Sports games tend to move to the wacky side in fun ways. From the great RC car football of Rocket League to the quirky ‘70s theme of Stikbold – there’s something fun in seeing a sport torn apart at the seams and stitched back together again. HyperBrawl Tournament grabs a little bit of a Stikbold, a little bit of Disc Jam and a lot of fighting to make a fun title in desperate need of more.
HyperBrawl Tournament doesn’t have much of a story but that works in its favour for the most part. Playing out rather similarly to the story of Tekken, HyperBrawl Tournament is a gathering of the universe’s greatest heroes in an almighty showdown. Partly for their own ego and partly for glory, you play any of the 12 heroes available at launch to try and take the win. Heroes are shaped by four main stats: Health, Speed, Power, and HyperCurve. We’ll come back to this after talking about the gameplay.
HyperBrawl Tournament’s base gameplay is fun and rewarding. It’s quite punchy, literally – you punch a lot in it. If you hold the ball, you can only move, pass or shoot with it. If not, you can activate your weapon for an ability, your left bumper for a special move, B for a punch and X to swap characters. As there are only two players on each side, you rarely get lost in that regard. Due to the ball carrier not being able to do any of the cool stuff, there tends to be a constant back and forth like playing FIFA without any rules. You tackle in and take them out, only to be immediately dismantled by their other player. If you do enough damage, players are knocked out and respawn back at their goal, after a few seconds of delay. This means a teammate can take the other team out while you hold the ball and prepare a powerful shot.
But the controls aren’t quite as simple as that. You can choose your weapon before a fight, and this will allow you to do special things like perform an AOE circle attack or grab the ball to bring it towards you with a grappling hook. You can grab the ball with this move and dive out of the way with the left trigger for a nice surprise shot. You also charge your left bumper move by taking damage. Depending on the stat type of your hero, this changes your stances and abilities to make you a better player for a few seconds. Most of them focus on being able to attack quickly and knockout opponents for your teammate to take advantage and score. This is where the stat types are made important: “Health” means you can take more damage and can survive a harder shot to the face if you get in the way; your “Speed” makes you move faster; your “Power” affects your shot type and damage and “HyperCurve” means you can make a great curl on the ball.
This brings us to another central mechanic of HyperBrawl Tournament. Feeling somewhat similar to the likes of Disc Jam, you can curve the ball after you’ve hit it to send it flying across the arena or just out of arm’s reach. This adds an extra layer of tactics to each attack and defence as you always have to be prepared for a rogue curve in the road. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work perfectly. The arenas and gameplay are so arcadey that each shot bounces wildly around the arena and this means you can play a certain angle in annoying ways to get easy goals. At no point does HyperBrawl do a huge amount to limit this, which in turn leads to huge win streaks. Even online, this prevails, as the number of online opponents is very limited. The game matches you with bots if it can’t find a game and I have rarely played any matches that weren’t filled with them.
This leads to the biggest issue HyperBrawl Tournament has – its longevity. There are customization features, levels and loot boxes, sort of. This adds a level of replayability to the game but it feels hollow most of the time as there are few modes, bots are generally terrible and it’s hard to play online. AI behaviour is easy to guess and even easier to break, and it is simple to force them into a position where they just hang out in their goal. If you blast the ball hard enough, it will crash into them, knock them out and drift lazily for a score. Customization, for the most part, is rather rewarding but pointless when you have no one to show it to.
HyperBrawl Tournament on Xbox One has some of the features required to make up a great game, but not enough to stand out. Its gameplay is fun and rewarding but it is also quite stiff, with some lazy AI. It’s nice that there are progression levels and customization but it doesn’t add much to the overall experience. There is also not a large enough variety of game modes and what there is gets boring very fast. HyperBrawl Tournament is like going for a game of football with your friends, but nobody bothers to show up. Rather than wait for them, I’d prefer to go home and take my ball with me.