Until we recently saw the game during a Bandai Namco press presentation, the new port of LEGO Brawls wasn’t really on our radar. It looked like it could be a blast though, so we were eager to try it out when it launched on the PlayStation 5.
At its core, LEGO Brawls is a fighting game that evokes memories of Super Smash Brothers, which when you combine that concept with a nearly limitless amount of minifigures you can build from all kinds of LEGO (sub)franchises, it seems like it could very well be something full of the charm we’ve come to expect from LEGO-based videogames. The upcoming Bricktales looks great, and the most recent Star Wars release was also excellent, so we couldn’t wait to get started.
The fact that LEGO Brawls originally launched on the Apple Arcade should have been a sign that perhaps this wouldn’t have the same kind of depth though, as it was originally designed with mobile devices in mind. Translate that to console terms, and you’ve got a fighting game in which you only have a single attack button – a heavily simplified control scheme that quickly results in most matches being a button mashing event.
The ability to pick up (temporary) power-ups in the arena do mix up the action somewhat, as matches typically unfold through a 4 vs 4 format in which teams try to gain and hold control over a part of the game map for long enough to score points and win. And while simplified controls don’t have to be an issue, the action here feels rather mindless, and sub-par AI doesn’t help with the enjoyment of the game either – with erratic behavior where some characters just get completely ignored while others suffer frustrating hits.
As you probably expect from a game like this, you can also play in a free-for-all battle royale style mode or see who can get the required number of kills first, but with so many characters that can look similar these quickly become chaotic and team-based play – for all its faults – is actually the best way to play here.
With some effort, these other modes can be made more enjoyable through the included character editor, which (through a base collection and a ton of unlocks) ultimately gives you access to a daunting 77 billion different combinations. Obviously no one needs that many, but it’s nice to be able to diversify your casts of characters and go into battles with a selection of minifigures that looks and feels diverse. It doesn’t just help you personalize the experience, it also makes for a more fun game when you’re able to easily tell who’s who. Or, if you’d rather go with content that’s ready out of the box, then it’s nice to see some branded content in there as well, like a few dinosaurs from the Jurassic franchise.
Perhaps this is also because of its mobile roots, but LEGO Brawls lacks some of the personality that other LEGO games have. Menus looks great and have a real LEGO feel to them, and the color and detail in the in-game portion also work for that signature feel, but there are no cutscenes, voices or even fun sound effects to bring these characters to life. We haven’t played anything through Apple Arcade yet, but it’s unfortunate to see that these are the games we see emerging from the platform.