When I initially came across Cannon Brawl, it was roughly six years ago. I was shown a video that didn’t really sell it well. Playing, however (and as they usually say), was believing. Had I not given it the time of day, I would have missed out some of the best multiplayer fun I’ve had in a long time. It’s been out for a while so there aren’t many people playing the Steam version unfortunately. If you know what it’s like going back to an older FPS that you enjoyed, but is dead so you can’t enjoy it like you used to, that’s the feeling when I play on Steam. Time had gone by and I was hoping against hope that some life would be brought back into the game somehow. I wasn’t sure I would ever really touch it again aside from local play and such and AI fun only goes so far for me. Then came the news that Cannon Brawl was coming out on the Nintendo Switch and that’s about the best news I can think of for this game. Not only is the game out with the chance of a bunch of new people looking to play it on a “newer” console, but it’s also easily portable! Welcome home Cannon Brawl, it’s good to have you back. Is it the type of game for you though? Let me break it down for you.
One of the main things you’ll notice is that Cannon Brawl is a 2D RTS game. You’ll build up your economy and then your ability to attack your opponent. I realize that pointing out that a game is an RTS will make some people hesitant to even consider it. Relax though as this is more of an RTS-lite game. It’s not overly complicated and you’re not going to be super worried about your APM as much as you would in Star Craft 2. It’s a play and counter-play game. You need money so you’ll build a mine on some gold. If you can’t reach it, you’ll place a balloon to increase the reach of your territory in which you can build. Once you have money, you can start building offensive turrets to lob some shells or pew lasers (it’s cooler spelt with a “z” but spellcheck yelled at me) at the other guy/gal/robot. They will do the same and that’s where you choice of towers come in. Shields will deflect and redirect lasers and stop or weaken missiles. You can choose to have a repair turret as well. There are a lot of different options.
When you play through the campaign (as you should) you’ll start unlocking different towers other pilots, each with different abilities or passive stats. We’re talking about the ability to repair nearby turrets with your blimp when you’re near them, drill holes underneath your opponents towers and the starter pilot has a faster cooldown for all your turrets. Heck, once you unlock the King, you can fly around with a recharging shield and play a bit of defense yourself. (It’s not the be-all-end-all, but in your opponents hands it freak’n annoying.) I just unlocked the Smuggler who allows me to take an extra tower into battle and start with an extra 25 gold. The story isn’t going to win any awards, but it’s good enough to make getting all of the benefits of beating the campaign fun to work through. Along your journey you’ll come across some additional challenge levels that will give you a map set up with a tricky win condition. These levels range from “well duh” to “how in the crap am I supposed to do this?”. It’s added fluff, but it’s good and fun fluff that nets you some extra experience points.
So why is it so great to have Cannon Brawl on the Switch? Portability is basically the main pull here. Being able to take the game over to a friend’s house with ease is fantastic! Now I’ll admit that I rather enjoy playing with Pro controllers because it’s a lot more comfortable, but one doesn’t need to have them. The Joy Cons work surprisingly well. I would say that if you choose to use Joy Cons to put on those little slide-on attachments that make the Joy Cons a bit chonkier. I’ve found them to be much more comfortable. Playing either on or off-screen mode worked very well and I didn’t notice any performance hiccups or changes between the two for me so far. Portable mode is where my only gripe lives though. When using the Switch’s screen, the size of the upgrade cost text is hard to read. You can easily see when your towers are on cooldown, but the upgrade cost is in tiny red letters on a black surface. Even from about two to three feet away, it’s still difficult to see. Maybe I’m simply getting my “old man eyes”.
One last note would be some minor takeaways from playing on the Switch rather than on Steam. Steam feels better when you unlock an achievement because they currently don’t seem to track them or have them on the Switch. There really isn’t anything like that on the Switch so it’d be mostly in game, but it is nice to have other goals to work towards, even if they don’t do anything for you other than make you feel better about yourself… maybe. Secondly, Nightmare Campaign can be tough, but don’t give up. For the most part, they are just working faster than you and they will adjust their shields to make most of your attacks worthless. If you keep experimenting with different offensive towers, you’ll find a good combination or three that you work best with. Sometimes I haven’t gotten the APM or Time records for the Nightmare levels, but I have beaten them and frankly, that feels good enough for me. Those matches can really drag on, but when you’ve overcome them it feels great!