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Bakugan: Battle Brawlers

Score: 65%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Activision
Developer: NOW Productions
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: RPG/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

There's no denying that a practically unquantifiable number of card/monster battler franchises have surfaced in the wake of the ever-growing Pokémon empire. Bakugan: Battle Brawlers was developed primarily for gamers who will never grow jaded with the concept. That doesn't mean every card/monster battler fan should go out and buy it. It probably doesn't even bear mentioning that the game isn't destined to win over any new fans.

Bakugan: Battle Brawlers matches the look of the television series quite nicely, though most of it is a jagged mess. The excessively intimate camera is undoubtedly to blame. If it just backed up for a minute or so, it wouldn't be so harsh on the eyes. Still, for what it's worth, Bakugan won't give you a stye; the visuals are colorful and sometimes even easy to look at. You'll get tired of the environments and repetitive animations, but hear you me, there are worse-looking games than this.

Pokémon's sound design is incredibly memorable, from the absurdly simple electronic "voices" to the soundtrack itself. Bakugan: Battle Brawlers could not be more different from Pokémon in this regard. I'm not saying the sound is bad -- I'm just saying it's uninspired and completely forgettable. The music is high-energy kiddie rock through and through, and the snippets of voicework are laced with that oh-so-nauseating brand of mindless fist-pumping enthusiasm. In other words, Bakugan sounds like your average card/monster battler.


You (a character of your own creation) are an up-and-coming contender in the Bakugan scene, and you'll run into characters from the television series on your way to the top. There's some stuff about world domination, and for some reason everything hinges on the world/dimension known as Vestroia. The storytelling here is a hot mess of clichés that only speaks to the hardcore. If you don't know the difference between Juggernoids and Robotallions, don't expect Bakugan: Battle Brawlers to fill you in. This game banks heavily on the expectation that players are more than familiar with the Bakugan universe.

My premise-related complaint has been duly noted, so why is the game not worth your time? My main beef with Bakugan: Battle Brawlers has nothing to do with my relationship with the franchise as a whole. Rather, it's more to do with the experience the game offers. All the time, the game is practically in your face saying "Hey, you're in the Bakugan universe, isn't this cool? No, really, isn't it just AWESOME?" That's all fine and good, but I'm under the impression that the game is supposed to be about battling spherical fighting creatures -- not talking about battling spherical fighting creatures. In truth, I can't even imagine hardcore Bakugan fans buying into such a charade. The game is overzealous in its attempts to absorb you into its rather forgettable world. Once you finally get to that one quick burst of action, it's off to watch another person wield a card hyper-aggressively and then throw a Bakugan sphere with an absurd flourish. There are some genuinely fun moments, most of which involve the actual process of upgrading your beasts and your deck. Unfortunately, these moments are too far and between.


If you know how to grow your Bakugan the right way, Bakugan: Battle Brawlers can be quite the pushover. If your numbers are good enough, the element-based mini-games become even more of a non-issue than they initially are. Still, you'll always need to be ready to perform some rather inane stylus-based actions. These über-simple mini-games make Bakugan more accessible to younger players, but they also strip the attribute/elemental system of most of its meaning. The outcome of each fight is decided in this mindless fashion. This makes each and every battle remarkably anticlimactic. Foregoing depth for accessibility isn't always the best sacrifice for a game to make.

If you are a Bakugan enthusiast, you should skip the tutorial. If you're new to Bakugan, you still shouldn't bother with it, because the initial missions will assume that you skipped it and run another slew of tutorial messages. The basics are explained in a way that is clear and concise. By the time you've gotten the hang of the game, you can dig a bit deeper -- only a bit.

Game Mechanics:

The main attractions of Bakugan: Battle Brawlers are, naturally, the brawls themselves. The requisite for victory in a Bakugan Battle Brawl is the collection of a certain number of Gate Cards, which feature elemental and attribute bonuses that take effect in battle. Players take turns rolling their Bakugan (contained in spheres) onto Gate Cards in order for the spheres to snap open. If you can roll two Bakugan onto a single unoccupied Gate Card, you will win that Gate Card. However, your opponent will never give up a Gate Card that easily, and more often than not, he/she will roll a Bakugan over to any occupied Gate Cards. The two of you will often have to fight over it.

In order to prep your Bakugan for combat, you must first throw your Bakugan. This is accomplished by simply making a flicking motion with your stylus. Even if you've made a bad throw, you can put some English on the ball by swiping the stylus in a certain direction -- you can do this to your heart's content, so long as the sphere remains in motion and away from a Gate Card. It's actually advisable to initially aim away from the Gate Card, because more often than not, there are several pickups on the board that will help you out in combat. Once you land on a Gate Card, your Bakugan will snap open. When the Gate Card hosts two opposing Bakugan, the little spheres explode into full-fledged monsters. You'll have the opportunity to alter the playing field by using Ability Cards, which will provoke yet another bout of staring and shouting. Finally, once all G-Power Bonuses have been crunched and tallied, the two Bakugan finally fight... for a few seconds. The stakes never feel high, and the combat is unsatisfying.

Generic and derivative as it is, Bakugan: Battle Brawlers could have been really fun. Unfortunately, the game seems to forget that it is supposed to be... well, a game. In the end, it doesn't matter how big a fan you are of Bakugan. There's simply not enough game here.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

Related Links:

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