Brief Battles – Xbox One Review
If you’re looking for a fun fast party game for all the family that doesn’t take itself too seriously, developers Juicy Cupcake think they have the game for you, but it Brief Battles full of underwear powered fun, or is it just pants? This multiplayer platformer is a game packed with silliness as you play as little round characters trying to pick up the power-ups, which are all in the form of different coloured underpants! Play as one of six different characters; Sparrow, Prof. Tubbins, Violet, Kevin, Betty, or Chad, each of which has their own unique look and character, which makes them easy to identify in the heat of a multiplayer game.
Although the primary focus of Brief Battles is that of being a party game, there is still a decent deal of enjoyment to be had for those playing alone or in co-op with a friend. There is a single player tutorial mode that introduces you to the movement of the characters as they skid around the platforms. There is the standard jump and super-jump, but also the ability to latch onto walls and traverse the underside of platforms or just hang from the ceiling. The tutorial is handy because the controls, although simple, take a bit of getting used to until you get your timing just right.
The levels are designed around the expansive movement of the characters so platforms are a lot higher than you’d expect as jumping and moving swiftly are the ways to get around. You might have to dangle from the underside of a platform before jumping out and then up to land on top, which can be frustrating to get the knack of at first, but once you get the knack, the timing of the button presses are fairly forgiving. This isn’t one of those platformers that punishes you if you’re not pixel perfect with your characters positioning. All the moves are done with a single button press, so one press to get your character to cling onto a wall or ceiling and they’ll stay gripped on indefinitely until you decide otherwise without you having to keep any buttons pressed. This simplicity is certainly a plus point for a party game where you’d expect different members of a family to have varying levels of gaming experience, so keeping everything as simple as possible means the pick up and play factor is there for all ages.
As well as using the power ups, the way to attack other characters is to butt slam them, a bit like a no legged sliding tackle that smacks into the opponent with a satisfying and fatal whack! Although the characters speed around quite quickly, ts not too frantic to be able to micro-adjust in mid air to spot a decent landing. The action uses the Unreal engine, and uses it well, you know the graphics will be clear and the action nice and smooth. There is a great variety in the colourful levels, spread across five distinct regions, giving you a total of 50 different levels. As well as the basic platforms, there are also environmental hazards to keep an eye out for, such as collapsing platforms, pools of acid, pits of fire or ice slicked floors.
The controls and mastering the mechanics might be simple, but the single player and co-op modes have a very steep difficulty curve. The first few levels draw you in and give you a flavour of what you need to do, but after that things get a lot trickier. The aim is to collect a set number of underpants that appear in chains around the level. Do it in the set time to get a gold, silver and bronze award and unlock the next level.. To get the gold award you need run a near perfect round, miss one jump or take two attempts at grabbing a pair of pants and chances are its only a silver at the end for you. Aiming for all golds can turn into an obsessive chase that could take hours for the more intensive completionists.
The co-op campaign plays a little differently and is only really mastered through trial and error, as you learn which enemies are easier to kill, how many hits it take, and whether some of them are best left alone. There are bosses to overcome in this campaign but shouldn’t be too overwhelming for a good co-op team with a decent strategy. Once the campaign in completed, a special character skin is unlocked, something which also happens in other parts of the game, giving the experienced player a bit more choice in who to play as. It’s a good idea to play these single and co-op modes first to get used the controls, but also because they will unlock some of the variations in the four player mode.
When you get into the frenetic party game mode, the idea is to grab the underpants before anyone else and utilise their powers. There are seven different types of undies to pick up, each of which will have a different effect for the length of time you are wearing them. Some will grant you extra speed or let you attack more quickly, whereas others may slow you down, but with the pay-off or more powerful attacks, often with a greater range. Pants will be hidden in gift boxes which randomly appear around the level, and butt slamming them will open the contents and give you the power up. This of course usually means you don’t know what you’re getting every time, so you need to best learn how to utilise each set of underpants to their full potential if you want to win. As is fitting for the general air of silliness throughout the game, the power up have great undie related names, such as buns of steel, toxic tighty-whities, and flaming hot pants!
Brief Battles appeal is all in the four player party mode, with the single player and co-op seemingly there to pad things out and to help you master the controls. The game is a joy to play with friends, is colourful, with a great sense of humour and full of silliness but it needs a bit more for it to become a classic party game. Unless you’re going to play this with friends in person, there just isn’t the replay factor there that would keep you coming back time and again. It’s a shame because the main game is a lot of fun, and the addition of AI players in four player mode would have added so much more depth.
Developer: Juicy Cupcake
Publisher: Juicy Cupcake
Many Thanks to Stride PR for the review copy.