In Space We Brawl is an attempt to hark back to the days when we would sit on the sofa playing games with friends rather than playing online. This twin stick shooter from Spanish outfit Forge Reply attempts to take us back to the days of traditional arcade style games. Utilizing only local multiplayer – no online – it tries to bring friends together for some good old fashion fun and has the potential to do this; unfortunately, it fails to deliver on most fronts.
The premise of the game is – as with most twin stick shooters – a very straightforward one. You fly around the arena in your little ship trying to shoot things; the more things you shoot, the more points you get. There are not only other players to shoot at; there’s random space debris to blast, and alien ships as well. You can also score points by collecting pickups, and by not taking damage. And it is here that we find the one redeeming feature of the game – the scoring system is a novel one. If you are not a very skilled player then you can still be in with a chance of winning by destroying debris rather than other players, and by being just good enough not to take too much damage. This can mean that the frustration of kill stealing that we all feel in many games is mitigated by other ways of scoring points. Neat.
There are thirteen different spaceships to choose from, which you can combine with fourteen different weapons. That’s a lot of combinations from which to choose. The sad fact, though, is that despite the huge number of different combinations, everything feels the same. The only real difference that we found is that the heavily armoured juggernaut can take slightly more damage than the speedy little cruiser ship. We’d love our ship and weapon choice to make a real material difference to the way the game plays, but that just wasn’t our experience.
Your ship has two resources, indicated by the bars that float next to your ship as you play. The green health bar is pretty self-explanatory; when this is depleted, you die. The blue energy bar gives you power to use your speed boost and shield. Unfortunately, this energy bar drains so quickly that it is pretty much irrelevant and you are very soon left without a shield or boost ability.
There are three main game modes; Gladiator, Tournament and Championship. All of these are based around the same model – the only real difference been how the rounds are structured. In Gladiator mode you play against up to three opponents and the game ends when only one player is left or the time has expired. Being the last player left doesn’t mean that you win, though; the winner is the player who has scored the most points. The Tournament and Championship modes see you doing much the same thing except over several rounds. The winner here is the player who has either scored the most points or won the most rounds.
There’s a single player mode, too. This Challenge mode fills the role of a tutorial, and we recommend that players start here to become familiar with your ship and its abilities. Challenge mode also introduces the different obstacles that you will face, including alien crafts and asteroids.
Included in the game are eight different battlegrounds, each containing three different maps. In practice, though, the environments don’t feel that different – despite claims of variable map size and difficulty everything feels very similar and repetition sets in quickly.
Responsive controls are an absolute prerequisite for a twin stick shooter, but here the controls feel twitchy. The result is a ship that feels difficult to control amidst the destruction happening on screen. Even more disappointingly, we experienced screen judder when things got hectic – an absolute disaster for a game genre that relies of fluidity of motion. Perhaps in this case the developers should have followed the maxim less is more; the game really falls down on this technical issue.
In an attempt to generate some frantic energy you are accompanied by high tempo music throughout – but this grates very quickly. The sound effects – including a digital voice laughing and screeching over the top of the game play – will grate on your nerves even more quickly than the lacklustre controls and frustrating gameplay. We ended up turning down the sound effects in the settings of the game just to try to dial-down our levels of annoyance.
As with most things in life, some video games are good and some are not. Disappointingly, In Space We Brawl falls into the second category.
In Space We Brawl will set you back £6.39 from the Xbox Store (currently Xbox Live Gold Members enjoy a discount and can pick it up for £4.79) and for the most part this would be money well spent elsewhere. Despite an option-packed game that promises a lot, there are just too many flaws for us to recommend this twin stick shooter.
You can watch us playing a little of In Space We Brawl right here.
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A game that promoses much but fails to deliver.
In Space We Brawl promises much – a local multiplayer twin stick with a host of customisable ships and maps from which to choose. Unfortunately, everything feels very similar and repetitive; inelegant controls, annoying sound effects and technical glitches make this game a chore rather than a joy. An innovative scoring mechanism – which elegantly caters for differing skill levels and keeps things competitive – isn’t enough to overcome the flawed gameplay.
Although only £6.39 (currently discounted for Xbox Live Gold members to £4.79) there’s little to recommend In Space We Brawl. What should be a fun experience with friends – and we are big fans of couch multiplayer – is ultimately a monotonous and unrewarding experience.