Like Samurai Gunn on steroids, Blast Brawl 2: Boogaloo combines the precise movements of Super Meat Boy, the arena multiplayer combat of Smash Bros. and the intense duels of Dark Souls into a beautifully chaotic sudden-death hack ‘n slash brawler.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91XEskyyVw0

In this early-access version, players control one of 7 nimble heroes and their wide variety of abilities attempting to out duel the competition. Players can face human opponent(s) in local multiplayer or hordes of enemies in Wave Mode (solo or local co-op). There’s also a well executed tutorial mode. 

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Each character has their own unique take on the standard move set of Attack, Special, Mobility, and Defend. For example, the Warrior has a slow swinging sword that covers a wide arc, a chargeable lightning strike, and her mobility command dashes in multiple directions. The Brawler on the other hand attacks much quicker with a flurry of short-ranged fists, can fire a typical shotgun, and while his mobility move lacks a vertical dash he makes up for it with his handy double-jump.

The variety of characters is one of the game’s biggest strengths. Like a smaller scale Overwatch, the different play styles help avoid burnout of the core mechanics and provide an enticingly large amount of matchup possibilities. If the straight forward Warrior and Brawler aren’t for you, the Pirate can use his Grog special to confuse the opponent’s controls, the Vanguard carries a massive shield, and the Sniper snipes and lays mines. 

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Matches are fought in a Smash Bros. type arena with a similar camera that pans and zooms in and out depending on the distance between combatants. Wave Mode unleashes enemies of increasing difficulty, eventually spawning Boss versions of the playable characters. There are no life bars as everyone dies in a single unblocked hit. This provides a constant tension as you’re always one mistake away from a death. You start with a few lives and can easily gain more with successive kills to continue your romp through the rounds. The challenge ramps up steadily and many of the environments feature gimmicks that increase the difficulty such as movable lighting or mortar strikes.

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A game that demands the player float like a butterfly and sting like a bee requires great controls and feel. Fortunately, Blast Brawl 2 feels fantastic. Your characters have a floaty jump that allows enough in-air maneuvering and combos well with other abilities while still retaining enough weight and momentum to feel stable. Killing enemies slows the action down (this setting can be turned off) which not only adds dramatic effect but gives the player an extra bit of time to plan and react to the chaos around them. The sound and visual feedback for hits and blocks are very satisfying with great wind-up and death animations. The soundtrack is another plus and offers over 40 artists contributing fitting synthy rock.

The graphical style is fairly simple but detailed enough to recognize attack patterns. The constant zoom outs can be a bit disorienting and sometimes the camera fails to zoom out enough to show you the remaining enemies but those instances aren’t too common and for the most part eventually remedy themselves.

For the full game I would love to see the Wave Mode fleshed out into a larger story or even a side-scrolling Adventure. As it is you’ll quickly blast through the available stages. If you have enough willing friends the local multiplayer Versus could provide hours of Smash Bros. type enjoyment. Adding online to this mode or even ranked ladder would greatly increase the lifespan of this mode. It remains to be seen how balanced the characters are but throwing it online is a quick way to figure it out.

Blast Brawl offers a unique experience for those that love precise, fluid, combat. When everything clicks it’s a wonderful feeling to nimbly evade attacks while slicing and dicing the competition. If the full version can flesh out the Wave Mode, add online multiplayer, and/or a beefy Adventure to plow through solo or with friends, Blast Brawl 2 could be a sleeper hit. If you have friends on the couch looking for a new brawler this is already a worthy purchase.

Blast Brawl 2: Boogaloo is available on Steam and Xbox One. I reviewed it on an underpowered Mac and it ran beautifully.

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