Reviewed on PS Vita*.
Picture this: John Rambo, Cordell Walker, Indiana Jones, Angus MacGyver, Blade, Robocop, Ash Williams, The Terminator—all of your favorite action stars from those corny, hyper-masculine, action-packed films of the 80s and 90s coming together in one ultra hyper-masculine, corny, over-the-top action-packed thrill ride. Throw in some epic explosions, massive muscles, a couple of gargantuan mechs, and a few mega-evil bad guys, and you have a recipe for something hilariously great. Wait, that’s already been done? Three times? One in 2010, one in 2012, and one in 2014? And another planned for 2017? It’s a film series, called The Expendables? Well, it’s been done again. This time in a video game. That’s been done before, too? Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.
Publisher Devolver Digital has had their hands on some excellent games in recent years: from the minimalistic Titan Souls to the challenging Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, Devolver Digital has begun to make a name for themselves as a publisher to take note of, primarily focusing on working with independent developers. With their latest effort, Broforce, Devolver Digital and developers Free Lives have crafted an experience that is difficult, enjoyable, and excruciatingly frustrating.
Broforce sees you playing as iconic action stars from those corny, hyper-masculine, action-packed films of the 80s and 90s. You have Rambro (John Rambo), Brodell Walker (Cordell Walker), Indiana Brones (Indiana Jones), MacBrover (Angus MacGyver), Brade (Blade), Brobocop (Robocop), Ash Brolliams (Ash Williams), Brominator (The Terminator), and many, many more. (Yes, every playable character in Broforce has “bro” in their name somehow; The Bride from Kill Bill is called The Brode, and The Predator from Predator is named The Brodator.) The mission of Broforce is to liberate America from an invasion of evil-doers spearheaded by Satan himself, a narrative you’ve probably seen in films like The Evil Dead, Tropic Thunder (sort of), The Expendables, and others. Because of the absurd narrative, Broforce never takes itself seriously: it understands the ridiculous story it presents and delivers with even more ridiculousness throughout its 15 levels. Set up as a side-scrolling, run-and-gun platformer, Broforce will leave you exploding, in both laughter and body parts.
Visually, the game is stunning for being pixelated. (Devolver Digital indeed love their pixelated indies, huh?) Broforce sports a beautiful color palette: with rich greens, deep browns, and fiery oranges, the game does look quite alluring. With detail on just about every single asset to give it depth, this flat, 2D world looks believable—even though it is not. (I mean, Satan is trying to take over the world. That’s not real.) The most impressive aspect of Broforce, however, is its incredible animation and frame rate consistency. Bullets are flying in almost every direction and explosions are going off in virtually every spot. Still, Broforce manages to maintain a steady frame rate amid the chaotic action—probably because of the steroids the game is on. The aftermath of a firefight is usually that of utter destruction: Broforce‘s levels are completely destructible, allowing you to burrow you way through without altercation. But why would you want to do that?
The gameplay of Broforce is simple: jump, move left or right, shoot, use/activate (character specific) special, and melee (which doubles as equipping fellow soldiers with weaponry). You start each level as a randomly selected bro you have unlocked (which acts as a single life). This arbitrary selection leans more towards luck than skill: not every bro is created equal. Some bros have better weaponry, some bros have better specials, some bros’ bullets shoot further while other bros are just completely useless (looking at you, Indiana Brones). Though you start with one life, rescuing captive comrades grants you an additional life, while simultaneously changing your bro. Should you die, however, you will not revert to the bro you started the level with. Interestingly, Broforce and Capybara Games’ Super Time Force have quite a bit in common—aside from “force” in both titles. Regrettably, unlike Super Time Force, Broforce‘s design does not allow you to shoot in any direction other than left or right: shooting up, down, or diagonally is nonexistent. While not a necessity, the ability to shoot in all eight directions would have made for even greater challenge.
Though “simple,” Broforce is still incredibly challenging.
And challenging is Broforce. As per platformers, if the mechanics are not precise, frustration will be produced, which festers into an impending rage. (Possibly a controller throw?) While Broforce‘s mechanics are accurate, the platforming still feels slightly off, leading to moments of unexplained death—other than the “I guess” reaction that usually befalls unexplained deaths. Puzzlingly, my bros’ movement inexplicably stopped at the beginning of every level, causing me to “I guess” when I died. Furthermore, upon restarting the level, I would be given a bro whose weapons and special are not as effective as some of the others. There were many playthroughs I would simply kill myself because I was given Indiana Brones three times in a row. There’s nothing wrong with “difficulty” and “challenge,” but when there is no explanation for how the game allocates which bro you get, it can be troublesome. While this impulsive nature makes for some impressive runs, this entertaining novelty quickly diminishes when given the same bro multiple times.
Broforce is an over-the-top game with an over-the-top premise. A massive amount of fun, Broforce is a delightfully wild experience. However, the frustration the game elicits is noticeable; because of this, the game seems to feel a lot longer than it is. Though the controls are accurate, platforming can feel amiss, and the minor technical issues dampen the overall enjoyment. Still, Broforce is a good single player game and an even better multiplayer game. Grab your bros, get your steroids, equip your rocket launchers—it’s time to save the Earth. Again.