I think we can all agree that couch co-op party games are rapidly dying out, what with online play taking the bulk of the market’s interest. Sure, we’ve had a few party games this gen, but the popularity couch play is never going to be as definitive as it was back when Worms was king of the familial-competitive hill. Brief Battles aims to change that, and for everything that it gets right, it certainly proves that there’s life in concept yet. Sadly, however, it runs a dry a lot sooner than it should, but it’s still a good old blast nonetheless.
There’s no story mode whatsoever, and no real explanation as to what’s going on. Instead, you’re simply thrown into the thick of it with no fuss and no muss. There’s three options to dive on at the main menu; Battle, Challenge, and Rewards. The latter is where you’ll unlock cosmetic goodies for time invested and milestones reached, bolstering the game’s replay value as a result. The former options, on the other hand, is where you’ll likely be spending most of your time during play. The game does a good job at feeding you into the basics.
Before long, you’ll have a firm understanding as to how everything functions and how the rules of the game apply. There’s a small range of blobby characters to select from, all arriving with their own distinct look and theme. The game’s Battle mode is where the core PvP experience sits at, offering four modes to soak up; Classic Battle, Underpants Collector, Hold the Gold, and Knockout. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any bot support at present, which kind of sucks in 2019, but I suppose that that would defeat the point.
Each mode sports its own whimsical overarching objective. Classic Battle is a simple butt vs. butt mode, in which you’ll use your backside to attack your opposition. There’s super special pants that you can pick-up throughout, subsequently providing you with some useful powers as you beat down your buddies in a bid to earn the most kills. It’s your, as explained in the the title, classic PvP variant. Then there’s Underpants Collector, which sees you dashing around the map collecting several pants as you solidify your chances of winning.
Here, you can still attack your foes, and likewise. The kicker, however, is that if you get attacked, you’ll lose some of your collected pants. The only way to keep your collected pants safe from being dropped is via jumping through a green portal to lock-in your collection. Hold the Gold has two modes within itself. The first is the Classic Hold the Gold, whereas the latter is known as Bare Bums. The former sees a golden present dropped into the map, with the player that picks it up and holds it for the longest winning the game.
Bare Bums sports a similar concept, but here, you’ll need to hunt down a pink wriggling butt and hold onto it for a total of twenty seconds to achieve victory. That leads us to Knockout; a last man standing-esque mode that has you and your competition battling it out across several rounds with no time limit to worry about. The gameplay throughout is platform-based, and sports quite a commendable amount of freedom as far as its core handling is concerned. That being said, it does take a tiny bit of time to get used to the feedback.
It’s still a very accessible experience nonetheless, but you’ll need to put in some time before you truly move with fluidity and responsiveness. Regardless as to what mode you take to, most of the game’s many (surprisingly varying) maps all house environmental hazards that can turn the tides of a battle in a pinch. What’s especially interesting, though, is that not only can you traverse the entire map, but you’re free to wall climb/hang pretty much any structure that isn’t out to harm you, which opens up a great deal of strategic possibilities.
Throw in the fact that you can collect a whole host of the aforementioned outlandish special attacks through picking up pants, and I’m sure you’re able to picture the wacky carnage that ensues. That all sits on top of the fairly robust move-sets that you have to start out with. It helps, of course, that each map seems like they’ve been fittingly designed with the game’s freedom of movement, together with its core mechanics in mind, making for a party game that feels far less gimmicky and much more focused than its contemporaries.
The drawback? It all grows rather tired a lot sooner than it should, despite its mechanical and visual variation. I had much more fun during the initial stages of play than I did an hour or two in, making this much more suited for those short-burst sessions when you’ve got friends and family over. Still, when all is said and done, it’s hard not to like Brief Battles, even once repetition sinks in. There’s enough depth on offer to keep each game exciting on a moment-to-moment basis, and thanks to its accessible approach, anyone can enjoy this.
When you’re done in the Battle mode, the Challenge mode awaits. This mode can be enjoyed via both single player and co-op play. Though, this mode does only support co-op for two of its modes rather than all five. The first of which is basics, with the majority of the initial challenges feeding you into the crux of play; how to move, jump, double jump, climb, and use pick-ups. When you’re done with the basics, the (much) harder challenges await you; Underpants Collective, Tighty Whitey Targets, and two variants of Butt-Em-Up.
The former two options house four difficulty tiers to work through, with you needing to beat the former difficulties before moving to the latter. Underpants Collector is akin to the PvP variant, only here, you’ll need to collect as many pants as possible before the timer runs out to claim a bronze, silver, or gold accolade. The twist is that as you get further into your objective, enemies begin to spawn in and the countdown speeds up, making for a very tense, yet very engaging affair. Tighty Whitey Targets isn’t all that dissimilar by design.
In this mode, you’ll be tasked with shooting targets around each map in as quick a time as you can to get a medal (again, bronze, silver, and gold) depending on your performance. It’s relativity straightforward stuff to be fair. The latter two modes consist of Butt-Em-Up Battles and Endless. The battle version has ten levels set across two acts, in which you’re served with waved-based play and must clear all enemies in the time given. Endless is a simple case of choosing a level and fighting off hordes of enemies for as long as you can.
All in all, there’s no shortage of content to take to, and if you can overlook the eventual repetition, you’re bound to get all the value that Brief Battles has to offer. Whilst it’s far from the best party game available, it certainly hits the spot in such an empty market space. In regards to the game’s audio and visual design, the game gets a safe pass on both fronts. Brief Battles sports a detailed, often colorful presentation, with plenty of distinction across the board. Whilst the audio is fairly hit and miss, it does manage to stand out all the same.
Wacky, accessible, and for the most part, innovative, Brief Battles succeeds in bringing fun that’s appropriate for the entire family. The only real drawback is that it all runs dry a lot sooner than it should, but even then, you’ll be hard-pressed finding a brand new party game that’s as likable, as outlandish, and as distinct as this.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.