I absolutely love a good 2D beat-em-up. Throw in a dash of speed and some RPG elements and you would think you would have one hell of a combination. It’s much like adding pickles to a tuna sandwich or canned tomatoes to Kraft dinner. Oh, you don’t do that? Well, I guess not everything works out for everyone.
Speed Brawl is a 2D brawler that focuses on speed rather than methodical strategy. All of the levels are designed around a time-trial thought process and your rewards will come from how fast you finish each level. Developed by Double Stallion Games, this title entices you to build up combos and finish stages as fast as possible to gain access to the best gear for your characters.
The story is a bit messy in terms of comprehension but the gist of it is that there is an officer named Hugo Wells who lead the British Empire to defeat insect-like enemies named the Selenites. Wells made these insects work horses instead of vanquishing them altogether. Of course the Selenites rebelled so Wells had to do the only logical thing by deciding to host tournaments with a new sport where fast and worthy fighters compete to take out the Selenites. This is what Speed Brawl is all about.
With six unique fighters that each have their own specific combat styles you will be able to find the one that suits the way you want to play. A character such as Cassie, who is obviously one of the best in the game, can change the tide in an instant by using her abilities to cartwheel through enemies with no fear. You also have Johnson who focuses on smashing his opponents straight into the ground with brute force. It is fun to experiment with the different characters but in the end you will stick with what works and avoid most of the others altogether.
The combat feels fresh and clean throughout all fifty levels. The different modes also really change up the gameplay if you are feeling like repetition is setting in. Your arsenal comprises of both standard and heavy strikes, which are used to build up to even more powerful special or focus attack. The one big glowing issue that you can run into is when performing special or focus attacks that finish a wave early as there is no way of cancelling them and can lead to waiting for the animations to end which would eat up valuable seconds. As waves are built on speed and you gain more time when you beat a wave the learning curve is in making sure to combo and get through enemies as fast as possible. This makes it tough for people who are not great with the speed aspect and can cause them to get stuck at certain parts.
The enemies are more or less unimportant and you can mow down a majority of them with ease. The projectile ones are the most annoying and can stop your combo instantly without you paying much attention. There are bosses in each area but they don’t introduce anything new in terms of interest or mechanics and are almost entirely there for story purposes, which are witty and fun for the most part.
The art style of Speed Brawl is absolutely stunning. They did a great job with bringing each character to life through an anime style. Most of the environments become repetitive but you don’t pay much attention to them since the focus is on the characters and what they are doing. The music is also quite stellar with lots of guitar riffs and head-banging tunes to keep you motivated to squash more enemies.
Modes in the game range from basic wave-based sprints, pole-to-pole time trials, indestructible enemies that you deal as much damage as possible to within a time limit and a couple of others. There is enough here to freshen up the gameplay as mentioned before but a lot of people will feel the grind quickly.
Speaking of grind, there is an RPG element to Speed Brawl. After every “race” you gain loot chests based on how fast you’ve finished; bronze, silver or gold depend on performance. You also accumulate currency after each race as well. Don’t like how you finished a level? Retry it right away and keep the currency and loot you’ve just collected for the next attempt, which makes the grind feel that much easier.
For each character you can upgrade their attack, defense, speed and buff specific abilities. These elements can be interchanged from the equipment you collect in the loot chests or that you buy from different stores that pop up along the way. You can choose to save your currency for better loot later on or spend it as you progress for mid-tier gear that will get you through the levels at a regular pace. I have a major gripe with the organization system in place for the inventory. Looking through your equipment is perfectly fine in the early levels but once you accumulate a lot for each character you will find yourself lost in scrolling through everything you’ve kept. Yes, you can sell everything but you will keep specific items for a lot of characters especially if you don’t know what they are for yet. There needs to be a character-by-character tab system that allows you to see equipment by character instead of going through it all in one screen.
A fast-paced brawler isn’t complete without multiplayer. Speed Brawl has online and local co-op. These types of games are always more fun with friends. Competing against each other however will bring out your friends’ true nature so watch out.
Speed Brawl is a perfect example of combining elements of multiple games and having mixed emotions in the end. On the one hand you have fast and fluid combat with a great RPG element that adds to a beautiful art style. On the other hand you have a game based on time-trials with combat interrupting the flow of that mechanic almost all by itself. You also have a messy inventory management system that needs to be overhauled. I honestly had a lot of fun with this game at the beginning but the fun definitely seemed to wane once I got into the later stages because of the issues mentioned above. I recommend grabbing this one at discount but also waiting for a patch.