Review – Bookbound Brigade

Most people have fond memories of books and some of their favourite characters. Everyone reading this will have fond memories of video games and their favourite characters from those. What if, your favourite character from your favourite book was put into video game form and learned to speak modern day slang? Well, that’s something Bookbound Brigade has set out to offer. Now when we talk about books, that’s not referring to Team Edward or Team Jacob (do people still know these, or did I just date myself?) and it’s certainly not referring to Christian Grey. Instead, we are more looking at King Arthur, Dracula, and the like.

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Fresh off the boat.

The first thing to get used to was the characters and the gameplay. While Bookbound Brigade essentially advertises itself as a Metroidvania, there are some significant differences to get used to. Instead of using one character, you use an entire team, each team member stacking up in a clump, standing on top of each other, lining up, and so on. They also attack individually, so if your lead character is just next to the enemy and the character backing up the rear swings their sword when you attack, it’s not gonna hit. The good news is, you won’t take damage from just walking towards an enemy, and the enemies telegraph their attacks with fairly big motions.

In the beginning, you’ll only be able to stand on a clump, but as you meet more characters you’ll unlock different abilities, both for formation and just for the individual members of your team. Right, so who’s on the team? Well, King Arthur is the “sensible” leader, Dracula sits around and makes bad puns and says “lol”, you’ve also got Sun Wukong, Robin Hood, and Dorothy (The Wizard of Oz). Plus, you’ll pick up more along the way, like Queen Victoria, who always wants to pick a fight with everyone she meets.

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Literally causing a boss fight. Totally uncalled for.

The characters are really interesting, and the entire game is written as if there’s a giant literacy connected universe. All the characters know each other and have their own jokes relating to their story. Especially when Joan Of Arc appears, the banter brigade is on the prowl to make jokes about her fear of fire. On your travels, you’ll wait to go to different areas. I say wait because that’s the first real issue I noticed with Bookbound Brigade: the loading screens are incredibly long. Long loading screens absolutely kill momentum in any game, but luckily there are only loading screens between worlds and not different sections of a map.

The worlds are quite big, and warrant revisiting after you unlock skills to venture further or just to find more collectibles, much like most Metroidvania games. A couple examples of the world’s are a forest area you start the game in, and the Litera Sea. In Litera Sea, you’ll find some water based book characters, like The Ancient Mariner. You’ll also find a fewpuzzles. This brings me to the second issue I have with the game, puzzle repetition. In the next two or three screens you’ll do the puzzle again and again. I understand this is a game more directed at children, but there’s not a lot to learn and no fun to be had from doing the same puzzles over and over again, and fighting the same batches of enemies in more or less the same looking areas.

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Pixel perfect safety.

While I have these small issues, it has to be said that even though the graphics and art style are fairly minimalistic, they’re actually quite nice to look at. Playing the game mostly in handheld, there wasn’t a significant drop in quality by any means. One key thing is the fact that everything is still legible, something that a lot of games tend to make a mess of on Switch. The characters are distinguishable and notably different, enemies are visibly distinct instead of just looking like reskins, and telegraphed attacks are easy to keep track of and watch out for.

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Iron Maiden taught me the story. High school had me read the story. Bookbound Brigade made me think he’s a dork.

Bookbound Brigade was a surprisingly good time, honestly. After walking in with low expectations for a game about literature characters, and waiting for that near-eternal load screen to pass, I enjoyed my time with it. Plus, I can’t say I didn’t get a little joy out of seeing Dracula say “LOL” or seeing a character as underappreciated as The Ancient Mariner get some love. If you’re stuck in the current lul of games until things start dropping in March, Bookbound Brigade is a great game to give a shot and spend some time with.

Graphics: 9.0

It’s a great looking game for the style it’s aiming for. Areas feel vibrant and packed without overdoing it.

Gameplay: 7.0

Outside of some repetitive features, like very similar puzzles and battle areas, the game plays really nicely. Having to think with multiple characters at a time forces you to approach some big baddies and bosses in more unconventional manners.

Sound: 8.0

Music definitely fits each area nicely. While there’s no voice acting, randomly hearing monkey noises when Sun Wukong speaks is always a treat.

Fun Factor: 7.5

It’s a well-made Metroidvania game. Outside of the long loading screens, the gameplay is very enjoyable.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Bookbound Brigade is available now on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Bookbound Brigade was provided by the publisher.