Ping pong death match.
Going into Ultra Space Battle Brawl (which I’ll be abbreviating to USBB going forward), I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I’d only seen a few screenshots depicting a couple of wacky-looking characters and a projectile moving between them. I thought, ‘oh cool, so it’s basically a one-on-one shooting game set in space’. How wrong I was. USBB is actually a clever spin on Pong in which two characters must whack a ball towards either side of the screen in order to wear down each other’s shields and health until just one emerges as the victor. It’s got the heart of Street Fighter and the simplicity of Super Smash Bros to create a truly original title that I absolutely adore.
The main mode in USBB is the Story Mode. Much like classic arcade fighting games, you’ll watch a brief introductory cut-scene for your chosen character before facing one opponent after the next, each of which proving to be more challenging than the last. The characters all have their strengths and weaknesses: Dharwani is the game’s general all-rounder; Budi is quick but lacks strength; Brodin is a beast who possesses immense power but is rather slow. There are many other characters, and experimenting with each to match your preferred play style is a delight.
The gameplay itself is very straightforward, but incredibly satisfying. As mentioned earlier, you must hit a ball past your opponent to hit their shields (which are stylised as bird ‘minions’) and smash a crystal-like object which represents their health. Hitting the ball back and forth over a period of time increases its speed, so you’ll need to balance offence and defence well if you’re to succeed.
As the rounds progress, so too will the characters’ ‘ultra’ meters. When these fill to the brim, you or your opponent can unleash a special ability unique to each character. So for example, Dharwani gains additional strength, allowing him to defeat the bird minions in one hit. Budi, on the other hand, sends waves of flies across the screen, which in turn makes the ball travel with them on their path, making it harder for the defender to block attacks. Again, experimentation is key to determine which character will give you the edge.
Whilst the gameplay as a whole is exceptionally fun, I found in my experience that it can often be difficult to actually aim your shots accurately. This, combined with the impressive enemy AI, consequently means you’ll find yourself whacking the ball back and forth for long stretches of time – don’t be surprised if you find the match time running out on occasion. Nevertheless, the matches remain brisk throughout and it can get incredibly tense when both opponents are down to just one health bar.
The presentation for USBB is absolutely top notch. The character sprites are full of life and the animation is wonderfully smooth. Similarly, the stages are equally impressive and when the ‘ultra’ abilities are activated, the screen is filled with waves of colour flowing lengthways – it’s a gorgeous game, and it’s clear a lot of heart and passion was put into its visuals. Combined with a fantastic, upbeat musical score, it all comes together to provide an experience that comes highly recommended to all Switch owners.
Ultra Space Battle Brawl
Ultra Space Battle Brawl is a highly original spin on the classic Pong formula. Tense gameplay, beautiful visuals and a stellar soundtrack all come together to provide a fantastic experience.