Bit Brawlers was the first game I played at PAX East 2014. It looked really familiar to a popular franchise, played pretty similarly to said franchise, felt a lot like a certain franchise. Yet Bit Brawlers could be distinctive enough to stand out from that certain other game.
You’ll do battle against three other competitors on a stage. Players will engage in sparring combat in efforts to knock each other off the stage. Last one standing is the victor. Sounds a lot like Super Smash Bros., right? I mean, the two share an incredibly similar concept, but that’s honestly where the similarities end. Bit Brawlers doesn’t have the diverse roster of Nintendo characters, but then again it doesn’t necessarily need to. This is about frantic combat to the bitter end. This is about survival.
Aptly enough, one feature that stood out to me was just how easy it is to come back from near death. Does it detract from the game’s experience? Absolutely not; if anything, it makes combat even more tense. It did take some time getting used to the fact that there aren’t really any sure-fire KOs, but once I did, I felt right at home.
The twitchy gameplay also takes some getting used to and may ultimately be a divisive mechanic among fans. Yes, this means that the combat’s pacing is both incredibly fast and zany, but it also leaves more inexperienced gamers prone to deadly mistakes. My first two matches resulted in “oh, I guess I was that green guy who accidentally ran off the stage” and “oops, I overshot the ledge and now I’m dead.” It’s not the worst feature I’ve ever seen in a game, but it’s still something to both get used to and keep an eye out to see how it holds up in the long run.
Environments are a key part of Bit Brawlers, a fact that was fully on display during my hands-on time. What I thought was a clever idea to hide in a corner while the dust settles turned awry when the wind pushed me into oblivion. Oops. I’m not mad or anything like that despite my tendency to be annoyed when Smash Bros. stages feel gimmicky. Instead, this leaves open the opportunity to use your surroundings to your advantage, something that can be vital in a twitch-based game.
Publisher Tiny Build Games was touting the fact that the game is purely created by the players, but that sounds like something more apt to an extended hands-on time. It’s an intriguing feature, no doubt, and could be enough make Bit Brawlers worth an impulse purchase if the price is right. We’ll keep an eye out for its eventual release on Steam.