Publisher: Stormcloud Games
Developer: Stormcloud Games
I suspect that a little bit of nostalgia goes a long way towards determining whether you’ll really enjoy Brut@l. After all, it’s essentially a love letter to old-school roguelike dungeon crawlers, just with a fresh coat of paint. If you played those games back when they originally came out, I can imagine loving every second of seeing them reimagined with modern graphics made out of ASCII characters.
And if you didn’t…well, then you may have a harder time getting into the game. At least, that was the case for me. I never developed a taste for roguelikes, so whether they have Commodore 64-level graphics or cutting edge ones, it makes no difference to me: all I really see is a game where you start at level one, you hack and slash your way through dungeons and enemies, and then you die and start all over again from the first dungeon. I know I’m simplifying things horribly, but that’s my impression, and even if Brut@l makes it look amazing, there’s not much here changes my impression of the genre.
Of course, in Brut@l’s defense, the hacking and slashing is simple enough that even someone like me has no trouble picking it up. Early on, especially, this is a game where you can punch your way to victory (or at least the entrance to the next dungeon), which is pretty fun. And when you realize that you have a Captain America-style shield that ricochets back to you after you use it to explode traps and incapacitate enemies, then it gets really fun.
Further, I should note that I’m doing Brut@l a disservice by saying that it “only” puts a fresh coat of paint on ASCII dungeon crawlers. Simply put, it looks phenomenal. You wouldn’t think a game where the dominant colours are black and white could pop off the screen, but this game suggests otherwise. More importantly, the developers understand that with such a limited palette, a little splash of colour can go a very long way. Hence, the red splatters that accompany every kill look amazing, as do the neon-tinged enemies who come chasing after you. No one is going to mistake it for Journey or anything, but in its own, limited way, Brut@l knows how to make a little do a lot.
So I love the aesthetic and I enjoy punching my way through dungeon after dungeon; why am I so down on it? Basically, it comes down to personal preference. Brut@l starts feeling repetitive really quickly. There are only so many bad guys you can explode to bright red bits before they — pardon the pun — start to bleed into each other. If that’s your thing, then for sure you’ll want to check this game out, but if it’s not, you’ll want to proceed with a bit of caution.