Brawlers are a dime a dozen. It’s not an easy game genre to perfect, but when a game developer is able to do so, provides endless entertainment for the gamers who play them. From the Super Smash Bros. franchise to recent classics like Towerfall: Ascension, these games are able to bring depth and competitive drive to games that could otherwise be simple. Unfortunately, Super Rocket Shootout, which has recently released for Nintendo Switch, fails to live up to some of its great predecessors.
In Super Rocket Shootout, you play as one of 8 characters in pixel art arena-style shootouts. Your goal is to be the last character standing, whether it be on your team of 2 or 3 or on your own. Your main weapon is a shotgun which every character has as their main attack, along with a shield that blocks attacks, a special that you can use if you stack points, and whatever explosives you happen to pick up during a match. No matter what game mode you play, this is what you’ll be doing for the entirety of your Super Rocket Shootout experience.
Story mode is where most of the brawler’s character shows. The story it tells is actually pretty enjoyable for what it is; a heist goes wrong, the heisters fight each other to solve dilemmas in the group, it eventually evolves into a saving the world scenario somehow. It’s a fun little B-movie plot that lets you know a bit about the characters you’ll both play as and shoot to death. It also serves as basically a tutorial of how the game will work and is the only way to unlock characters other than the 4 basic heisters you start the story mode as.
The mode itself is pretty hit or miss. For one, it is crazy short. It is only 7 stages total and can be finished in less than 2 hours depending on your skill level. I say that because some of the later stages can be unreasonably difficult, causing your progress to come to a sudden halt after acing early stages. It can be incredibly frustrating, especially when the game just decides to put you in a situation where you’re fighting 3 AI alone. But defeating the enemy and completing the latter stages feels rewarding because it also happens to be the only point in the game where you’re really unlocking anything.
After story mode, the only thing you can really do is play arcade mode by yourself, or play shootout mode. Arcade mode is the basic “stage” gameplay of games like Mortal Kombat, where each level is against a random opponent on a random stage, ending when you defeat them all without losing. Beating arcade mode is challenging, but all you get at the end is an achievement that pops up that says “you beat arcade mode with this character!” It gives zero incentive to replay with other characters, especially because in comparison to shootout or even story mode, it’s just plain boring.
Shootout mode is where the meat of Super Rocket Shootout lies. This is where you can customize your game however you want, and have your friends join in on the action. Couch co-op is the lifeblood of the game because playing solo gets very old very fast. The chaos of the matches, whether it’s 1 vs 3, 2 vs 2, or just 1 vs 1, can make for some truly intense moments. Winning a match with one hit left of your HP feels just as satisfying as a close call in any other brawler, and is probably the most fun you’ll get out of the gameplay.
Unfortunately, the gameplay really doesn’t live up to other brawlers. First of all, the platforming is clunky, which makes some of the stages that are platforming intensive unnecessarily tough. The jetpack is a cool idea, but the controls aren’t tight enough to really move the way you’d like all of the time. The stages are well made for the most part; some even have some really cool destruction elements. But the lack of solid platforming makes some a chore to play on (The Building Site), even when some are an absolute delight (The Train).
Then there’s the lack of any real originality in the characters. They have different stats for speed, melee damage, and shotgun damage, but they really don’t feel different enough. The balance of their special abilities is also pretty off. For example, Mauricio’s special ability is a one hit kill with very low risk to use, while Cesar has a flamethrower that hardly ever damages who he aims it at. Even the items, while fun to throw and watch explode; all just feel like variations of basic explosives. There are some fun pickups that affect the stage and add to the chaos but don’t pop up often enough.
When it comes down to it, Super Rocket Shootout is its namesake, for better or worse. It’s a simple brawler with basic mechanics that never manage to elevate it to the levels of some of its peers. The achievements feel like a grind that depends on replayability, which without people to play couch co-op with, feels like a chore. For $10, it’s a decent enough game to flip on when you’re entertaining some friends and you need some mindless gaming. But if you’re expecting a deep brawler that could entertain you for hours on end, you might want to look elsewhere.