BRAVOMAN: Binja Bash! Review

Battle the nefarious forces after Bravoman’s wallet

Bravoman is a Namco Bandai character from the days of the TurboGrafx-16, who is celebrating his 25th anniversary and has recently become the star of his own popular ShiftyLook web comic and cartoon series, the latter of which has cast Rob Paulsen of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Animaniacs fame (among others) in numerous roles. With all of this behind him, a brand new video game seems like a surefire thing, right? Unfortunately, despite these pedigrees, Bravoman: Binja Bash! fails to deliver in the ways that the character has in other media. Which is all the more ironic, when you consider the fact that he began as a video game character in the first place.

Things are a bit shaky from the start, as after downloading the game, you then have to download the rest of the game; over-the-air (OTA) downloading is at work here, and after getting the game from iTunes, you have to endure about five or so minutes (we didn’t expect it to be that long, so we didn’t keep track) of the game doing its thing while you catch up on Bravoman lore through the app’s included comic strips (you’ll probably run out before it’s through, though; we did, anyway).

BRAVOMAN: Binja Bash!

The game itself is slightly endless-runner-ish, with Bravoman (or the unlockable/purchasable other characters) always moving forward, with the player controlling their jumps, parries, and special attacks, as well as a tap-based standard attack which has them aiming their assault wherever you tap. Reach the end of the stage, face a boss, and move on to the next part of the game.

Unfortunately, while the first stage is easy enough, it’s by the second stage that the game’s attempts to part you from your money become extremely transparent. The stages themselves go on for way too long, and are crammed with plenty of enemies: many of which who can soak up even Bravoman’s best attacks like sponges, breaking up the flow of the game while dealing out their own attacks – even the same irritating birds who fell in one hit in the first stage take more to deal with in the second, never mind that they can fly through walls while your attacks can’t.

In addition to your main attack, which is rather weak and ineffective (Bravoman has two super-stretchy limbs to hit things with, but you can only ever launch one at a time, leaving you vulnerable much of the time), there are also special grapple points which seem cool at first as they launch you forward with greater height and speed, but ultimately serve to highlight how poor the stage design is when successfully grappling several in succession winds up tossing you right into an incoming foe, thus punishing you for pulling off a more skill-based maneuver. It’s cheap for cheapness’ sake.

BRAVOMAN: Binja Bash!

It might be bearable through sheer attrition, but you only get three lives at a time without paying $.99 to get ten, $4.99 for 100, or $10 to get unlimited, which – if we were to guess – is your best bet of ever seeing the end. Outside of possessing unlimited lives, you have to wait about five minutes a pop for them to regenerate before you can continue – and nothing kills that feeling of “being in the zone” like having to wait five minutes for just one more try, which can end pretty quickly in some instances.

When people think of the “classic arcade sensibilities” that the product page speaks of, we’re pretty sure that cheap quarter-munching design isn’t what they have in mind. At its core, the game is fun enough – the first stage proves that – but going free-to-play instead of charging 99 cents or something and invoking all the evils that come with it really drags the experience down.

BRAVOMAN: Binja Bash!

And it’s a shame, too, because the game captures the wit of the comics and cartoons all too well. A perfect example of this is in the opening stage, where you can choose to face the first boss right off the bat in what he describes as one of the most sinister things he can inflict upon you – a tutorial! (“You… monster!” Bravoman exclaims.) The best part of this is that if you do go through with the tutorial, you don’t fight a boss at the end of the first stage because… you already defeated him (we went back and replayed without the tutorial, and sure enough, he appears there if you don’t use it).

As noted, with some degree of dismay, Bravoman: Binja Bash! is free-to-play, so if you’re a fan of Bravoman, there’s really no good reason not to at least check it out. But as fans of Bravoman ourselves, we warn you to temper your expectations on this one. Meanwhile, ShiftyLook has brought back other long-forgotten Namco Bandai characters such as Mappy and Wonder Momo. Our fingers are crossed that if they get the iOS game treatment as well, it goes a bit better than this.

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