Switch version tested
Review code provided
Withstraining myself and attempting to be accepting of ‘bro’ culture, what I surmise would be those stereotype jocks from teen movies; I couldn’t help but feel detached from Brotherhood United, a run and fun 2D pixel art platformer.
Pixel art and retro games are so common now that to genuinely stand out, you need something that lures in the punters – whether it be a spin on the level design that nobody else has done or introduce a reward system for gamers to unlock new gear, in-game achievements or set a hi-score on an online leaderboard. Brotherhood United doesn’t do any of those things and in some ways is living in the shadow of the game franchise it appears to emulate: The Metal Slug series.
Did we mention Metal Slug?
Anyone into their run and gun type games should know about Metal Slug whether you played the SNK favourite in the arcades on an emulator, or through current generation consoles such as the PS4 and PSN. Simple in execution, the point was to run from left to right blasting anything that gets in your way, and on occasion, jacking a series of vehicles from armoured camels to submarines. Take away the vehicles and the game was still great with only shooting from a good range of weaponry, lobbing grenades and jumping. Everything worked. Perhaps a little dated now, even the graphics had an incredible charm with hand-drawn backgrounds.
Brotherhood United is similar in that you run from left to right, shooting everything in sight, occasionally jumping in the odd vehicle. Even the hostages you rescue by either shooting or knifing their shackles appear to be like the Metal Slug hostages with the long blond hair and beards. Unfortunately, rather than give you rockets and shotguns, they more often than most award you with a beer, bro. That replenishes your health, but if you play it smart, most of the time you needn’t save them: Brotherhood United is initially a very easy game with no apparent difficulty settings.
Equally, the characters lack much charm. At the start of your adventure, you can create a custom character by giving them hair, glasses and changing their coat. As you rack up the hi-scores, collecting the rewards, you gain a currency that can be used to unlock new appearances, but no option for new weaponry or stats – that’s all in-game—weapons, not stats (there aren’t any). At your disposal are shoot, jump, grenades and a dash. The latter is a decent addition as you can avoid quite a few projectiles this way and also get in close for a kill. Like the series mentioned above I’ve compared Brotherhood United to, if you get up close you knife your opponent with a one-hit kill; however, you can do this most of the time with a gun as well. I have to admit, that’s my preferred option to get in close for a cuddle, then blam! Phased them.
But… after a series of deaths.
I soon realised that there wasn’t enough incentive to rescue all the hostages as my standard-issue pistol had infinite bullets and was doing a good job. Other than reloading via an onscreen gauge where you have to press in time for a fast reload, there isn’t any ammo to collect, just weapons. Furthermore, in the earlier part of the game, I wasn’t getting hit too often so didn’t need a beer either (only in real life). At this point, I got a little cocky and started to steamroll through the levels; finding no real need to kill anyone as I was happy with my T-800-like avatar. The mini-bosses and main bosses were pretty easy to kill too. Lob grenades until you were out, hold ZR (points up diagonally in the direction you are facing, ZL faces down) and avoid the mines and you’re golden. Avoiding most enemies was easy, either melee or roll past. Then the bosses began to hit harder and moved around the screen too much, and I had my first game over. That improved the experience as there were consequences, finally. Saying that you can jump straight back to the start of the level from the level select screen.
I seldom go into games with an expectation as you need to be open to the vast choice on offer. While I’ve smirked at the chance of playing a truck simulation game then thoroughly enjoying it, judgement doesn’t come until a decent run through. Review scores are subjective of course, and I don’t think I’ll ever drop the disclaimer that I feel bad giving a low rating when a lot of time goes into the making of a game. Still, as an end product and consumer, I was disappointed with Brotherhood United as it was too much like Metal Slug but without the charm and visual style.
Welcome to the Brotherhood
Take for example the opening areas; it was like playing an NES game (not a bad thing, but this is a new property), jumping across a skyline where it didn’t wasn’t clear where you were standing. Were you on ground level or the rooftops? Equally, in the interior sections, there were many times when I couldn’t see what I needed to jump on as the palette is mostly grey and objects merged. The jumping sections, when it was clear where to jump, were ok and responsive enough but the sound effects were a bit anti-climatic, and so Brotherhood United started to feel like a chore. Did it have potential? I’m not sure. Starting with the disclaimer about bro culture, it has a similar substance as the story began with a party where everyone was getting mashed, then one of your bros are kidnapped. Suddenly, there’s an army of mercs and mechs with no real explanation of what was going on. Oh, and don’t get me started about the dialogue – it’s all text but on one line at a time so you have to repeatedly press a button or wait for the next phrase to come. It was like reading a pager.
Regrettably, from my tone, it’s clear that Brotherhood United wasn’t the best experience. While it appeared to be free of glitches (I don’t often notice), the fundamental gameplay was monotonous. Despite the unlockable customisations, it wasn’t an incentive to stick it out with my bros and unless you like what you see in the trailer, then either give this a miss or wait for a sale.
Platform: Steam, Nintendo
Release Date: 12/03/2020
No. of Players: 1-2
Category: Platform, Shooter, Co-op
Developer: Myoubouh Corp
Publisher: Silesia Games
Download link: eShop