Bakugan Battle BrawlersESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: Now Production
Up until Bakugan Battle Brawlers arrived at my home office, I had no idea what the madness of the Bakugan franchise is all about. If it were not for the fact I had to review the game, I likely would have plodded along never having known what the entire hubbub was all about. Well after some casual online research, I discovered Bakugan is very similar to Pokemon and is apparently the latest craze in toys for pre-teens. Like Pokemon, Bakugan is a Japanese based game which has branched out into a cartoon show, toys, clothes and now a video game. I had the opportunity to review the Xbox 360 version of the game and I must say it is not my cup of tea. It is not that Bakugan is an awful game; it is just not intended to be played by 30-something year olds. Bakugan sets its targets squarely on those pre-teens (mostly males) and makes no bones about it. There is appeal for fans of the franchise, but as for the rest of us, this game probably won’t be that appealing.
Bakugan Battle Brawlers is nothing stellar in terms of its visuals. In fact, the game appears rather dated and almost presents as a port from a last generation console. Everything from the Bakugan balls, characters from the TV show, Bakugan cards, and unique battlefields are nicely detailed, but they simply lack the polish we typically see from other games on the Xbox 360. To its credit, the cut-scenes are well done and they can be mildly interesting. Additionally, there is something unique about the game’s art design. Bottomline, while Bakugan Battle Brawlers barely pushes the limits of the Xbox 360hardware, fans of the real world game and anime show likely won't take issue with the overall look and presentation.
For those who are familiar with the Bakugan Battle Brawlers anime, you be pleased to learn the game features the voice acting talent from the show. Overall they sound clear, albeit a tad cheesy. Again, fans of the franchise likely will not have an issue with the game’s voice talent; but the rest of us may prefer listening to our own tunes from the Xbox 360's hard drive over the in-game voices, that is of course if you have downloaded some tunes at all. As for the game’s music and sound effects, they are mostly forgettable but certainly in line with the type of game Bakugan Battle Brawlers is. They are repetitive and can grate you, but is not a deal-breaker. All in all, there is nothing incredibly innovative about the games audio package as it manages to do the job.
For those of you completely unfamiliar the craze that is Bakugan, the real world game uses metal cards and magnetic spring-loaded miniature figures, representing the Bakugan. They are shaped like a ball and when triggered they spring into little transformer-like figures. The objective of the game is to capture the opponent's gate cards. Each player takes a turn rolling the Bakugan which magnetically pops open when it lands on a gate card. Players then count up their attack points for their figurine which is determined by the values on the gate card where the ball sprung open. Ability cards also determine the value which then decides who gets the gate card. The player who gets three gate cards wins the game. Clear as mud? I thought so.
The Xbox 360 version of the game plays out similar to its real life counterpart, but with a few more bells and whistles. Bakugan Battle Brawlers still takes place in an open battlefield-like arena where players launch their Bakugan balls (that sounds so wrong) at gate cards strategically placed all over the map. Unlike the real world game however, you have more control over the ball and can actually steer it around the board. There are power-ups located throughout the battlefield so the ability to control your ball comes in real handy. The power-ups perform a variety of functions. They can do such things as mess-up your opponents shot or boost your attack rating. At the end of the day the power-ups are critical to your chances of winning the game. One of the interesting aspects of Bakugan Battle Brawlers is the fact you are not powerless against an opponent who is a power-up whore. In other words, if your opponent has a knack for gobbling up power-ups you can defend against him by shooting at his ball while it is spinning around the battlefield. You can really put a wrench into your opponent’s success with some well placed timely shots.
Besides the traditional Bakugan with some slick power-ups located throughout, Bakugan Battle Brawlers also has several mini-games which spice up the gameplay. One of the mini-games is reminiscent of a Hannah Montana dance and timing DDR-like game where you have to hits scrolling notes. There is also a shooting game where you fire off shots at your Bakugan attribute symbol. The third mini-game consists of moving your analog stick as fast as you can so you can build up G-Power. Playing well and winning the mini-games also contributes to the Bakugan value. The games are pretty fun at first but do get a tad repetitive after awhile. That being said they are very basic and the games target audience should have no problem picking them up.
Most gamers will likely spend their time in the story mode. Oh yes, did I mention the game has a story mode? It is based on the anime seen on TV and centers on the plot of the show. The story itself is nothing to write home about and presents as merely a backdrop to the tournament style action that takes place in the game. You create a character and interact with the characters from the anime TV series. If creating your own character is not up your alley you can always pick one of your favourite characters from the anime TV show.
The controls in the game are very basic and easy to pick-up. The only issue I had in this area is the often finicky camera control. Sometimes the camera can have a mind of its own and does not always give you the best vantage point. That being said, it is not a major issue but just more of a small annoyance.
The game has a multiplayer component where you can adjust the arena, characters and the even the rules. The only unfortunate aspect of the multiplayer game is the lack of online play. Why the game did not include the ability to play on Xbox LIVE is beyond me and clearly a huge oversight in my opinion.
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