There’ll be no hesitation from me in recommending Cannon Brawl, out today on the Nintendo Switch. It’s fun, addictive, and more unlockables than you can shake a stick at or blast a cannon at. Heh.
It’s quite a clever little game. The name triggers lots of memories and comparisons to plenty of classics, and when initially posting the news about Cannon Brawl, from Temple Gate Games and Blitworks, I assumed that this would be blasting in Worms’ shadow. It wasn’t/isn’t.
The best comparison would be if Worms and the Kingdom Rush series met around the bike shed and felt each other up. No? Doesn’t work for you? It has that tower defence/multiplayer mayhem energy to it, and I had trouble putting it down.
This Cannon Brawl review is more or less my experience from the game’s solo adventure, simply because it wasn’t out when I played it, so nobody else had it, and trying to entice my eldest to play is like getting asking a giraffe in a wetsuit. It’s not going to happen. Well, the former did, but we only played a few games.
There are ranked matches, unranked, challenges your friends, if you have them, and for those who fancy a skirmish that isn’t mission-based, battles vs the AI.
But on to the main event: the adventure. You play as the Princess, and the King’s evil brother, simply ‘Uncle’, has kidnapped him and sent his Minion, singular, to thwart your progress. Between each battle is a dialogue scene of banter that introduces new units for each match, taking you up to level 20.
At the start of each match, you get to choose a pilot, unlocking more as you progress or unlock. For each battle and challenge you complete in Cannon Brawl – i.e. do X damage to buildings, win X battles with Y – you earn XP that can be used to purchase new towers and pilots. Most of which can be used in multiplayer modes too.
Each pilot has a perk such as reduced cooldowns, damage dealing and shields. Once I unlocked the Prince (he repairs towers by hovering on them), I was set. Why are they called pilots? Because they pilot airships, silly.
This was the concept I didn’t get when I first read about Cannon Brawl. You directly control the airship, free to move anywhere you like without suffering any damage or respawns. Your job is to build the towers that will defend your castle, mine the lands of gold and gems to build said towers, but ultimately destroy your opponent’s castle.
Mines can only be built on designated spots, and more importantly, you can only build within your territories. These are represented by blue (in solo mode), and you expand your network by building balloons. You can’t build within an enemy’s space and vice versa, so a lot of the time, like in love and war, it’s about fighting for the land early on.
With your offensive line-up, you plot a trajectory for an attack in the same way as in Worms; only there are no weather elements. Towers can shoot missiles, lasers, freeze enemy towers and more. For me, it was predominantly an offensive game, but when you play the Nightmare mode, deploying shields is a must.
Cannon Brawl is a real-time strategy game, so shifting back and forth to towers and your base is essential. This is achieved by moving your airship onto a building, docking with it, then activating it. It’s worth noting that everything you build isn’t from a menu hotkey; instead, you have to hover on your base and select it from there. Quite annoying.
While a lot is going on, it never feels overly hectic, but manually flying over to each tower can be a bit like walking through mud, and your buildings are as thick as paint; they have no AI, so a repair tower will happily stay dormant while it’s neighbour is ravished by lasers. Unless you intervene and give a command.
Every stage has three possible medals to win. Destroy the enemy castle, fulfil the APM (actions per minute) – that’s pretty tricky if you have a tight setup and don’t need to keep bashing the buttons, and the third, finish within the time. It doesn’t matter if you go over the time; you just don’t get the medal.
Within a few hours straight, I’d completed the campaign and won practically every medal. Nightmare mode is unlocked after finishing the adventure, plus some challenge modes where you have to take out a castle with so many moves. There’s plenty of thinking outside the box moments and a nice alternative to Cannon Brawl’s core gameplay.
I was initially dismissive of the Nightmare mode, thinking it would be harder versions of the existing levels. Instead, it’s a whole new map. You can’t unlock new stuff but earn XP to buy new stuff. The first half a dozen levels are easy peasy; then it’s just brutal. I lost one single game in the whole of the adventure mode, but by about level six of Nightmare, I’d restarted about 20+ times.
Going back to the opener, I have no hesitation in recommending Cannon Brawl. Kingdom Rush and Worms are some of my favourite games, to give an insight into why I like this. Forget about this being a clone of well-known titles; it takes some of the best bits and creates something different. Not wholly innovative, but enough where I’m going to bed in the early hours saying ‘just one game of Cannon Brawl‘. Brilliant, and well worth it if you like the games I’ve suggested.