Review – Speed Brawl

Have you ever seen a nice and somewhat innovative game whose title is so bland that it doesn’t give it justice? If not, let me introduce you to Speed Brawl. Developed by Double Stallion, Speed Brawl might have the most generic name ever, but it’s actually one of the most refreshing takes on the beat ’em up genre I’ve seen in a while.

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London looks so Fallout-ish.

The best way I can describe Speed Brawl is by throwing both the gameplays of Sonic the Hedgehog (and a bit of Sonic R, for that matter) and a classic beat ’em up like Final Fight or Streets of Rage into a blender, and pouring the result into a comic book-esque title set in what I can only properly describe as “Mad Max meets Victorian London”. The game features your typical beat ’em up tropes revolving around pummeling of a huge amount of enemies until there’s nothing else moving onscreen, but adds a little twist; you need to clear everything as quickly as possible, as well as trying to maintain your momentum with fast-paced attacks and evasions, as your punches get more powerful the faster you’re running. It’s all physics, mate.

I need to praise the developers for delivering a very satisfying combat system. Speed Brawl‘s controls are very easy to learn but very hard to master. You need to constantly keep an eye at your momentum, trying to increase it by spinning on poles, kicking on walls in order to gain impulse, using dash techniques, and so on. The faster you defeat all enemies onscreen, the more points and money you acquire at the end of each round, allowing for you to buy better gear, as well as unlocking new tournaments for you to compete on. It’s a simple but very effect gameplay loop.

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When things look like this onscreen, the framerate will most certainly take a nosedive.

The gameplay is great, but what really grabbed my attention from the get-go was how fantastic Speed Brawl‘s visuals are. The game features a unique graphic novel aesthetic that reminded me a lot of the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World game that came out years ago alongside the movie. I can safely say that reminding me of that criminally overlooked gem of a game visually-wise is one heck of a compliment. The same can be said about the game’s intro cinematic, a high-quality clip which not only featured top notch animations but also one huge banger of a rock tune accompanying it, a song that reminded me a lot of what the band Crush 40 did with the various themes it composed for Sonic games, most notably “Live and Learn” and “Open Your Heart”. The rest of the soundtrack is nowhere near as adrenaline pumping as the intro tune, but it still gets the job done.

Speed Brawl isn’t devoid of issues however, and some of them are very jarring. First of all, the game might pride itself of being all about speed and nonstop action, but it loves to interrupt you left and right with a lot of story-driven cutscenes that, more often than not, fail to captivate due to the game’s overall plot not being the most intriguing, despite its strong post-apocalyptic Victorian London setting. It is also prone to framerate drops whenever there’s too much action onscreen. Sadly, that occurs with a disappointingly constant frequency, especially in later stages.

Speed Brawl also fails to deliver a challenging but fair experience. The difficulty curve goes up just like a Busch Gardens roller coaster when you least expect it, forcing you to go back to previous stages in order to grind for more cash for better equipment for your character. Once again, it feels weird that a game about getting to the finish line as quickly as possible pretty much forces you to go back and artificially extend its duration at times.

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You can summarize Speed Brawl’s intro cinematic in two words: “hella dope”.

Behind a somewhat unimaginative title name lies an actual innovative take on the beat ’em up genre. Speed Brawl is a gorgeous and stylish game with great controls and decent music that could have been even more special if it wasn’t so unfairly difficult and grindy at times. It’s a great choice for brawling fans who just can’t wait for Streets of Rage 4‘s eventual release, though.

 

Graphics: 8.5

Speed Brawl‘s visuals reminded me a lot of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and that’s never a bad thing. Slowdowns occur when there’s too much action onscreen.

Gameplay: 8.5

It’s all about fast reflexes and huge combos. Think of it as a mixture of Sonic and a Capcom brawler.

Sound: 7.5

You’re initially greeted with an awesome intro song reminiscent of the Sonic tunes made by Crush 40. The rest of the soundtrack is nowhere near as good, but still decent in its own right.

Fun Factor: 7.0

Speed Brawl is entertaining and extremely challenging, but not always fair. You’ll need to grind a bit in order to beat certain mandatory segments. Regardless of this issue, it is certainly a unique take on the beat ’em up genre.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Speed Brawl is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Xbox One.

A copy of Speed Brawl was provided by the publisher.

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