The long-awaited Mario Maker may be out, and while it is exclusive for Wii U (a console unfortunately not as popular as it really should be) it isn’t all bad news! There’s still plenty of other choices for easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy level editing on the PC for a budget price, and Broforce stands firmly above most of them on that list.
Even through Early Access, my entire playthrough of the relatively short campaign never had me find myself feeling gutted playing a half-baked experience. I always managed to come back for more or find something else to do, and have sunk a total of 33 hours into it despite the game being considerably shorter
The campaign mode consists of you basically going in as one of the randomly selected 80’s-2000 action movie badasses and finding some way to use their abilities to get to the end. There’s no actual story, just a lot of semi-ironic “uber-Patriotism” (you “liberate” a level by literally destroying every last brick when you leave), but in a game where you play a parody of action stars, no one should come in expecting anything more. And that’s okay, because Broforce is one of those games that simply doesn’t need a story, and the inclusion of one might not work in its favour. There’s a whole bunch of levels, with plenty of variation. Environmental destruction and a lack of actual objectives offer up the player to get to the finish line however they see fit, from sneaking around the rooftops, to going straight through the door, to digging underground. While in some cases one method might be easier than the other (indeed, too easy) more than half the fun of the game comes from seeing what you can do next, and boy, is that a lot.
As if the freedom of the campaign mode wasn’t enough to entice you with replay value, the Bros (the aforementioned action movie parodies) that you unlock by rescuing a certain amount of tied up hostages are gamechanging. And while they do for the most part merely differentiate themselves by their weapon of choice and ordnance (Rambro uses an assault rifle and grenades, The Brominator uses a wind-up machine gun and can cast temporary immortality on himself) each Bro plays so considerably differently than others in action, while it may sound underwhelming on paper. You can go through a level with one Bro, and do the same thing again with another, and it’ll still feel incredibly fresh. It isn’t unlike how DotA and LoL keep up variety via champions alone, only Broforce tweaks down the variety of their champions a bit and instead increases the variety of the playing field.
The way Bros work in the game is that you always start the game with one. Each Bro counts as a single life to the player, and collecting more Bros via hostage rescues on the map earns you a Free Life!(tm), which you’re going to probably need as each Bro gets killed in one hit, unlike the enemy (don’t worry, this is offset by deliberately (and hilariously) bad enemy AI and the general overpowered nature of the Bros), but since you can’t choose your Bros or even switch between them, deciding to rescue them when you have your favorite Bro is the best dilemma the game could offer.
The level editor in Broforce is pretty amazing. It doesn’t have the prettiest user interface, but it’s super intuitive. Constructing a level is essentially choosing an entity of some sorts and pretty much just painting it into the screen. The only complexity comes in the form of triggers, which are still simple enough if you ever worked with them before, but even though they aren’t as streamlined as everything else, they are a welcome addition that can do everything from scripting explosions and even generating amusing cutscenes.
It’s surprising how many genuinely great fan-made levels there are out there, building stuff that just wouldn’t be put in the core game. Sometimes, it’s for the worse, like locking you to a specific Bro for the remainder of the user-made campaign. But most of the time it’s excellent, with people coming up with elaborate levels full of buttons and switches, bosses, unique encounters, and more. Admittedly, it makes me terrified to compete. In fact, I did once; I got 1.5 out of 5 stars for a level I was sure was excellent, at least compared to some levels that had 3 out of 5 stars and did basically nothing. Literally, it one was a platform where you had to shoot the one evil guy at the end of the level with one shot before leaving the stage. It’s also a bit weird that they didn’t allow for rescuing specific Bros on the map to be specific Bros, but that doesn’t change the fact that the process is quick, smooth, and intuitive, and powerful enough to give Nintendo’s own a run for its money.
There’s just so much to love about the game’s presentation. It takes old-school action movies tropes and cranks them up to eleven, making it for a campy experience that you can laugh at as well as laugh with. The sprites are crisp and clear with smooth movement, and the voice acting hurts my sides. The sounds of enemies freaking out and screaming in video games isn’t usually something I’m all for, but it’s done in such a cartoony way that that it isn’t a problem. In fact, it’s hilarious watching the Mooks drop their weapons and scurry around aimlessly as a rocket starts heading in their direction, and it’s hilarious breaking the floor below an enemy camp entrance only to have them all rapidly come out single-file one at a time to see why their fellow members keep disappearing. My personal favorite is playing as Bronan the Brobarian and using his special attack which has him emit a very half-assed Arnie Grunt(tm) before hitting the ground.
And then there’s the manlyness.
This game is so manly that even if you don’t use any explosives, there are explosions everywhere.
This game is so manly that there is a dedicated flex button.
This game is so manly that all the Bros have their names Bro-ified.
This game is so manly that even the female action heroes are Bro-ified (I mean, we actually have Ellen RipBro).
This game is so manly that the title screen is a chrome Eagle with massive biceps.
The game is so manly it has...
Lately there has been a surge of PC games which allow for Local Co-Op, and even if the graphics aren’t exactly the top of the line, that doesn’t make the Co-Op in this game any less welcome. While the actual Co-Op mechanics are nigh non-existent (save for a single character that can actually revive teammates), Local Co-Op is a blast - figuratively and literally. The best part of Co-Op isn’t necessarily how players work together, it’s about how much they try not to screw everything up. There are plenty of opportunities for the players to work as a team, but even if they try to do so, there are any number of things that can go wrong. Maybe you end up shooting a suicide bomber Mook into their general vicinity and blow up your buddy as well as your intended target. Or maybe you try to create a new path only to have your buddy fall through the floor because he was busy elsewhere. Or maybe you accidental destroy the foundations of a building in a hail of gunfire, causing the ceiling to collapse on your entire team. So much can go so wrong at any time, and it just feels so right for such a chaotic game to be even more chaotic when you bring other players into the mix. Especially because on the flipside, it’s amazing when your buddies work together in tandem to accomplish incredible feats. One thing I should mention about co-op in general is that there is also the ability to slow down time by giving your buddy a high-five. Does that make sense? No. Will you use it over and over again because you feel like it? Duh. Local Co-Op is rock-solid, and players can drop in and out in a heartbeat, and you can even take the offline co-op online, too!
“Retro” is a buzzword that gets thrown around too often to turn heads and is used as both a selling point and a means to cover up a game’s flaws. Few games out there, like Hotline Miami, legitimately use retro as a deliberate choice of art or gameplay style, and fewer who use retro in the name of difficulty don’t use it to cover up the fact that the gameplay isn’t old school, it’s just outdated and poorly conceived.
Broforce isn’t a game that uses its retro style deliberately, but it’s a game that even despite its retro visuals shapes up to have truly great gameplay mechanics that really feel fun. The movement is very smooth, the climbing is intuitive, the otherwise limited arsenal per bro can he used in creative ways, and while the game is difficult, sometimes just by jacking up the enemy strength and count instead of anything substantial, it isn’t ever unfair, and your game over screens will largely be in part of you making a mistake, not because you didn’t have the ability to control where you land when you jump. The other part is probably due to the assholes you call your “friends” who play alongside you, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Where the game falls apart is, unfortunately, the online mode. It functions, but it’s got serious netcode issues when players start lagging. For example, when a lot of stuff starts happening on screen, it’s actually impossible to tell when something is going to happen because when the servers catch up, it already happened, and a lot of the times you find yourself killed by an invisible force. That is, you were by an enemy a while ago. Although in fairness, your character still has smooth movement online, something that a lot of games with lag tend to forgo to instead opt to freeze the player until they send out a ping. And for the most part, it’s actually functional: I managed to beat plenty of levels despite its problems. And it’s still fun (and if you’re curious, yes, you can play custom levels in there, too). It’s just not a reason to get the game, per se, so go buy the game for everything else, and consider the online multiplayer more a bonus than anything else.
Broforce is a stellar game. It has really great mechanics, it’s got a whole heap of variety and replay value, its level editor is both complex and intuitive, and it’s got a great sense of style to make up for otherwise subpar visuals. At about $15 a pop, it’s practically a steal compared to other triple-A level builders on the market like Little Big Planet and Mario Maker, and it’s a game that, regardless of how much time you spend on it, you’re going to enjoy every minute.