If there is one indie game that I was waiting for a long time to reach Linux, that’s Broforce. The game caught my eyes while it was in Early Access. I just loved the trailers and the concept: having your favorite 80’s movies heroes take part in an action-movie like game. It’s being developed by Free Lives and these funny guys are based in South Africa, which is unusual even as indie games go!
While I was pretty much a fan from the get go, I did not know what to expect in terms of gameplay. Was it going to be a new take on Contra (the SNES classic) ? Or something rather similar to Metal Slug (The Neo-Geo legend) ? Actually, I could not be more wrong. Broforce is much, much closer to Cannon Fodder (Sensible Software’s excellent Amiga game) in spirit. “War has never been so much fun“.
Why are both games feel so close to each other ? well, for one, the controls are simplistic – and extremely limited.
In Contra and Metal Slug you can fire in numerous directions, you have tons of different weapons and upgrades, and your lives are limited. Broforce is very much like Cannon Fodder was: extremely simple and straightforward controls, unlimited retries (well Cannon Fodder did have some limits, if you ran out of men to butcher…), and a setting that requires strategy rather than tactical, your-hand-on the trigger kind of skills. There are simply situations in Broforce where you should not face the enemies directly but rather trick them in one way or another in order to maximize your chances to make it alive through the level.
Where Broforce is poor in upgrades, it is rich in the offering of characters you can play. The whole game is a cultural reference to american action movies from the 80s to the more recent times. Some are really, really good takes on their references. Some others are… simply Meh. I feel that they had some really good ideas but ended up overdoing it. It’s a little bit of a shame, but that does not make the game any less good. You gotta love the Machete-like character called Brochete ! Each Bro comes with a special ability, that’s usually linked to the movie character. Robrocop, for example, has a targeting system that gives you 2-3 seconds to point at a maximum of enemies on screen, before they are shot by homing bullets. Sweet!
Visually the designers went for a pixelated sprites look, which makes the game look very retro, while keeping each bro unmistakable. Levels are all very colorful and feature a great choice of color palette in every level. Great taste overall. Even the game’s soundtrack is worth a mention – The boss fights’ music matches very well situations on screen – it’s closer to Metal, and it feel appropriate and that’s a nice change compared to all the crappy, forgettable game music we have out there these days.
The team behind the game offers a lot with the game, since it comes with a multiplayer mode (local and online) and a full level editor to create your own adventures if you are so inclined – you can also try out other players’ creations so it’s kind of like Little Big Planet: you could play this game forever as long as the community’s interest keeps going on.
While the game is really fun, there are a couple of things that do not make much sense, or typical flaws that undermine its otherwise excellent concept.
- Obviously, no story. It’s OK not to have anything, but even something like a thread between the different missions would have been a little better than nothing.
- There are no real objectives in most levels: it’s simply to get from A to B alive, and jump on the chopper at the foremost screen on the right to go to next level. It’s a little strange there is usually no specific goal, such as “kill the enemy commander” or something like to make it more tangible.
- The bros are randomly assigned to you when you start a level. So every time you retry a level you start with a different character. It’s good to have more variety but at the same time, it’s a little bit weird: if you start with a very weak character, you just have to retry the level again to make it easier with a more powerful one. This is linked to the next problem.
- The game is severely unbalanced. Some Bros are borderline useless (I forgot which one has a grenade launcher as the default weapon, but in some levels you will just DIE before the first grenade even explodes – it’s inappropriate) and this is where you really feel the devs went too far where they should have stopped at making a solid and even experience with less characters.
- On-screen confusion: it’s not clear why the explosions you create do not kill you, but destroy landscape and enemies. MacBrover is one Bro that puts dynamite everywhere but is not affected by what explodes as long as it’s his stuff blowing up. It makes it a little bit hard to know what you should pay attention at when stuff explodes all over the place.
- Bugs. Damn Bugs! The Satan levels further in the game are pretty hard, and I have battled many times to fight Satan’s final form and could beat it on a couple of occasions, to see the game stuck with nothing happening… as if it did not detect that I had beaten the boss. That’s a real shame this kind of thing is not properly addressed seeing how difficult such bosses are to beat. This may have been fixed in a recent version, but I have not tried for several days now.
- Most of the environment can be destroyed – and sometimes you even destroy your own path to the end of the level. That’s probably a level design issue in some cases, because then your only option is to fall to you death to restart the level when that happens.
- The cinematics’ style is awful. It really looks terrible and do not match the pixelated style of your bros at all. Thankfully there are very few of them.
So yeah, it’s not perfect either. But I can’t recall seeing a 2D shooter that came close to being that fun in recent history anyway.
As for the Linux port, there is no issue to report (apart from the bugs mentioned above, which may or may not be platform specific). Even the Dual Shock 4 gamepad is properly recognized (even in wireless mode) by the game natively, which is rare. And you don’t need any powerful hardware to run it, even my laptop with HD3000 graphics can handle it just fine.
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