from more straight-up fighting to needing to complete skills courses of sorts the emphasis is pretty well always about doing things faster. This can be a challenge since mere survival against some of the more bulky creatures and foes you’ll encounter requires a mix of timing, precision, and patience.

The main draw here, though, is the style of play which is often frantic, combo-heavy, and has mechanics like tagging that feel more like a fighting game in places. It can take some time to get into the flow of things, mastering the moves and getting a hang of the timing for critical things like dodging telegraphed attacks from enemies that will hit you hard if you don’t get it right, but when you’re in the zone it can be quite exhilarating. You will inevitably need to go back to the same spots to grind a bit for money, loot, and experience towards new skills to overcome increasingly-tough new foes but that somewhat comes with the territory. As a bonus you can take all of this on with a friend, and that can get you through some of the tougher battles if you don’t get distracted by the chaos another combatant on the screen will generate.

Fast-paced, brutal, and full of upgrade and equipment options that allow you to tune your characters to complement your strengths or address your weaknesses, Speed Brawl has a feel all its own. While sometimes the action can get a bit too crowded and confusing for its own good, making it tough to spot flashes on big enemies that mean you need to dodge, the feeling when you overcome all of that to win helps minimize the pain. If the run-of-the-mill nature of the beat-em-up genre has you down this variation on that theme is a terrific shot in the arm, providing ample opportunities for beating a whole lot of bugs ass.

Score: 8.5

  • A great mix of beat-em-up action and some mechanics from fighting games
  • There are a variety of stage objectives that keep things fresh in general
  • Getting on a roll with big combos and tearing things up is very satisfying

  • At times the action can get a bit too overwhelming visually, making it hard to see visual cues from tougher enemies and their devastating attacks
  • Expect to do some grinding for improved gear and experience to help you overcome ever-tougher enemies