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Review: Badland Brawl – slick, physical multiplayer action

Developer: Frogmind
Price: Free
Size: 100 MB
Version: 1.3.9
Platform: iPhone & iPad

Badland Brawl

Forget the name – Badland Brawl has little in common with the two previous games in the series beyond a shared universe and a cute art style.

Even then, this is a more colorful corner of the Badland universe, and a much more joyful game to suit. It’s also a lot more strategically inclined.

Battle takes place on the ground and in the air

Badland Brawl is a competitive multiplayer game with more than a smidgen of Clash Royale to it. You have two opposing bases, a range of randomly spawning character and weapon cards, and a steadily replenishing energy bar that determines the rate of their usage.

But there’s more to the game than simply plopping units into the battlefield. Once you’ve selected your unit, you must physically ping them into no-man’s-land with a catapult, Angry Birds-style.

Certain units need to be combined to get the best out of them

Some units, such as the arrows or the blast rocket, require pinpoint aiming in order to take out an opposing unit. Others are ripe for a smart combo, such as a giant bomb that requires a thwack from the Big Smith’s hammer to send it towards the opposing base.

It’s Badland Brawl’s tactile physicality that helps it to stand apart from the me-too casual MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) crowd. You can’t simply sit back like an armchair general, planning clinical strike after clinical strike.

Build your deck from a steadily increasing range of units

You need to roll up your sleeves and muck in, using the physical properties of your units to literally beat back your opponent’s assaults. Occasionally – perhaps a little too often – this can lead to a lucky (or unlucky) bounce, turning a tight game on its head. This can be frustrating, but it also lends to the game’s madcap charm.

Another major departure from the first two Badland games is Badland Brawl’s freemium structure. Even though there are all the usual signifiers of this sort of thing, it’s one of the less obnoxious implementations we’ve seen.

Gain new cards from egg-shaped reward packages

There are wait timers applied to your egg rewards, but it’s optional. You can ‘hatch’ them instantly, albeit for a slightly lesser quality of fresh unit cards.

Badland Brawl is a curious and somewhat unexpected side-project for Frogmind, to the extent that fans of the first two Badland games aren’t guaranteed to take to it. But it’s an undeniably playable, highly polished, and delightfully tactile online multiplayer experience in its own right.