Until very recently, gamers could count on Bomberman to provide the kind of chaotic, fiery death that made multiplayer matches something you couldn't put down. And while those old games will never disappear, there hasn't been any sign of a new Bomberman in quite some time. That leaves someone else to take on that legacy, which is just what developer Bloober Team has done with Brawl - though with a much darker sensibility.
Now available on the NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV, Brawl is a mix of gothic horror and party game, with multiple modes to enjoy with up to four players. The top-down view and boxy layout of Bomberman are there, as are the increasingly big explosions of the bombs dropped. But what you won't find are the pastel colors of Brawl's clear inspiration. In its place are washed out, demonic characters, and an overall foreboding tone set by the game's narrator, Erik Braa, who you may recognize for his work in games like The Walking Dead and Ori and the Blind Forest.
In Brawl's single-player modes, Braa introduces you to the game's eight playable characters and their many specialized powers. There's Sad Clown, whose tale of unhappy buffoonery is certainly full of pathos, along with a blind girl and frightening teddie bear, a creepy scientist, and a living doll type character with an exposed brain. "Dark" is a great way to explain it, and it smartly evokes the feel of '90s party hit, Twisted Metal, right down to the ironically detached narration of their lives.
Of course, the single-player mode is merely there to fill in their backstories and introduce you to each character's special abilities, which is all practice for multiplayer. Playable both online and local, you and three other explosive characters drop into the grid-based map and start dropping fiery ordinance left and right.
Outside of the standard multiplayer is where Brawl gets to be its most creative.There a number of fun party modes to try with your pals. Sumo mode is about using blasts to knock players off the map instead of blowing them up. Color Domination is about using bombs to paint the stage with your specific primary color. There's even a single player Horde mode that's a fun spin on the action made famous in Gears of War. And if you want to go fully retro, Classic mode strips away all the power-ups to make Brawl just like the oldest of old school Bomberman titles.
Brawl may take some inspiration from classic bombing-themed multiplayer games from the past, but it still breathes new life in the genre with its simple yet thoroughly enjoyable gameplay experience. If you want to make your SHIELD the hit of your next get together, switch this on and let the bombs fall where they may.
Brawl is now available to download on Google Play for $9.76.