The problem with any one piece of art is that it doesn’t exist within a void. Regardless of how pure and uninfluenced the artist’s vision is, the one experiencing the piece will have an inherent idea of the form of art based on other things they’ve experienced. A painting could be pretty, but is it prettier than other things they’ve seen? Or not as pretty? What if it was a painting by Hitler? Would that influence their opinion?
Comparisons will always be drawn, despite how much you try to avoid it. Sometimes the equivalency is false, but the damage is already done. Like trying to compare a human penis to a horse penis. We’re not even anatomically compatible, you’re just asking for internal hemorrhaging. But if they wanna fuck a horse, they’re gonna fuck that horse. There’s no stopping it. In some cases though, it’s perfectly natural and almost being asked for. The act of comparing things, not horse fucking.
Brawlout, the promising off-brand Super Smash Bros, looked to be answering the prayers of all the fanboys and elitists that refuse to buy a Nintendo console just for one game. Prayers aren’t always answered though.
Super Smash Bros is one of the largest franchises in the game industry. It’s a console mover, a killer app. There isn’t just a community around the series, it’s a cornerstone of gaming culture. Smash Bros didn’t just create and define its own genre, it also mastered and perfected it. Sure, there are purists for each entry that consider their preferred Smash Bros game to be the best out of all them. But it’s inarguable that Smash Bros isn’t something as simple as Fortnite that any company can just put their own spin on and release as an original product.
But Brawlout tried to do just that very thing. And while they really tried, the difference in power levels made the very attempt seem like a hopelessly half-assed sham of a knockoff. How can you put a unique spin on a game that’s been perfected, where every element is calculated perfectly? Where is there room to improve, when the act of substituting one feature for another only detracts from the experience? Super Smash Bros is Super Smash Bros in its purest, greatest sense. All of the things that make it what it is are finely woven and intertwined with one another to the point that there is no way to improve it.
It’s like the spork. Is there a more omnipotent consumption tool than the spork? Is there any way to improve upon its intuitive design? It is the final evolution of its kind, the apex utensil. Spoons and forks strove to compete for dominance, dominating the likes of chopsticks and other inferior tools. But the spork cannot be built upon, cannot be riffed off of. There is no room for improvement, no room for creative interpretation that reinvents itself.
Brawlout as a standalone title is decent. A variety of interesting, original characters that are all anthropomorphic animals for some reason. Minus points for the furries, but they’re all nicely designed characters at least. And yet, they lack the defining personality, charm, and historical legacy of Nintendo’s characters. The fights are fast-paced and definitely feel like a party fighter, and yet the mechanics are a bit clunky, not anywhere near as snappy as Smash Bros. None of the characters just feel “right”, and the camera is lacking the dynamic element of Smash Bros. The lack of large, vivid, easily distinguishable models can make hectic fights feel a little too hectic to the point that one can’t even tell where they are.
The amount of sheer content is a drop in Smash’s piss bucket. And while it’s understandable that an indie startup could never rival a series that’s had over a decade to build itself up, Brawlout feels like a cheap free-to-play version of the original Smash 64. It just feels cheap. The controls feel cheap, some of the physics feel cheap. It might have been made by a fraction of the development team, being sold for a fraction of the price. But it doesn’t even have the level of polish of a late 90’s fighting game, and polish is particularly important for fighting games.
Sure, it’s an adequate game when judged “on its own merits”. But why would anyone settle for false adequacy? It’s like being Amish. Your simple life of manual labor and missionary sex for the purpose of procreation are nice and I respect your desire to not want to use the internet so that you can’t accidentally figure out how fucking lame you are, but I don’t wanna be Amish. I want a fast car and hoes.
And the foreskin on top of the smegma-encrusted micropenis that is Brawlout? Brawlout thinks its gameplay is worth investing time into. The only way to unlock anything is by grinding. Grind and level up your characters to unlock different skins and variations, play endless rounds of the game’s clunky gameplay to earn coins for buying loot boxes to unlock random junk to customize your online profile and characters. Fighting endless rounds of the game’s repetitive fights just to unlock a fraction of the already slim content is a laughable way of artificially stretching out the game’s value.
They thought they had their gameplay so perfectly refined and perfected that you would be willing to grind through several dozen of their little battles for a clone character and a party hat. It feels like it wasn’t sure if it wanted to appeal to Melee nerds or people that would actually be interested in a fun party fighter. The emphasis on combos feels weird and ill-fitting for a party game, along with the lack of items, variety, and spontaneity. But it’s also bare bones and hardly what one might call technical.
It’s a decent, if not forgettable fighting game. And it’s an okay homage to a beloved pillar of the industry. But it feels as if Brawlout is a regrettable Tinder date. Not quite what the pictures and description promised, and yet expecting you to put out after he buys you dinner off the dollar menu at Taco Bell. And then makes you split the bill with him. He’d keep trying to put his fingers in your ass, but his fingernails are long and there’s visible grime under them. When the scent of energy drinks and poor life choices get to be too much, you’d need to pepper spray him just to get him out of the car, and then he’d send you a long, flowery paragraph telling you what a bitch you are for not letting him smash on the first date in the backseat of his car because his parents are home even though he’s 30 and works full-time as a GameStop manager.
Simply showing up and not infecting me with anthrax isn’t something to put on the back of the box. It’s not an achievement. That’s the base expectation. Unless I’m explicitly buying anthrax, in which case showing up and not giving me anthrax would definitely be the opposite of an achievement, as it would fail to do the one thing it was meant to do.
There are traces of potential within Brawlout’s hollow shell. With the wonder of the internet, Brawlout has been updated many times already, ironing out bugs and adding more content. They’ve added guest characters, like that one indie character with the sword. And the Nazi lizard. The one alt-right sympathizer JonTron gave birth to. They’re in it too. Maybe one day they’ll add enough guest characters and content for anyone to care about their game.
Even then though, Brawlout is really only a substitute. A slice of American cheese on top of a soy hotdog, microwaved and dipped in corn syrup. A way for the delusional to feel like they’re getting a real, original Super Smash Bros experience on their PC or non-Nintendo console. And compared to even whatever you think the worst Smash Bros game might be, it’s almost humiliating.
Brawlout is the game you’d step on while playing Super Smash Bros. Plagued by a deep inadequacy that permeates every fiber of its existence. Some people are into that though. Whatever floats your sissy femboy penis.