|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Now Productions||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 20, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Tony Capri
Monster battling continues to thrive, with the latest craze coming in the form of Bakugan. Though some gamers may not be quite familiar with its brand of card strategy, most folks probably know someone with a little brother who's invested heavily into the franchise. With that in mind, we hop into the ring and get ready to brawl in this latest adventure from Activision.
Would you believe it? The story in Bakugan revolves around winning tournaments in order to become "the very best." Like Pokémon, Dragon Quest Monsters, and Yu-Gi-Oh before it, you'll take on the role of a spunky kid with grand aspirations that get sidetracked by an evil plot. The story here is completely generic, but young Bakugan fans will likely eat it up.
Though you're only given the option of playing as a boy character, you will be able to customize your Bakugan brawler to a certain extent. Options include skin color, eye type and hair, as well as shoes, shirt, and pants. The selection is fairly limited, but you can go to your house at any time between brawls in order to change out your character's look.
Rather than being given an overworld to roam, you'll progress through the story via a basic hub. The selection of menu options include your house, a store, the park, and tournament events. Bits of story are routinely tossed in between tournaments or when making visits to the park, and though the presentation feels tight overall, it's a pretty barebones production.
In spite of first impressions, Bakugan: Battle Brawlers offers a somewhat unique combination of gameplay elements that separate it from the pack of other monster battlers. In order to get an idea of how Battle Brawlers works, imagine taking the card gameplay of the Yu-Gi-Oh series, tossing in a pinball mechanic, and then mixing those elements with a handful of stylus-based mini-games. It's not an especially challenging game, but there's definitely some solid entertainment here, especially for younger gamers looking to get their feet wet with the whole card-battling thing.
Keeping the entire process fairly simple, your arsenal consists of a deck comprised of three Gate cards, three Bakugan, and three Ability cards. You'll be battling in a variety of arenas based on specific elemental attributes, and choosing the right cards and Bakugan for the job is usually essential to winning brawls.
The first order of business when entering the arena is to choose a Gate card to throw down onto the field, which your Bakugan will have to land on in order to battle an opponent. The ultimate object of each match is to win three Gate cards, either by defeating an enemy's Bakugan or by successfully landing two of your own Bakugan on the same card. It's not a complicated formula, but when pieced together with the other gameplay components, Battle Brawlers manages to be good fun.
When your turn comes up, you can opt to toss another Gate card onto the field and/or lob a Bakugan into the fray. Bakugan make their entrance in ball form when tossed, allowing them to roll around arenas, hitting boosters and bumpers and picking up power-ups before attempting to land on a Gate card. Tossing is executed by swiping upward on the touch screen, and the game measures the force with which you throw your Bakugan. You can nudge your monster ball with additional swipes, as well as blow into the DS' microphone in order to jump. The microphone seems to be particularly sensitive, however, and often our Bakugan would jump without having actually blown into the mic.