Bakugan Battle Brawlers Review
My mom is an elementary school teacher and when she asked me what "Bakugan" was last fall, I had no idea. I guess I must be getting old; I'm usually ahead of the game when it comes to new fads, especially those imported from Japan. And I guess a bunch of second graders can't really be expected to explain a complex card/toy/game - my mom heard about for a month and still couldn't offer any kind of summary. What was clear, though, is that Bakugan was the new Pokemon, and sales numbers of licensed toys and junk last Christmas proved that point (I actually remember a woman on the local news in tears because she couldn't find any "Bakugan guys" for under the tree). It's been a year now, and Bakugan is back on the scene with new video games for every system under the sun… just in time for Christmas. But how does the video game compare to the actual, physical card/toy game? Not too well.
To understand this game, you're going to need some background on how Bakugan is actually played. Players choose a Bakugan (essentially a little monster rolled up into a ball) and toss it out onto a play mat, where it transforms and "does battle." In the real life game, this is actually kind of neat; the little magnetized spheres snap into their monster forms on their own. After that, players' cards determine the winner. Think of it as a mix between Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh. Bakugan: Battle Brawlers is identical to the real life game, sans the fun of collecting a whole bunch of physical Bakugan monster balls.
The video game, somehow, is slower paced than the physical game. Players' take turns sending Bakugan into battle, playing cards, etc. and each action is accompanied by often lengthy animations. The animations make each battle much longer than it has to be, and considering this is the meat and potatoes of the game, everything happens at a snail's pace.
Not only does the fighting drag on forever, the parts of it you are able to control get tedious after only a few fights. In the Wii version, you use the Wii-mote to sling your Bakugan onto the play mat, and playing cards merely requires a simple point-and-click. The interface works well, but the most exciting part - the actual monsters fighting each other - just happens on its own. No input from you… just play your cards, watch the action and shut up. The setup to the fights isn't all that exciting, so having no control over the flashiest bits of the game is annoying at first. But after you've been forced to butt out while the cool stuff happens a few times, it becomes clear that maybe sticking to the collectible toys may be a better bet.
Even if as a gamer (not a Bakugan fan), the slower card based battling sounds interesting, there are even more roadblocks in reaching out to the uninitiated. Without a little background on the game or the television show, the characters and story are going to be a complete mystery. A quick intro is offered up when you begin, but it only gives the character's names and basic premise on how the whole Bakugan thing got started. You'll realize you don't have all the puzzle pieces when a villain shows up with no warning and the game dives right in. Who was that guy? Why do trading cards just fall from the sky? Where do these monsters come from and why? Who hired the English dub cast (Ok… that was personal – the voiceover is jarring and unnatural)? Even if you do manage to plow through the game, almost none of your questions will be suitably answered.
For all intents and purposes Bakugan: Battle Brawlers is just battle after battle after battle (is that how it got the title?) with slow mechanics and nearly nothing to offer in the way of story, characters or much else. Playing the game will garner emotions from lethargy to annoyance to absolute fury, and for a game built on a pretty neat physical toy/game, the developers managed to eliminate nearly everything fun about it. If you want to sit back and watch monsters fight with no input, rent a Godzilla movie. This game just doesn't have much to offer to non-fans, and I have a sneaking suspicion even the most hardcore of second-graders will grow tired with this very quickly. Bring on the next fad, and make sure the game it spawns is a little more interesting than this one.
In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 32%.